Gender Issues in Children's Literature: Then and Now Essay

3293 Words 14 Pages
Gender Issues in Children's Literature: Then and Now


Charlotte's Web, Anne of Green Gables, Treasure Island, Cinderella and Grimm's Brothers fairy tales, have all been treasures of society's basic children's literature. They covered their share of beauties, villains, conflicts and happy-endings that many of us remember till this day. But were we as society's children aware of the impact these stories made on our views of men and women? Although parents, teachers and other socializing agents communicate gender roles to children at an early age, the issue of how children's literature influences gender roles, stereotyping and sometimes sexism has been a topic on many educators, researchers and psychologists' agendas since as early as
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During the beginning stages of the women's movement era in the 1920's, researchers began to realize the gender stereotypes that occurred in children's books. Particularly researchers of the feminist movement seemed to notice that girls were always seen as naïve, passive, conforming and coy while the boys were always pictured as strong, independent and adventurous. The rise of the working woman in the late 1940's and the early 1950's showed a different side of women to children which was the role of the breadwinner. Children's literature showed women as strong, autonomous and brave. Unfortunately it was short-lived. With the arrival of the triumphant World War II soldiers, women returned to the home and lived as the domestic provider.

But as time and society progressed, female roles and "female characters in children's literature became increasingly visible and gender stereotyping became decreasingly evident" (Clark, Guilmain, Saucier, Tavarez, 439). In an article written by educator Angela Gooden, she describes an experiment that deals with the differences in the amount of female and male representation in the 1970's and late 1990's. She compared her experiment that took place in 1999, to an experiment that took place in 1976 by psychologist, Sharon LaDow. Some of the hypotheses she came up with were:…