Women's and Men's Work

GRADES: 3 and 4


Men and women had different jobs that they were expected to carry out.  Providing food, clothing, protection for their tribe, and raising children were very important duties.

Guiding Question:

  • How did Native Americans living in what is now Tennessee in the 1600s and 1700s divide up work among men and women?


  1. Students will compare and contrast the jobs expected of men and of women in Native American cultures.
  2. Students will contrast these gender roles with those today.


  1. Have the students read the material on the website on "How They Worked" or pass out the handout containing the same copy.  Let the students read the copy.
  2. Pass out copies of the Jobs Assessment.
  3. Have students classify the list of “jobs” in a Native American community in the 1700s in the Southeast as “Women’s Jobs” or “Men’s Jobs”.
  4. Use the Key to check student answers. (Allow them to explain their reasoning in cases of disagreement.)


1.      Ask students to try to imagine living in what is now Tennessee 400 years ago – no electricity, no iron tools, no grocery stores.
2.      If feasible, project the website and have students compare the man depicted in the painting titled An Indian Painted for the Hunt with the women depicted in the painting Native American Woman and Baby. (What do these paintings suggest about the major roles of men and of women in Native American cultures as “providers” and “caregivers”, respectively?)
3.      Divide the class into teams of 4 students.
4.      Pass out the strips with various “jobs” that had to be done in a Native American community and have the teams separate them into “Men’s Jobs” and “Women’s Jobs”, discussing their thinking.
5.      Go through the job list one by one, tallying the team classifications and having teams share the reasons for their classifications. (Encourage them to consider how much strength the job required and to realize that young children had to be breast-fed and continually cared for, limiting what women were free to do.)
6.      Have students “fast forward” to the present day and brainstorm jobs once thought to be “men’s jobs” or “women’s jobs” that are now open to either men or women. (Both men and women can cook, hunt, and garden. Both may build buildings and create pottery and jewelry. Both may care for young children. Both can be leaders and soldiers. There are still some jobs that require physical strength that may be too difficult for most women, but a strong woman may be able to do the job.)
7.      Summarize how and why roles have changed. (Strength is not as important any more and women have more options for working outside the home.)


  • Have students examine the paintings on the TN4ME website for other examples that illustrate “women’s jobs” and/or “men’s jobs”.
  • Have students follow the link on the TN4ME website to explore how it is possible to identify game animals from their tracks.        


Grade 3 Tennessee Social Studies Standards:
3.3.02 Recognize the interaction between human and physical systems around the world.
e. Understand how technology allows people to adapt the environment to meet their needs.
3.3.tpi.8. Understand how natural environment influences human settlement.
3.3.tpi.9. Demonstrate an understanding of how human interaction with the physical environment is reflected in the use of land, building of towns/cities...
Grade 4 Tennessee Social Studies Standards:
4.1.02 Discuss cultures and human patterns of places and regions of the world.
    1. Explore similarities and differences in how groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.
    2. Compare how people from different cultures think about and handle their physical environments and social conditions.

            National History Standards:
Standard 3A
The student understands the European struggle for control of North America.
Grade Level
Therefore, the student is able to

Draw upon data in paintings and artifacts to hypothesize about the culture of the early … Native Americans who are known to have lived in the state or region… [Formulate historical questions]
Standard 7A: The student understands the cultures and historical developments of selected societies in such places as Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. 
Grade Level
Therefore, the student is able to

Investigate the ways historians learn about the past if there are no written records. [Compare records from the past]

Describe the effects geography has had on societies, including their development of urban centers, food, clothing, industry, agriculture, shelter, trade, and other aspects of culture. [Draw upon historical maps]