Lesson Plans Taft, Helen


Taft, Helen
Washington's Cherry Trees: A Gift from Japan
Nellie Taft was instrumental in securing the beautiful flowering cherry trees that encircle the Basin in Washington, D.C.  They were a gift to the United States from Japan.
Skill: Elementary School     Category: First Ladies' Lives

Taft, Helen
Henry Ford and Mass Production of the Automobile
   It is entirely possible that Henry Ford never uttered those words!  However, the Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States.  Until the production of the Model T, automobiles were too expensive for the average American to own.  Although the White House did not own a Model T, surely Nellie Taft saw them on the streets of our nation’s capital.
Skill: Elementary School     Category: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Taft, Helen
Those Who Can, Teach!
Like Abigail Fillmore, Lucy Hayes, and other First Ladies before her, Helen Taft spent some time before her marriage as a schoolteacher.  In those days, and even now, sometimes, people tend to think that teaching is something one does if he or she can’t do anything else.  Not True!
Skill: Elementary School     Category: Sports and Popular Culture

Taft, Helen
"My Fellow Americans...": The Importance of Campaign Speeches
The ultimate goal of a political campaign is to gain as many votes as possible—enough to win the election.  It is with this goal in mind that campaigns are strategically planned.  The methods of campaigning have differed in many ways since William Taft ran for President of the United States and won the election in 1909.  In that time, television and the Internet were not in existence—only print material, word-of-mouth, and listening to speeches directly or through recordings.  Since speeches were the most convincing method to explain a candidate’s position, planning the content and delivery was crucial to winning an election. 
Skill: Middle School     Category: Law, Politics and Govt

Taft, Helen
Literature of the Gilded Age
The literature of the pre-Civil War period is usually characterized as “romantic” and includes the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, the transcendental essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James Russell Lowell.  These traditions continued after the Civil War; however, not surprisingly, there was a significant change with the growth of realism in the literature—a realistic and sometimes critical portrayal of life.  The new approaches to the novel, essays, and poetry that emerged after the Civil War gave rise to Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Willa Catha, and Kate Chopin.   As an educated woman, Nellie Taft was certainly familiar with the works of these authors.
Skill: Middle School     Category: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Taft, Helen
The Ocean Liner: A Floating City
   Ocean liners were the equivalent to today’s supersonic passenger jets.  They were huge, fast, and elegant beyond belief.  And they were the only way to cross the ocean.  For the wealthy, they were a confirmation of status; for the immigrant they symbolized hope.  The great age of building these ocean liners coincided with the life of Nellie Taft.
Skill: Middle School     Category: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Taft, Helen
Jacob Riis and the Poor of New York: Reform in the Cities
The last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century were a period of great social ferment.  The so-called “Gilded Age,” named by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in a book by the same name, was a period of great disparity between the rich and the poor, and also, a time of great corruption in business and politics.  The excesses of the period were widely reported by a variety of writers and newspaper people, two of whom were Jacob Riis and  Lewis Hine.  Their photographs and writings—particularly about the lives of poor, largely immigrant children in New York City—stirred the hearts of many Americans and led, in part, to the reforms of the Progressive Era.
Skill: Middle School     Category: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Taft, Helen
A “Virtual” Salon for Mrs. Taft
   Before her marriage to Will Taft, Nellie Herron held a salon in her parents’ parlor to which she invited the best and brightest minds from her social circle in Cincinnati.  Although she did not continue this practice after her marriage, she knew all the people who would have been included in anyone’s salon in Washington, D.C.  Our nation’s capital has often attracted the brightest minds as well as the most famous individuals at every point in our history.
Skill: High School/College     Category: First Ladies' Lives

Taft, Helen
All the News That’s Fit to Draw: Political Cartooning and the Presidency
When the Tafts were in the White House, there was no television news, no radio news, nothing but newspapers to let people know what was happening and what was thought about it.  A particularly vivid way to communicate about issues of the day was the political, or editorial cartoon, which was used extensively from about the middle of the 19th century until today, when they are still very much a method of commenting on important contemporary issues.  Then, as now, no subject has provided more topics for exaggeration and caricature than the presidency and the person who occupies it.
Skill: High School/College     Category: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Taft, Helen
Don’t Be a Duffer! Understanding the Sport of Golf
Have you ever wondered why there is a Golf Channel?  Some say it’s to provide background sound for Sunday afternoon naps!  On the other hand, many people love the game, including a fair number of Presidents, starting with William Howard Taft, who played golf regularly, twice a week, despite a good deal of ridicule in political cartoons.
Skill: High School/College     Category: Sports and Popular Culture

Taft, Helen
"Women, Their Rights, and Nothing Less"
Because Helen Taft was raised in a privileged household, had access to a college education, and was both the daughter and the wife of men who were active and effective in both state and national politics, she did not need to have the vote in order to participate actively in important affairs of the day.  She was thus not an ardent supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, although, in later years, she was clearly proud of her daughter, Helen, who was an active supporter of the suffrage movement.   Unlike Helen Taft, however, millions of women thought that gaining the right to vote was a necessary fulfillment of the democratic ideals upon which the United States was founded.
Skill: High School/College     Category: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

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