Do your students struggle with self-confidence? Read on to find Mary Wears What She Wants activities and read-aloud questions to promote courage, open-mindedness and gender roles.

Based on Mary Edwards Walker, a young girl challenges gender and societal norms by wearing pants at a time when girls only wore dresses. Themes of Mary Wears What She Wants include thinking for yourself, following your own path and being true to yourself and how one person can challenge the rules to make positive changes

You can use Mary Wears What She Wants to promote discussions on

Mary Wears What She Wants Summary

In the early 1800s, girls had to wear uncomfortable and hot dresses. Mary was unhappy about wearing dresses as she couldn't do the things she wanted as the boys could. 

One day, Mary has a bold idea and decides to wear pants. Feeling liberated, she walks into town to show off her idea, but the townsfolk react with disapproval by heckling her and throwing things.

Mary doesn't understand why they are offended by her clothes. Upset, she asks her supportive father if she should stop wearing pants. He tells Mary that people often fear change and are “scared of what they don't understand.” Mary struggles to fall asleep as she thinks about what to do.

In the morning, Mary decides to continue wearing pants because they are “plain better in all sorts of ways.” But the townspeople heckle Mary, in front of her school, for wearing boys' clothes. Mary responds by saying she is wearing ‘my clothes.' Mary becomes a trendsetter for some girls who also decide to wear pants.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
Illustrator: Keith Negley
Publisher: HarperCollins (2019)
ISBN: 9780062846792

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Keith Negley Official Website

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  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
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Mary Wears What She Wants Story Activities and Resources

I have created literacy graphic organizers for Mary Wears What She Wants. You can find them at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. There are many activities for each literacy area to differentiate depending on your student’s ability/age. They include activities for:

*Click on these links to discover book recommendations on these topics.

Mary Wears What She Wants Activities and Links

FREE Mary Wears What She Wants Activities

Would you like free graphic organisers for Mary Wears What She Wants?

I have a freebie that is part of a larger resource so that you can try it out in your classroom today!

Click on the form below to get access to the FREE activities.

Click on the image to the left to see the full resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Mary Wears What She Wants Read-Aloud Questions

Read-aloud sessions are a wonderful way for children to understand the connection between written text and spoken language. You can model reading habits and strategies, reading fluency, tone and eye contact. You can also introduce different genres, authors and illustrators.

  • Describe the problem faced by Mary and how she solved it.
  • Why do you think the townspeople reacted negatively towards Mary wearing pants?
  • How does Keith Negley show Mary's emotions throughout the book?
  • How does Keith Negley make it clear Mary is independent?
  • What would happen if a boy wanted to wear a dress rather than pants? Think about he would feel and be treated compared to Mary.
  • Why would Mary Edwards Walker keep wearing pants after she got arrested?
  • How did Mary Edwards Walker and the fictional Mary challenge gender and societal norms?
  • Why didn't Mary Edwards Walker believe that “the way things have always been” didn't have to stay that way? 
  • Why do you think Mary's father was important to her?
  • Do you think other women and girls also hated wearing uncomfortable dresses? If so, what would have stopped them from making changes?

You can find a full set of discussion cards in the Mary Wears What She Wants Activity Bundle or as a separate pack.

Mary Wears What She Wants Video

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Mary Wears What She Wants Activities and Read-Aloud Questions

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