Textiles at Monticello: Gender and Work

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

High School

Author Info

Candida Palmieri
Woodrow Wilson High School
3100 Federal Street
Camden, NJ 8106

Type of Lesson

Document Analysis


4 days



The purpose this overview is to alert teachers to the fact that there are three lesson plans that can either be used together or separately.

Lesson 1. Uses secondary sources to teach the nature of textile fibers and the processes used to turn them into textiles.

Lesson 2. Uses secondary sources to describe the manufacture of textiles at Monticello as well as those employed at the Monticello Textile Factory.

Lesson 3. Uses primary documents from the letters written by Thomas Jefferson to various people concerning the manufacture of textiles on plantations and Monticello in particular. 

Prior Knowledge

Timeline of events leading up to the Embargo Act and through to the War of 1812

Words to know: Embargo, non-intercourse law, homespun, merino, textiles

State Standards

State Standards for New Jersey

6.1 U.S. History: America in the World All students will acquire the knowledge and skills to think analytically about how past and present interactions of people, cultures, and the environment shape the American heritage. Such knowledge and skills enable students to make informed decisions that reflect fundamental rights and core democratic values as productive citizens in local, national, and global communities.

C. Economics, Innovation, and Technology

6.1.12.C.1.a Explain how economic ideas and the practices of mercantilism and capitalism conflicted during this time period.

6.1.12.C.1.b Determine the extent to which natural resources, labor systems (i.e., the use of indentured servants, African slaves, and immigrant labor), and entrepreneurship contributed to economic development in the American colonies.

D. History, Culture, and Perspectives

6.1.12.D.2.a Analyze contributions and perspectives of African Americans, Native Americans, and women during the American Revolution.

6.1.12.D.2.b Explain why American ideals put forth in the Constitution (i.e., due process, rule of law, and individual rights) have been denied to different groups of people throughout time.

6.1.12.D.2.c Relate events in Europe to the development of American trade and American foreign and domestic policies.

6.1.12.D.2.d Analyze arguments for new women’s roles and rights, and explain why 18th-century society limited women’s aspirations.

C. Economics, Innovation, and Technology

6.1.12.C.3.a Analyze how technological developments transformed the economy, created international markets, and affected the environment in New Jersey and the nation.

6.1.12.C.3.b Relate the wealth of natural resources to the economic development of the United States and to the quality of life of individuals.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Lesson 1. Introduction to the Various Fibers Used to Make Textiles and the Process for Production


1.Students will be able to describe the materials thatwere used in textile making.

2. Students will be able to identify gendered specific tasks in the making of textiles during the time period.

Lesson 2: Thomas Jefferson’s Textile Factory Workers and Technology


1.Students will be able to describe the increase of cloth making and machinery at Monticello using secondary sources.

2. Students will be able to determine how gender and age played a role at Monticello in the division of labor with respect to textiles.

Lesson 3 The Importance of Plantation Manufacture of Textiles (T. Jefferson -Monticello)


1. Students will be able to describe why it was important for the nation to manufacture textiles.

2. Students will be able to describe Thomas Jefferson’s attitude when it came to the production of textiles.

Technology Connections/outcomes

1. Using documents based on letters written by Thomas Jefferson students will be able to describe Jefferson's attitude towards England and the importance he placed on the nation's manufacture of textiles.

Essential Questions

Lesson 1.see readings and chart handout

Lesson 2. see handouts

Lesson3. see documents A-H,Document Based Questions and chart


  1. 1 day
    Lesson 1 Activities: show attached powerpoint:The Process of Making Textiles

    1. Teacher will hand out to every student the reading Fiber Production and Processing.

    2. Students will make a chart (using the template provided/Chart on Fiber Production and Processing)( see teacher example) on the 5 kinds of fiber and the uses for each as well as the gendered specific tasks.

    3. Students will be broken up into groups and given a copy of the photographs Wheels and Reels, Textile Machines, Spinning and Knitting.They can add to their chart any information that pertains to the chart (gender/ tasks).

    4. Each group will also be give one of three readings :Spinning, Knitting, Weaving. With these readings student will add information to their chart concerning the fiber and gendered specific tasks. Once they have completed their group assignment they will come together to share information that can be placed on a white board, smart board or large construction paper so that all students can complete their chart with the information from other groups.

    5. All students will be provided with the reading: Weaving Moves in the Mills. They must read the article and describe the differences in the labor force between New England and Pennsylvania textile production.

  2. 2 days

    Lesson 2 Activities:

    1. Students will study the articleMonticello Textile Factoryand complete the following questions:

    a. Why were there more carders than spinners?

    b. Why do you think the cotton spinner was so much older than the other slaves working in the textile factory?

    c. What is different about the four slaves set to carding? Why do you think they were employed in this way?

    d. What two positions do you think were considered the most important? Explain your answer.

    2. Students will complete a timeline on the machinery for the making of textiles using the articles Home Manufacturing and Spinning, Weaving and Cloth at Monticello, andcan be placed in groups for this exercise. Make sure students add the Embargo Act and the War of 1812 to their timeline.

    3. Students will come together to report on their findings and will place information on a timeline using a white board, smart board or construction paper.

    4. Students will write in response to the following:

    a. What do you notice about the machinery Thomas Jefferson was using?

  3. 1 day

    Lesson 3 Activities:

    1. Students should be grouped with one document and they should then answer theQuestions for Documentsthat pertain to their Document A to H. (for full text see Accommodation)

    2. Students should then come together to share with the class the answer to their questions and fill in the Chart on the Letters of Thomas Jefferson (also see teacher example). Once this is complete students should use the material in the chart to respond to:

    a. Why was it important for the nation to manufacture textiles? Explain using examples from documents.

    b. What was Thomas Jefferson’s attitude when it came to the production of textiles?

Related Assets

Handouts and Downloads


Materials Needed

Lesson 1 (see attachments) Secondary Source Documents on Knitting etc as well as- Fiber Production and Processing, chart and powerpoint

Lesson 2. (see attachments) Secondary Sources for Monticello

Lesson 3. (see attachments) Primary Source Documents A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,Questions for Primary Documents and chart

*see attachments: Full Text for Primary Source Documents

Technology Needs


White board, or Smart board, or large construction paper



Students will outline areas that they feel are neccessary in order to complete the assessment. (see below)


Final Assessment:

3. Students will write a letter to Thomas Jefferson explaining how much textile manufacturing has changed in the United States since his time. The letter must include an understanding of how Thomas Jefferson saw plantation textiles and must use a primary document from the eight looked at in class and include the date and the recipient of the letter. Finally, the student must take a position as to whether they believe that the change is a positive or negative development and support their position through argument.

Accommodations – Advanced Learners

Teachers and students who want to use or view the full text can do so by checkingfull text documentsunder the material section. They are provided as attachments labeled:

A Plan for the Merinos

A Prisoner, Released from his Chains

A Radical Diffeence of Political Principals

War With England

Spirit of Manufactures