Emma Goldman, anarchists and sexuality

This activity was designed for

Eng 117: Emma Goldman, anarchy/ists, and sex and sexuality in the early 20th century (50 minutes)  AND

Eng 161: Emma Goldman, anarchy/ists, and revolutions and critiquing prisons (2 sections, 50 minutes each)

Learning goals for special collections instruction sessions:

1) students will gain a better understanding of primary sources vs secondary sources

2) students will gain a basic understanding of archives and how to access them (finding aids, basic common policies)

3) through directed exercises and discussion, students will gain a basic understanding of how to interpret documents and identify their usefulness in constructing a historical narrative.

Lesson plan

  • Pre-class:
    • Place 1 box and selected folder at each students seat
    • Each place also gets a copy of the Reitman finding aid, list of definitions of words commonly bandied about in special collections libraries, and the worksheets for the 3 exercises
  • Welcome and orientation (5 minutes)
  • Ask students to take a few minutes to look over the definitions and reiterate some of the most important points (2 minutes)
  • Direct students to Worksheet exercise #1 “Is it primary source or a secondary source” and ask for students to defend their selections (5 minutes)
  • Worksheet Exercise #2 “Anatomy of a Finding Aid.” Example lead off question “How do you find a specific topic inside a book?” Once students have a chance to complete the exercise, go through the questions and ask students for their answers (10 minutes)
  • Worksheet Exercise #3 “Using Documents to Develop a Research Topic” Thinking lead Talk about how primary sources are evidence to support or dispute a claim, but are potentially quite unreliable (biased, incomplete). You have to follow a lead to its conclusion to the extent possible to find “truth”, but be careful to not pick and choose only the documents that will support your thesis, you must follow where the evidence takes you. (15 minutes)
  • Concluding discussion questions: (5 minutes)
    • Were all the material in this collections written by Reitman
    • What are some of the formats you came across?
    • What was interesting or unexpected?

Collection items, all from the Ben Reitman papers

Box 1, folders 2, 6, 7, 14

Box 2, folders 19, 22, 26, 27

Box 3, folders 37, 39, 44

Box 5, folders 69, 81, 84, 88

Box 6, folders 89, 98, 107, 114

Box 22, folders 239, 240

Box 23, folders 258, 259, 260, 261, 262

Box 25, folders 319, 324

Box 30, folders 372, 367, 376, 388

SUBMITTED BY:  Val Harris, University of Illinois Chicago