Chores and punishment

[Episode 11 | 1908 : Evelyn]

Evelyn's brother Edward taunts her with the prospect that their father will punish her for being irresponsible about the fireworks. Evelyn needs to complete her chores by five o'clock. She is eventually saved by Miss Müller's generosity.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [3]

Activity 1: Punishment and crime
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Customs and traditions

Does the punishment always fit the crime? Some convicts were sentenced to seven years imprisonment and transportation from Britain to the Australian colonies, for the theft of an item worth under a shilling.

Capital and corporal punishments, and the threat of prison, were the main forms of crime deterrent in the early 1900s. Corporal punishment extended into the home, where children were often punished by being strapped. In this clip, we observe the fear that Evelyn has of being punished with a strap for not being responsible with the fireworks.

  • Discuss with students the concept of punishment. Who is responsible for punishment in the community, in school and at home? Is the threat of punishment effective? Do they feel it is fair for Evelyn to receive the strap for not living up to her responsibilities? What punishment would she receive for her behaviour today? Ask them to consider what was appropriate punishment for a girl compared to a boy of this era. Are there differences in punishment according to gender today?

  • Punishment for crimes in 1908 was vastly different to the punishment for crimes today. Ask students to list four crimes (against community, school or home) and ask them to research what punishments were typically received in 1908 and who was responsible for administering them. Compare them to punishments received today for similar crimes. Students could design a webpage based on this comparison.
  • The following website could be used as a starting point:
    MacGregor State School, 'School in the Early 1900s',

Activity 2: Corporal punishment
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Subtheme(s): Customs and traditions; Politics

As a class, research and discuss the changes made in legislation regarding corporal punishment in schools. Make a list of all of the discussion points and the opinions of everyone in the class regarding corporal punishment.
Useful websites to use as a starting point are:

  • Using the list of opinions from the class discussion, organise a debate where one side of the classroom is designated for students who agree with the opinion and the other side is for those who disagree. Read out each point from the list and ask students to move into the designated areas of the classroom. If a student moves from 'for' to 'against' or vice versa, they must justify their move by sharing their reasoning with the class.


Activity 3: Chores
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Gender roles and stereotypes

Education for girls was still very limited in the 1900s. It was an expectation that girls helped their mothers at home so that they would learn how to run their own household when they got married. In this clip, we see Evelyn completing two chores: polishing the silver cutlery and waxing the table.

  • What chores would children be expected to do in 1908? Students could develop two lists headed 'Chores for girls' and 'Chores for boys'. Compare the lists. What do the two lists show us about life for each gender in this era?
  • A useful starting point for research is:
    State Library of South Australia, 'SA Memory: Collecting Firewood',
  • Ask students to select a character from this episode and write a journal entry for a day in the life of the character. They should include everything that they do within one 24-hour period


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