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The Ascent of Woman

Four 1-Hour Episodes

This informative four-part documentary is a perfect introduction to the breath of women’s history. Host historian Amanda Foreman presents her facts with a clear delivery, using terrific visuals and excitement as she peruses original sources in covering this global story. Each episode reveals that, as a sex, women’s status from oppression to relative freedom has not followed a straightforward trajectory.

Episode One: Civilizations highlights women’s power in diverse ancient civilizations. It starts with the ancient Anatolian settlement of Catalhöyük which was believed to be egalitarian. It includes more hierarchical societies as well, such as the Assyrians whose oppressive laws dictated that high status women had to appear veiled in public while prostitutes were beaten if they did.

Episode Two: Separation investigates women in early periods in China, Vietnam and Japan, the regions of Confucianism and Buddhism.

Episode Three: Power showcases the achievements of extraordinary women who achieved power and influence in sprite of negative views of women’s abilities. Forman’s argument here is that education has been a key step for women to develop their capability with regard to men.

Episode Four: Revolution: In this final episode, Forman looks at the role of women in the revolutions that remade the modern world. She believes that the great alliance between men and women to achieve social change has been fraught with betrayal as women also mounted ongoing battles for reproductive rights and other issues based on their interests. From the political uprisings of Russia, Britain and France to the United States and Africa, Amanda asks how "revolutionary" modern revolutions have actually been for women.

Although perhaps the series is too focused on the great women approach, and less on the vital contributions and important roles of "ordinary" women, it complements much of the material found in our curriculum, online essays and lessons. Here are just a FEW links to our resources:

Episode #1:

Ancient Tablets, Ancient Graves: Ascessing Women’s Lives in Mesopotamia

Female Fury In The Forum

Episode #2:

Tang dynasty’s Wu Zetian and the Spread of Buddhism (625-705 C.E.)

Women and Confucianism: Exploring New-Confucian Sayings

Episode #3:

Nur Jahan

Mary Wollstonecraft Debates Jean-Jacque Rousseau - 1791

Episode #4:

The Wife is Obliged: French Civil Code (Napoleonic Code) -1800

Women’s Suffrage: A World Wide Movement

In the United States, THE ASCENT OF WOMEN is
Streaming on Acorn TV

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
Click for Author Information

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Women in World History Curriculum