Women's History
Arlington National Cemetery is much more than a burial place for well-known military men. The stories of American women are interwoven through this landscape — even though, historically, their stories have been less visible than those of men. Explore these lesson plans and walking tours to learn how American women of all races and backgrounds, both military and civilian, worked to support their nation and to make the ideals of our democracy equally applicable to all.

Walking Tour: Women's Military Service

Women have played key roles in supporting the U.S. military, formally or informally, since the Revolutionary War. At ANC, gravesites and memorials mark numerous milestones in the history of women’s military service. As you explore the cemetery, consider how the stories of women in the military can deepen your understanding of well-known conflicts and societal progress, and think about how many more stories could still be told.
  • Distance: ~4 miles. Shorten your walk by taking the tramclick here for information
  • Exertion level: High
  • Starting point: Section 35 (.7 miles from Welcome Center)

Walking Tour: Women's Rights

This tour highlights some women you may be surprised to find buried at ANC, since they themselves did not serve in the military and are buried alongside their military spouses. As civilians, however, these women made important contributions to American society and women’s long struggle for equality. As you explore the cemetery, consider the meanings of service and rights — and women whose names have not been traditionally remembered or honored in the historical record.
  • Distance: ~5 miles. Shorten your walk by taking the tramclick here for information
  • Exertion level: High
  • Starting point: Section 30 (.2 miles from Welcome Center)

Lesson Plan: It's Your War, Too

The scope and scale of World War II required unprecedented numbers of personnel on the battlefield, in warfighting industries, and in support capacities. The need to “free a man to fight” opened many opportunities for women to serve in the U.S. military and laid the groundwork for women to have a permanent place in the armed forces. In this lesson, high school students will learn about these expanded roles and then examine the relationship between women’s opportunities in the military and their place in the general workforce.

Lesson Plan: Fighting for the Vote

World War I marked the first time American women were allowed to enlist in the military and serve in roles outside of nursing. It also marked a turning point in the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States. In this lesson, high school students will learn about women’s military contributions in World War I and practice for the AP U.S. History exam Document-Based Question as they review primary-source documents.

Lesson Plan: Women on the Homefront

During World War II, women were not allowed to serve in combat roles in the American armed forces. However, the work done by women who served on the American homefront was a vital support to the success of the Allied forces abroad.
In this lesson, students will examine primary sources related to the experiences of two women, both buried at Arlington National Cemetery, who served on the homefront in different ways. While the focus of this lesson is on analyzing primary sources and creative writing, through the lives of the two women highlighted students will also learn about the broader meanings of service and sacrifice during World War II, both in the military and on the homefront.

  • One or two class periods, 90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Students use primary source documents and other resources to learn about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War.
The lesson also explores the expansion of career opportunities for women in military medicine before and after the war, and it addresses the different experiences of white women and women of color. Resources include quotes, images and cards with profiles of individual nurses. Students complete a gallery walk or work in groups on a jigsaw of teacher-curated resources.
  • Elementary: One class period, 45-60 minutes total
  • Middle: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total
  • High: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total

Lifelong Learners: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Through historical photographs and written accounts, learn about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War. Materials also examine how nursing expanded opportunities for women in the military.