Since 1920, women have more than doubled their share of the labor force. More women are working, but has the type of work they do advanced similarly? What were the top occupations for women 20, 60, and 100 years ago, and how do those occupations compare with women's choices today? In this lesson, students use primary documents to review historical trends in women's share of the labor force and chosen occupations. Using Barbie careers as a timeline, they speculate as to why Barbie represented certain careers for girls at different points in time since 1959. They choose which career Barbie might represent next year and explain that choice in a one-page essay.
This lesson includes primary source documents obtained from FRASER, the St. Louis Fed's Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research digital library resources.
“Barbie®” photographs © Mattel, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved. All “Barbie®” images appear courtesy of Mattel, Inc.
This lesson received the 2019 Curriculum Gold Award of Excellence from the National Association of Economic Educators.
Read more about our award-winning resources »