Sex Roles

, Volume 49, Issue 9–10, pp 439–449 | Cite as

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

  • Roger ClarkEmail author
  • Jessica Guilmain
  • Paul Khalil Saucier
  • Jocelyn Tavarez


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 books visibility of female characters gender stereotyping 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ashton, E. (1983). Measures of play behavior: The influence of sex-role stereotyped children's books. Sex Roles, 9, pp. 43–47.Google Scholar
  2. Bemelman, L. (1939). Madeline. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, M. (1950). Dick Whittington and his cat. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  4. Clark, A. N., & Herrera, V. (ill.). (1941). In my mother's house. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  5. Clark, B. (1992). American children's literature: Background and bibliography. American Studies International, 30, 4–40.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, R., Almeida, M., Gurka, T., & Middleton, L. (2003). Engendering tots with Caldecotts: An updated update. In E. S. Adler & R. Clark (Eds.), How it's done: An invitation to social research (2nd ed., pp. 379–385). Belmont, CA:Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, R., Kulkin, H., & Clancy, L. (1999). The liberal feminist bias in feminist social science research on children's books. In B. L. Clark & M. R. Higgonet (Eds.), Girls, boys, books, toys: Gender, children's literature, and culture (pp. 71–82). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, R., Lennon, R., & Morris, L. (1993). Of Caldecotts and kings: Gendered images in recent American children's books by Black and non-Black illustrators. Gender and Society, 5, 227–245.Google Scholar
  9. Daugherty, J. (1938). Andy and the lion. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  10. D'Aulaire, I., & D'Aulaire, E. P. (1939). Abraham Lincoln. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  11. Davis, A. (1984). Sex-differentiated behaviors in nonsexist picture books. Sex Roles, 11, 1–15.Google Scholar
  12. Davis, L., & Woodward, H. (ill.). (1949). The wild birthday cake. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  13. Elphinstine, D., & Lent, B. (ill.). (1968). Why the sun and the moon live in the sky. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  14. Fader, E. (1999). How you can get on the Newbery or Caldecott Committee: An awards insider shares her secrets. Retrieved May, 2003, from Scholar
  15. Fish, H. D., & Lathrop, D. P. (ill.). (1937). Animals of the Bible. Philadelphia: Lippincott.Google Scholar
  16. Fish, H. D., & Lawson, R. (ill.). (1937). Four and twenty blackbirds: Old nursery rhymes. Philadelphia: Lippincott.Google Scholar
  17. Frasconi, A. (1958). The house that Jack built. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  18. Freeman, D. (1957). Fly high, fly low. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gag, W. (1938). Snow White and the seven dwarfs. New York: Coward-McGunn.Google Scholar
  20. Gooden, A., & Gooden, M. (2001). Gender representations in notable children's picture books: 1995–1999. Sex Roles, 45, 89–101.Google Scholar
  21. Grauerholz, E., & Pescosolido, B. (1989). Gender representation in children's literature: 1900–1984. Gender and Society, 3, 113–125.Google Scholar
  22. Haley, G. (1970). A story. A story. Konigstein: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  23. Handforth, T. (1938). Mei Li. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  24. Holbrook, S., & Ward, L. (1949). America's Ethan Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  25. Holling, H. C. (1941). Paddle-to-the-sea. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  26. hooks, b. (1997). bell hooks: Cultural criticism and transformation. A film by Media Education Foundation, Northhampton, MA.Google Scholar
  27. Jennings, S. (1975). Effects of sex typing in children's stories on preference recall. Child Development, 46, 220–223.Google Scholar
  28. Keats, J. (1969). Goggles! New York: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  29. Knopp, S. (1980). Sexism in pictures of children's readers: East and West Germany compared. Sex Roles, 6, 189–205.Google Scholar
  30. Koblinsky, S., Cruse, D., & Sugawara, A. (1978). Sex role stereotypes and children's memory for story content. Child Development, 49, 452–458.Google Scholar
  31. Kolbe, R., & LaVoie, J. (1981). Sex-role stereotyping in preschool children's picture books. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 369–374.Google Scholar
  32. Kropp, J., & Halverston, C. (1983). Preschool children's preferences and recall for stereotyped versus nonstereotyped stories. Sex Roles, 9, 261–272.Google Scholar
  33. LaBastida, A., & Ets, M. H. (ill.). (1959). Nine days to Christmas New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  34. Lawson, R. (1940). They were strong and good. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lionni, L. (1967). Frederick. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  36. Lionni, L. (1969). Alexander and the wind-up mouse. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  37. Lobel, A. (1970). Frog and toad are friends. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  38. Lutes-Dunckley, C. (1978). Sex-role preferences as a function of sex of storyteller and story content. Journal of Psychology, 100, 151–158.Google Scholar
  39. Malcolmson, A., & Burton, V. L. (1947). Song of Robin Hood. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  40. McCluskey, R. (1941). Make way for ducklings. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  41. McCluskey, R. (1948). Blueberries for Sal. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  42. Ochman, J. M. (1996). The effects of nongender-role stereotyped, same-sex role models in storybooks on the self-esteem of children in grade three. Sex Roles, 35, 711–35.Google Scholar
  43. Peirce, K., & Edwards, E. (1988). Children's construction of fantasy stories: Gender Differences in conflict resolution strategies. Sex Roles, 18, 393–404.Google Scholar
  44. Pescosolido, B., Grauerholz, E., & Milkie, M. (1997). Culture and conflict: The portrayal of Blacks in U.S. children's picture books through the mid-and late-twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 62, 443–464.Google Scholar
  45. Petersham, M., & Petersham, M. (1941). An American ABC. New York: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  46. Peterson, S. B., & Navy, N. A. (1990). Gender stereotypes in children's books: Their prevalence and influence on cognitive and affective development. Gender and Education, 2, 185–197.Google Scholar
  47. Preston, E. M., & Parker, R. A. (ill.). (1969). Pop Corn and Ma Goodness. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  48. Purcell, P., & Stewart, L. (1990). Dick and Jane in 1989. Sex Roles, 22, 177–185.Google Scholar
  49. Ransome, A., & Shulevitz, U. (1968). The fool of the world and the flying ship. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  50. Rowbotham, S. (1997). A century of women. The history of women in Britain and the United States in the twentieth century. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  51. Seuss, D. (1947). McElligot's pool. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  52. Seuss, D. (1949). Bartholomew and the oobleck. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  53. Seuss, D. (1950). If I ran the zoo. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  54. Sleator, W., & Lent, B. (ill.). (1970). The angry moon. Boston: Little, Brown & Company.Google Scholar
  55. Steig, W. (1969). Sylvester and the magic pebble. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  56. St. Peter, S. (1979). Jack went up the hill...But where was Jill? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 4, 256–260.Google Scholar
  57. Sugino, T. (2000, August). Stereotypical role models in Western and non-Western children's literature. Paper presented at the International Conference for Global Conversations on Language and Literacy, Utrecht, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  58. Tepper, C., & Cassidy, K. (1999). Gender differences in emotional language in children's picture books. Sex Roles, 40, 265–280.Google Scholar
  59. Titus, E., & Galdone, P. (1956). Anatole. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  60. Titus, E., & Galdone, P. (1957). Anatole and the cat. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  61. Turner-Bowker, D. (1996). Gender stereotyped descriptors in children's books: Does "curious Jane" exist in the literature? Sex Roles, 35, pp. 461–488.Google Scholar
  62. Weitzman, L., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., & Ross, C. (1972). Sex-role socialization in picture books for preschool children. American Journal of Sociology, 77, 1125–1150.Google Scholar
  63. White, H. (1985). Damsels in distress: Dependency themes in fiction for adolescents. Adolescence, 21, 251–256.Google Scholar
  64. Williams, A., Vernon, J., Williams, M., & Malecha, K. (1987). Sex-role socialization in picture books: An update. Social Science Quarterly, 68, 148–156.Google Scholar
  65. Yashimo, T. (1958). Umbrella. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  66. Yashimo, T. (1967). Seashore story. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  67. Yolen, J., & Young, E. (ill.). (1967). The emperor and the kite. New York: World Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Clark
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica Guilmain
    • 1
  • Paul Khalil Saucier
    • 1
  • Jocelyn Tavarez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyRhode Island CollegeProvidence

Personalised recommendations