Sex Roles

, Volume 49, Issue 9, pp 439–449

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Presence of Female Characters and Gender Stereotyping in Award-Winning Picture Books Between the 1930s and the 1960s


    • Department of SociologyRhode Island College
  • Jessica Guilmain
    • Department of SociologyRhode Island College
  • Paul Khalil Saucier
    • Department of SociologyRhode Island College
  • Jocelyn Tavarez
    • Department of SociologyRhode Island College

DOI: 10.1023/A:1025820404277

Cite this article as:
Clark, R., Guilmain, J., Saucier, P.K. et al. Sex Roles (2003) 49: 439. doi:10.1023/A:1025820404277


Since the late 1960s, there has been steady, progressive change in the depiction of gender in award-winning picture books for children (e.g., Clark, Almeida, Gurka, & Middleton, 2003). Female characters in Caldecott winners and runners-up have become increasingly visible and gender stereotyping has become decreasingly evident. In this article we consider whether this steady change can be projected back into the decades before the 1960s, or whether local, temporal variation in gender norms affected less monotonic change. We found that Caldecotts of the late 1940s and the late 1960s had fewer visible female characters than Caldecotts of the late 1930s and the late 1950s, but that characters in the 1940s and 1960s were less gender stereotyped than the characters of the 1930s and 1950s. We interpret these findings in terms of the greater level of conflict over gender roles that existed in the 1940s and 1960s, as well as the relatively greater status enjoyed by American women in those decades.

children's booksvisibility of female charactersgender stereotyping

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003