Female Cartographers and Mapmaking
The people who design our maps shape our understanding of the world. Representation matters, because diverse perspectives tell the full story of a place. The history of women in cartography and geographical study is little-known, but this playlist brings their stories to light while exploring how narrow ideas about gender roles kept female accomplishments in the shadows. Students will also develop their mapmaking skills and support spatial thinking, a necessary proficiency, even in the digital age.
Homemakers & Spies
In order to understand how groundbreaking it was for women to be involved in cartography, it’s important to know what were (and in some cases still are) considered traditional roles for men and women. These three clips can give students a better context for understanding why it was so revolutionary for a woman to break into a profession or field of study that was male-dominated. After students have viewed these clips, ask them to compare and contrast what the saw.
Little girls ooh and ahh over the Suzy Homemaker toy line of washing machines and vacuums in this toy commercial from the 1960s.
Little boys go on an exciting top secret mission around their neighborhood with their Super Spy cases in this 1960s commercial.
This archival video clip shows both male and female students in a home economics class in the UK.
Now that students have some understanding of how well-defined gender roles have been in history, take them through this slideshow to begin drawing the connection between what they saw in the previous clips and how it relates to cartography. They’ll learn about what schools were like in the 1800’s and then hear how a domestic task taught to girls in school became a necessary skill for making globes.
The history of women in cartography is far more extensive than many know. This two page handout gives background information on five other women who not only helped map the world, but the ocean floor and the dark side of the moon! Use it to look at examples of different kinds of maps in addition to learning about their contributions to geographical studies.
This short reading explains what maps and globes are used for and contains a question set to ensure that students understand what they’ve read.
This video describes the features founds on different kinds of maps and how they help us find locate a place. Then it goes on to give instructions for how students can make a map of their bedrooms using graph paper. These instructions can be used to instead map out the classroom.
If you’re looking for a more imaginative alternative to mapping the classroom or neighborhood, invite students to map their own secret island or the playground of the dreams. This handout provides instructions and outlines all of the elements they’ll need to include in the maps.
If you’re looking for another fun way to celebrate Women’s History Month while also teaching your students about geography, this activity idea can serve as great inspiration. It gives suggestions for an activity that involves locating the homes and other places related to notable women throughout American history and labeling those locations on a map.
Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.
Who Maps The World? | City Lab
Why equity in mapmaking matters.
Let Girls Map | YouthMappers.org
A campaign to feature mapping efforts that support women and girls issues.
Map of a Woman’s Heart |BrainPickings
We just had to include this absolutely absurd “map of a woman’s heart” created in the mid 1800s. It’s as bizarre as you’d imagine.
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