What does it mean to “Keep within compass?”

Keep within Compass

Title:  “Keep within compass,” 1785-1805

About the image: Contemporary English print advising women to “Keep within compass.”

Suggestions for Using this Image in the Classroom:

This image could spur a class discussion about how society viewed women at the turn of the eighteenth century.  After having students engage in a close observation of it lead the class in a discussion of the following:

  • What do you see outside of the circle? What stands out to you?
  • What is a compass, what is it used for, and what does it mean to “Keep within Compass?”
  • What does this image suggest about societal expectations of women in the late 1700s and early 1800s?
  • Expand the discussion by looking at similar images that include men found here or by finding other examples of the use of the proverb “Keep within compass.”
  • Compare the image with ones from later time periods and discuss what has changed in the way society defines the roles of it’s members.
  • Ask students to create a drawing interpreting their modern day compass.

For more on women’s roles in society during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century see the resources in the National Humanities Center Toolbox Library .

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Eighteenth Century, Women in the Revolution

Related Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

  • Women Outside the Compass 1880-1922 by Sarah Scheeline, ONLINE – AVAILABLE ON THE HISTORY PROJECT WEBSITE
  • The Lowell Mills & the Women Who Worked There by Pamela Tindall, IN PRINT – AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MARCHAND LIBRARY
  • Northern Reform Communities’ Town Hall Meeting by Jeff Pollard, IN PRINT – AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MARCHAND LIBRARY

Related  Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience
  • Miriam Gurko, The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman’s Rights Movement

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.

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