Lesson Plan: Women on the Front Lines

A step-by-step guide to teaching this article in your classroom


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• Use this article to spark a class discussion about gender equality today.

• Pair this article with a lesson on the history of the women’s rights movement.

Before Reading


Introduce students to the term glass ceiling. Explain that it refers to an intangible barrier in a workplace that stops certain people—particularly women or minorities—from reaching upper-level positions. Then ask students whether they think this barrier exists in the U.S. military and, if so, how it might affect the armed forces.

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Read & Analyze


Have students read the article on their own, writing down any comments or questions.


Have students write their answers to each question, or use these prompts to guide a discussion.

  • CITING TEXTUAL INFORMATION: How did Marine Corporal Katherine Montalbano help advance the role of women in combat?
    (While stationed in Iraq in 2008, Montalbano was part of the Lionesses, a group of female troops. She and the other Lionesses were temporary members of otherwise all-male combat units. Montalbano fired machine guns, dismantled enemy weapons, and searched locals at checkpoints. She and the others served as an early test of how women would handle serving on the front lines. Though the Lionesses were praised, nearly another decade passed before women were officially allowed to serve in all combat roles.)

  • ANALYZING A POLITICAL CARTOON: According to the political cartoon what changes still need to be made with regard to women in the military?
    (According to the political cartoon, women still hold few, if any, top military leadership positions.)

  • DRAWING CONCLUSIONS: What obstacles have prevented many women from obtaining top leadership positions in the U.S. military?
    (Combat experience historically has been important for advancement in the U.S. armed forces. Women were not allowed to serve in combat until recently. As a result, few women have been promoted to the military’s highest leadership positions.)

  • CAUSE AND EFFECT: In what ways were the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a turning point for women in the U.S. military?
    (The changes in the style of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq inadvertently placed more women in the line of fire. As a result, female troops were able to prove their ability to perform in combat situations. That helped lead to changes in the rules prohibiting women from serving in combat.)

  • AUTHOR’S PURPOSE: Consider the use of the quote by Marine Captain Katie Petronio: “The rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines.” Why do you think the author included this quote?
    (Answers will vary but may include: The author included this quote because it offers the perspective of a female Marine who has experienced combat and gives a specific reason why that Marine thinks women should not serve on the front lines.)

  • EVALUATE: In what ways have the roles of women in the military changed? In what ways do you think they still need to change?
    (Answers will vary but may include: Women have a long history of serving in the military, first mostly as nurses in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. They got official permission to serve in the military during World War I. During World War II, more positions were available to female troops, including as pilots and mechanics. Their roles have continued to evolve over the years to include combat. However, more women are needed in top leadership positions.)

Extend & Assess

Ask students to use some of the numerical data from the article to create an infographic on women in the military.

Have students choose a war from U.S. history and do more research about how women participated in that war. Encourage them to consider how their roles may have been influenced by factors such as troop shortages or U.S. societal norms.

Have students consider the role of women in combat through the lens of the women’s rights movement. Watch the video “Women at Arms.” Then discuss whether the decision to allow women in combat is a women’s rights issue.

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