The Age of Volunteerism

The Age of Volunteerism
Lucy Hayes: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One class period


The mid-nineteenth century is often pointed to as the first time women made significant contributions to their communities through organized efforts and social projects.  Thus, this is the beginning of the “Age of Volunteerism” and the adult life of Lucy Webb Hayes is an example of this kind of community service.


The purpose of this lesson is to highlight the beginning of the “Age of Volunteerism” and to point to opportunities for community service in the present day.  This lesson is clearly aimed at helping students visualize personal and/or small group contributions to the betterment of their communities as an appropriate facet of citizenship.    

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Biography of Lucy Hayes


1.  Engage students in a discussion of what it means to volunteer, emphasizing responses that are appropriate for your focus.

2.  Note that Lucy Webb Hayes was the first First Lady to give extensively of her time to “good causes.”

3.  Using the Educational Biography of Lucy Webb Hayes and the website below, have students identify examples of Lucy Webb Hayes’ volunteer work.  It may be necessary to define words such as “veteran” (of which war), “orphanage,” “asylum,” etc.

4.  Ask students to brainstorm opportunities for volunteer activities in the present day, especially activities suitable for young people such as themselves in their community.  Are there opportunities within the school community?

5.  Have each student identify a volunteer activity in which s/he would like to engage.  Assign a short essay on why that activity appeals to the student.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson is easy to personalize to specific situations.  For example, the teacher may choose to specify the volunteer groups the students may choose to write about.  The teacher may also have students write a letter to the group seeking information about volunteer opportunities for young people.

Sources & Resources:

This lesson was created and developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.