Clara Driscoll and The Tiffany Girls- A Lesson Plan

Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848–1933)
Gold favrile glass, 12 1/2 (height) x 5 1/2 in (diam.). Crocker Art Museum Purchase with funds provided by Pat Grant, 2013.76.


Students will read and explore how unseen populations contributed to the transformation of the American Economy during the 20th century. Students will work in groups to write a collaborative essay.


Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) employed dozens of artisans. Given that Tiffany considered his name to be a brand, he rarely spoke publicly of designers, whether male or female, who worked for him. Many of his principal designers were women, but “Tiffany Girls,” by company policy, could not be engaged or married. Although considered discriminatory today, this was a convention of traditional gender roles during the Gilded Age. At the time, Tiffany was lauded for his progressive efforts to employ women. It was also considered surprising that Tiffany employed women in his glasshouse in Corona (Queens), New York, where the glass used in lamps and windows was created. At Tiffany’s studios, women physically cut glass and patterns, and worked on copper foiling of glass. (1)

The Tiffany Girls were initially  hired out of art school, while workers were on strike in a labor dispute to select and cut glass. In an era where women were often tied to the home these women worked for a wage that appears to be equivalent to their male counterpart. Tiffany thought that women had a better vision for the organic designs and often had the Tiffany Girls working on pieces with such motifs. They worked doing such tasks as creating patterns, cutting & selecting glass,  and working on copper foiling. Although Tiffany was progressive: there were some restrictions: Tiffany Girls could not be married or engaged, they had zero Union Representation because of their gender, and often received pushback from the men who worked there.

One of these Tiffany Girls, Clara Driscoll worked for Tiffany on three different occasions. Hired out of Art school, she shared an artistic vision with Louis Comfort Tiffany. Many of the designs in the lampshades were created by her, though never attributed to her until nearly a century later. These lampshade & base  designs were selling for about $500 which was a comparable price to the latest model ford vehicle.  By the end of her time working at Tiffany she was running The Women’s Cutting Glass Department which employed 35 women.  Although Louis Comfort Tiffany was creative and innovative in his own right,  the lesson plan  sheds light on these progressive women, and removes them from the shadows of history.


Did you know that post industrialism impacted many people  throughout the country in various ways? It is often the voices and work of invisible populations, such as women, that are left unheard and unaccredited. Today we will be looking at artwork that was created by a group of women but was accredited to a man. Additionally, we will read some of the letters one of the women wrote about her experience. We will examine both the handcrafted lamps created by The Louis Comfort Tiffany Company and letter transcripts by one of his workers to recognize the artistry and design that went into the success of these luxury goods. Through investigation and artifact observation, we will uncover the contributions of the Tiffany Girls and recognize that history often overlooks women’s contributions throughout history.

  1. Create groups. Each student will need to have a responsibility (job) in this group effort. Consider the following for group member jobs:
    • Time Keeper- keep the pace of the activity.
    • Recorder- record, or take notes, about the process. What strengths do you want to report back to your teacher regarding your classmates?
    • Preparatory- gather materials for group. Each student will need a laptop with internet access to the websites.
    • IT Personnel- Assist in any technical issues with computers. Make sure students have found the correct website, etc. Are laptops charged?
    • Manager- Help with problem solving, direct to IT personnel or ask time keeper for assistance, etc.
  2. Create a class KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) chart to gather information from the students. Complete the K & W section. The L will be completed during the conclusion of the lesson. What do students know about 20th century industrialization? What do they want to know?
  3. Model reading. Share the background section of this lesson plan with the class (project or send link) and instruct students to follow along with you.
  4. Group work.


Call the class together to re-vist the KWL chart and complete the “L” section.

What did we know when we started? What do we know now? What did we learn? What assumptions of ours were correct, which were not?

  1. Writing. Students will answer the following questions on paper or laptop. Consider the appropriate length of the writing sample for your class.
    • Possible prompts could include:
    • What was challenging about working in a group? What went well? What did you learn? What are you still curious about? What was the designer’s purpose in making this lamp?  Do you think that a lamp like this was used just for its function? Or does it represent more? Class? Distinction? Who do you think was buying this lamp? How do you think it was made? Do you think that Tiffany could design and create all of these independently? Do You Think That Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls Could Afford a Lamp Like This?


California Content Standards

The 8th grade overarching standard calls for students to analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution including working conditions and labor movements.

Connecting- Anchor Standard 11: Relate Artistic Ideas and Works with Societal, Cultural, and Historical Context to Deepen Understanding3.VA:Cn11 Recognize that responses to art change depending on knowledge of the time and place in which it was made
4.VA:Cn11 Through observation, infer information about time, place, and culture in which a work of art was created
6.VA:Cn11 Analyze how art reflects changing times, traditions, resources, and cultural uses

4.VA:Re7.1 Compare responses to a work of art before and after working in similar media

6.VA:Re7.1 Identify and interpret works of art or design that reveal how people live around the world and what they value

Standard Identifier: HSS-8.12.5

Grade: 8

Course: United States History and Geography: Growth and Conflict, Grade 8

Overarching Standard:

HSS-8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution.


Examine the location and effects of urbanization, renewed immigration, and industrialization (e.g., the effects on social fabric of cities, wealth and economic opportunity, the conservation movement).

Standard Identifier: HSS-8.12.6

Grade: 8

Course: United States History and Geography: Growth and Conflict, Grade 8

Overarching Standard:

HSS-8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution.


Discuss child labor, working conditions, and laissez-faire policies toward big business and examine the labor movement, including its leaders (e.g., Samuel Gompers), its demand for collective bargaining, and its strikes and protests over labor conditions.


References & Resources

  1. Yahr, Jamie Ph. D. “Tiffany Girls” August 2021.


  • Laptop
  • Access to the internet
  • Poster paper or white board and markers for KWL chart


45 minutes

Grade Level



  • History/Social Studies
  • Visual Art


  • Female Artist
  • People


Sabrina (Bree) Garcia, adapted by Brittany Thurman