Victoria's family supper

[Episode 13 | 1888 : Victoria]

Alexandra's father is talking with his Irish tradesman who is instructing him to hide a dead cat in the roof of the house for luck. Victoria calls her father for dinner. At dinner, Victoria's mother is talking about her 'at home' invitation and who has accepted. She pauses to check Miss Müller's arrival and comments on the appropriateness of her work.


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 [4]

Activity 1: The 'It girls'
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Subtheme(s): Fashion; Gender roles and stereotypes

Character profiling can highlight the historical significance of a person's attire. Costumes, work attire and everyday clothing are the pictorial benchmark of an era.

Focus discussion on the characteristics of the Owen girls and the members of Victoria's family. Also note some of the other characters in the episode, for example, Miss Müller. The pop culture idea of an 'It girl' can help students understand why the focus on clothes is important in determining historical status.

  • What makes an It girl in 1888?

  • Ask students to create character profiles using names, birthdates, descriptions and clothing from 1888. Websites to use include:
  1. Picture Australia,
  2. Eureka Council,
  3. Victorian Fashion Australia,
  4. Collections Australia:
  • Students create a character profile using different software programs.


Activity 2: Manners and manors
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Subtheme(s): Social order and education

The Owen family and Victoria's family appear to live the same life, but what may lie within is vastly different. Their houses and family dynamics are different. Discuss these differences and come up with a Social Status Ladder depicting the social expectations of people living in 1888.

  • Who is at the top of the social status ladder in 1888, and who is at the bottom? Provide reasons why this was the case. Once you have created a social status list, ask students to list the expectations of children for each of the rungs on the social status ladder, including manners, dress code, education and chores. See Sovereign Hill Education,

  • Create a Social Status Pyramid. This is a visual representation that students use to depict the social divide in Australia in 1888 based on information from your discussion.


Activity 3: Food for thought
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Subtheme(s): Food; Social order and education

Self-sufficiency is depicted in the story of Victoria's family through the family garden they maintain in their backyard. What they grew and nurtured is what they ate.

  • 'What is in their garden and what is in your garden?' A comparative look at the type of food available in 1888 and in present times. Discuss the contents of Victoria's family garden. Use an A3 sheet of paper divided into four parts labelled:
  1. Garden
  2. Store bought
  3. Livestock
  4. Other.
  • Ask students to write the type of food grown, commodities available for purchase, livestock kept in residential areas and other items necessary for life in 1888.
  • Make a similar poster to depict where and how students obtain their food today.

  • What are the obvious differences in food origins and food consumption between the two eras?


Activity 4: Working women
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Gender roles and stereotypes
  • What was the common view of women going to work in the 1880s? Research what employment women undertook in 1888. Compare the types of employment to the careers of women today.

  • View the clip and ask students to listen to the attitude of Victoria's mother to Miss Müller working. Ask them to create two journal entries: one for a day in the life of Miss Müller and one for a day in the life of Victoria's mother.
  • Students compare these to a day in the life of their own mother or female relative.


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