In observance of Women’s History Month 2021, here is a reading on Ma Barker along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.
While I understand she is not exactly a feminist icon, this has tended to be relatively high-interest material among the students I’ve served over the years. I expect a phrase from the opening sentence, to wit, that Kate “Ma” Barker was the “…matriarch of a notorious family of midwestern bank robbers” contributes to student interest in this short text. But it might also be that fact that she was “proclaimed a public enemy” and that she and her gang was “the target of a nationwide hunt until the gang was cornered in Florida and gunned down by the FBI.” I know that some kids found fascinating the criminal culture of the Barker family–all four of Mrs. Barker’s apparently half-witted sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, and Fred, were “in and out of jail for bank robbery, car theft, and other crimes.” Finally, many students who have used these documents, especially young men, found fascinating the life and criminal career (which apparently included, while Karpis resided at Alcatraz Penitentiary, giving guitar lessons to Charles Manson) of Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, a member of the Barker-Karpis Gang, as it became known after Karpis joined forces with the Barkers.
If nothing else, I guess, there is a lot of solid vocabulary in this reading: matriarch, notorious, and proclaim among others. As far as Women’s History is concerned, well, Ma Barker was a woman, and she is unquestionably part of history.
If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.