The changing role of women in the PRC

Image courtesy of Picryl

Target audience/setting: The target audience for this lesson is my 12th grade 20th Century History class. The unit this lesson comes from is about Mao’s domestic policy after taking control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Students will need to have an understanding of the rise of Communism in China and some information about how Mao Zedong rose to prominence and consolidated power. This lesson could also be used in a class concerning women in history.

Content: The content of this lesson provides background information on the role of women in China prior to the PRC, focusing on some of the misogynistic and repressive policies and laws which governed the lives of women. It then provides information for how Mao’s policies changed the lives of women, and asks students to examine some final questions about how these policies improved the lives of women, and how they still may have been room for more improvement. This content is usually something that is not addressed, or breezed over quickly in history classrooms. By examining the perspective of a marginalized society, but also one which makes a huge percent of the population of China, we can gain more knowledge about how Mao was able to consolidate power and gain the support of the people of China, and why to this day he is still loved. Students will be able to articulate how the role of women changed in China after 1949 and how this shifting role was a portion of a larger societal change as China became a Communist country.


  1. Review Jamboard with historical images of women in China before the establishment of the PRC. Most images are from the late 19th century. Ask students to make notes about what they think is happening in the pictures, who is in them, and how they may give us insight into the role of women at this time. 8 minutes.
  2. Explain the background of each image. 3 minutes.
  3. Watch three short videos clips from the longer documentary series China: A Century of Revolution which explains more about how women were treated before the PRC and how their role changed after 1949. 5 minutes.
  4. Review via a slideshow some of the information seen in the images and documentary. Explain the Marriage Reform Act, the criminalization of foot binding and prostitution, etc. 5 minutes.
  5. Review takeaway questions from the lesson and allow students some time to answer in short paragraph form several questions from the lesson. If time allows, students can discuss in small groups or in a teacher-led discussion. 5 minutes.


Google Slides

Google Jamboard

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