The Role of Women in the War of 1812: Laura Secord

In this lesson, students will investigate the role of Laura Secord in the War of 1812. They will explore the vital roles women played on the battlefields and assess the ways in which female participants have been compensated and remembered.

Teacher

Introduction

Ask the class to define the term “hero”. Record responses on the board/screen. Instruct the class to agree on one definition.

Distribute one copy of Appendix A:Women and War to each student.

Instruct students to record their definition of a ‘hero’ in the space provided.

Enquire: “What types of roles and responsibilities existed during the War of 1812?” Record answers on the board/screen.

Have the students consider the following roles/responsibilities:

  • Government officials/policies
  • Officers/military leadership
  • Soldiers/Sailors
  • Producers of Munitions
  • Transporters of supplies to the front lines
  • Women

Instruct students to record the names of each group on Appendix A:  Women and War in the space provided.  Instruct students to list the types of duties performed by each group.

Ask students:  “Which of the groups on this list would be indispensable to the success of the war?”. Rank them in order from the most important to the least, stating at least one reason for the top three.

Lesson Development

Emphasize that each of the groups on the list were important in the War of 1812 for various reasons and that today we are going to examine the vital role that women played during wartime.

Introduce Laura Secord and provide a brief description of her upbringing. Highlight her actions after overhearing the plans of the enemy. Secord’s actions were extremely brave because she could have been hanged as a spy if she had been caught.

[Note: The only personal accounts from women during the War of 1812 were those who could read and write (usually officers’ wives). Little is known about the experiences of the average woman but the roles they played were important to the troops. They cooked the meals in the army camps, cared for the wounded, made repairs to uniforms and equipment, and provided morale to the troops.  We know their contributions were trivialized by those in command as very little was recorded about them. The treatment of Laura Secord’s after the war also demonstrates this trivialization. She and her wounded husband lived in poverty for years. They petitioned the government to recognize Laura’s contribution but were denied on several occasions.]

Show the Historica Minute of Laura Secord.

Using the Canadian Geographic War of 1812 poster-map, point out the location of the Battle of Beaver Dams and its strategic location.

Ask students: “Why was her trek through almost 20 miles of thick forest considered an act of heroism?” Instruct students to record their answer in the space provided in Appendix A:  Women and War.

Conclusion

Distribute Appendix B:  Laura Secord. Review the instructions with the class.

Instruct the class to complete Questions 1-4. Encourage discussion. Guide and assist students when necessary.

Student

Introduction

Students participate in the brainstorming session.

Students record definition.

Participate in a discussion of roles and responsibilities during the War of 1812.

As each group of people is placed on the board/projector screen:

  • List roles/responsibilities for each
  • Rank them in order from the most important to the least stating at least one reason for the top three.

Lesson Development

Students watch the Historica Minute of Laura Secord’s heroic actions.

Locate the Battle of Beaver Dams on the Canadian Geographic War of 1812 poster-map.

Complete the final question on Appendix A:  Women and War.

Conclusion

Review  the instructions in Appendix B:  Laura Secord.  Ask questions as necessary.

Complete the questions.

Lesson Extension

  • Conduct research and investigate how other groups were involved in and later recognized (or not) during the War of 1812 (e.g. First Nations, African Canadians, etc...).