Picturing the Past
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Activity, printable version

Lesson 3: Gender Issues in the Early-Twentieth Century and Outdoor Recreation

Learning Objectives

  • Cognitive: Students will learn that women did not always enjoy the same rights as men in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries
  • Affective: Students will appreciate that some women found outdoor recreation to be an effective way of asserting their physical and social independence
  • Behavioural: Students will explore and research attitudes about gender issues over time, making links to the life of someone they know


Commentaries by women and about women and outdoor recreation are found throughout the website. Examine the site, paying close attention to the Women’s Voices subsection in the Being There section, and the The Educator subsection in The Searchers section, as well as the various quotes and film clips about Esther Keyser.

Women’s Voices: Even in the early-twentieth century, women partook in many

outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing and canoeing. Many found that

the outdoors offered them personal strength and a sense of achievement.

The Educator: The outdoors was recognized by many as a fresh-air classroom

where young women could learn self esteem, learning skills, self reliance,

physical competence, imagination, and creative or artistic expression.

As a group, discuss how things were different for women than they are today in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. You might want to write some of their comments on a board. Give your students a brief history of women’s suffrage in Canada, being sure to note when women were given the vote in your area.

What do the sources included in this website indicate about the implications of outdoor recreation for women? Choose some images and quotes to analyze together. Refer back to the discussion above. Do the images of women participating in outdoor recreation and the statements that they make about it support or contradict the students’ ideas from the earlier discussion? Based on this discussion, what can we state about the importance of outdoor recreation for women, particularly in this period? Do you think that it was widely accepted that women should participate in outdoor recreation?


Have each student interview an older relative or friend, male or female. During the interview, they should ask about changes in the lives of men and women that they perceive to have happened in their lifetime.

They might ask about such things as:

  • clothing or style of dress
  • career options
  • household responsibilities
  • marriage
  • legal changes (e.g., suffrage, contraception)
  • social changes
  • thoughts on women and outdoor recreation

Connecting the interview to the website, each student should write a 750-word essay on changes in the status of women in Canada over the last century, and the ways in which outdoor recreation applied to both sexes and allowed some women to assert autonomy. Students should make specific reference to both the website and their interview.

Other Resources: in English

Women Winning the Vote in Canada


Canadian Women’s History


Internet Women’s History Sourcebook


Note: this site contains primary sources relevant to women’s history around the world

Celebrating Women’s Achievements


Includes educational resources

Autre Resources: en Français

Les femmes canadiennes obtiennent le droit de vote


Histoire des femmes canadiennes


Femmes à l’honneur : leurs réalisations


Includes educational resources