Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moving on From Narration - The Essay

Evangelical as I am about the brilliance of narration in shaping a good writer, in the back of my mind was a niggle of doubt; what would happen once Lucy's pithy, informative and dry-humoured paragraphs and pages were no longer enough ? Would I find we'd missed the essay-writing boat, somewhere back in 4th grade ?

As it turns out, no we didn't! And our ride down that particular river has been short indeed.

Day One - we talked about thesis statements. Lucy came up with three and chose one - that Aboriginal cave art should be conserved - as the focus of her first essay. She did some research to add to the knowledge she already had and wrote down three reasons supporting her thesis.

Day Two - Lucy worked on her introduction. I explained this to her as giving the reader on overview of what she planned to say in the main body of the essay.

Days Three, Four and Five - she began work on her paragraphs, moving from the strongest argument in favour of the conservation of cave art to the more minor. This she accomplished easily, having done paragraph length narrations frequently in the last few years.

Day 6 - conclusions are tricky. Lucy knew she needed to restate her case, wrapping up the points she had made in her essay along the way. It was far less tricky for her than I'd feared.

So, three hours over six days and she had it - a template for the essay in her mind and a completed essay we were both pleased with.

This week she's started work on  a real essay, for history class. It's pretty good so far, for a girl of 13 with only one essay ( but hundreds of narrations! ) to her name.

At the turn of the 20th century  most women had very few legal and political rights. They couldn’t vote in parliamentary elections and social restrictions often prevented them from doing the same things as men. Many women ( especially working class women ) wanted this to change. New Zealand had given women the vote in 1893 and Australia a few years later in 1902. Change in Britain was much slower so a British woman called Millicent Fawcett started the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, or the NUWSS, to campaign for women’s rights. By 1903 still nothing had been done and Emmaline Pankhurst, a middle class woman with radical parents, started another society; The Women’s Social and Political Union, which aimed to use extreme methods to get what they wanted. These two groups became known as ‘suffragists’ (NUWSS) and ‘suffragettes’ (WSPU). Though they each had different policies they had the same aim. The First World War, or the Great War, as it was known then, was what widened the split between the two parties. Ironically, women’s work during the war was what helped them eventually win the vote in the post war period.

A few changes had been made for women’s rights by the turn of the century but women still has few legal or political rights, especially in Britain. British women who were married could vote in local elections, but federal elections were still ‘out of bounds’.  Cambridge exams were only opened to girls in the 1860’s and Cambridge degrees twenty or so years later, but even then, getting a degree was considered unnecessary for a girl by many people so very few young women received a higher education. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 meant that married women could retain some of their property, whereas previously when a woman married, all her property became legally her husband’s. In 1907 county and borough elections became open to women, but some countries were more progressive. New Zealand women had gained the vote in 1893. A cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic in 1894 shows a New Zealander woman holding a flag with ‘Perfect Political Equality’ written on it, being helped onto ‘Parliamentary Heights’ by a male politician, decades before her British sisters would be in the same position. In the early 20th century Finland, Norway and Australia granted women the vote. Britain’s inability to act on women’s suffrage caused anger and discussion, particularly in women’s trade unions. “The question was women’s suffrage, and the year was 1905. Several years before ‘suffragette’ became a household word, the cotton workers of Lancashire were debating the controversial issue of votes for women in meetings at their factory gates, street corners and in town squares.”

Not perfect, but not bad either! And I'm glad, looking back, for all the time we spent on narration, for all the drawings and character sketches and skits and cities built in the sand pit, for all the letters, biographies, maps, time lines, flow charts and personal responses I encouraged Lucy to do and write; for it brought her here, to this term, this table, enjoying both process of the essay and her subject.

I'm working hard on the radical idea that what works for us isn't always the best approach for others; many ways to skin a cat, I'm sure. Today though, I'm glad to be the lady waving her narration placard in great works!!!

1 comment:

  1. Just a big :)

    Thanks for helping me think about the future.