Sexism Annotated Bibliography


Dr. Ava L. McCall


Children’s Literature

Audiovisual Resources Dealing With Sexism

Social Action Projects To Address Sexism




Children’s Literature


Blumberg, R. (1993). Bloomers! New York: Bradbury.


Picture book, elementary level. During the 19th century, the appropriate dress for middle-class women was a corset, layers of petticoats, and a heavy, long dress which was uncomfortable and constraining. This book portrays a few women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and Susan B. Anthony who challenged that style and began wearing bloomers or ballooning, ankle-length trousers topped with a knee-length dress. This style was easier for women to move around and carry things, including children, but most people considered it scandalous that women would assume dress more appropriate for men. The three women also began to engage in other activities deemed unseemly for women including traveling together and speaking publicly about the importance of women's rights, such as the right to vote. For this period of time, the bloomers became a symbol of women's rights.


Brott, A. & Martchenko, M. (1990). Jeremy's decision. Brooklyn, NY: Kane/Miller.


Picture book, elementary level. Jeremy's father conducts an orchestra and whenever Jeremy meets adults, they always ask him, "Are you going to be a conductor like your father?" However, adults never ask Jeremy's sister Allegra if she is going to become a conductor. Finally, Jeremy explains his interest in dinosaurs and becoming a paleontologist when he grows up. The book closes with Jeremy as an adult digging up dinosaur bones and Allegra conducting an orchestra.


Browne, A. (1986). Piggybook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


Picture book, lower elementary level. A combination fantasy/reality story of the Piggott family who becomes accustomed to the mother preparing all the meals, completing all the other household chores, and working outside the home. The father and sons come home from work and school to dinner, a clean house, clean clothes, and relax by watching television after dinner. One day, Mrs. Piggott left a note saying, "You are pigs" and Mr. Piggott and his sons discover the challenges of taking care of themselves. The house finally becomes a pigsty, Mrs. Piggott returns, and the family divides household chores more equitably.


Bunnell, J. & Reinheimer, I. (2004). Girls will be boys will be girls will be . . . Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press.


Coloring book, elementary level. The authors collected illustrated messages of children and adults challenging traditional gender roles, toys, and clothing. Boys are shown requesting hugs and dolls, and engaging in cooking, sewing, and cleaning. Girls are fixing things, showing anger, and refusing to serve others and wash dishes. Overall the message of the book is “Don’t let gender box you in.”


Clinton, S. (1986). Cornerstones of freedom: The story of Susan B. Anthony. Chicago: Childrens Press.


Picture book, upper elementary level. This book describes Susan B. Anthony's participation in and leadership in such social movements as temperance, antislavery, and most notably, women's suffrage. It portrays the influence of her Quaker family in developing the belief that women were equal to men and should have educational opportunities. The book describes Anthony's family's participation in temperance, antislavery, and the women's rights movements as well as other women and men who struggled with her to work for social change. The difficulty and frustrations of the struggle are clearly portrayed and exemplified by the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote 14 years after Anthony's death. Even at the age of 86, Anthony was insisting, "Failure is impossible!"


Connell, K. (1993). They shall be heard: Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This text describes Susan B. Anthony's and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's collaborative activism for equality and the early experiences which helped them become activists for equality for women and African Americans. For Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she was motivated to prove her worth as a girl to her father after the loss of her older brother, the only son. This experience made her determined to accomplish in areas where traditionally men had worked. Susan B. Anthony was brought up in a Quaker family which believed in equality for women and African Americans. The text describes Stanton's radical proposal that women have the right to vote at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and Anthony's public criticism of a teachers' convention which did not allow women to speak. In their partnership, Stanton was the writer and developed the ideas while Anthony organized, traveled, and spoke about these ideas at different meetings around the country.


Cordes, H. (2000). Girl power in the classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The author writes directly to girls encouraging them to exert “girl power” or girls feeling free to express themselves and choosing the options best for them. She reviews research on girls’ views of themselves, how girls and boys are treated differently at school, and the lack of women role models in texts interspersed with quotations from girls on these topics. The author encourages girls to focus on positive aspects of themselves; resist unrealistic conceptions of beauty; speak up in school; develop healthy living habits; do activities they enjoy; raise issues of educational inequities with teachers; find support from others in dealing with teasing, sexual harassment, drug and alcohol abuse, and pressure to become sexually active. Resources to help girls exert their power are listed as well as resources for parents and teachers who support “girl power.”


Cornwell, A. (1989). The girls of summer. Berkeley, CA: New Seed Press.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This novel takes place in 1973 after schools became desegregated and with limited opportunities for girls to play baseball. The two main characters are Aurelia Riverton, an African American girl, and Eunice Hightower, a European American girl who both want to play on a baseball team in order to win college scholarships. Even though members of each of their families show racial prejudice, they play together on the city baseball team with Aurelia's grandmother as the new coach. The sexist views of many of the town's citizens become apparent at their criticisms and surprise that the team does so well with a woman coach and very talented girl team members. In addition to sexism, Aurelia endures racism and Eunice encounters classism due to her family's poverty. The text also includes other women characters in nontraditional roles in the community--a judge and psychiatrist. The success of the baseball team helps draw the town a bit closer together.


Dash, J. (1996). We shall not be moved: The women’s factory strike of 1909. New York: Scholastic.


Upper elementary/middle school level. Dash describes the oppressive conditions teenaged girls and women endured at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The women who sewed the clothing were paid half of what men earned for cutting the pieces. Only men were bosses or owners of the factories who preferred hiring young, unskilled, immigrant girls who could be intimidated into working hard for little pay. These girls were expected to begin working by age 16 to help support their families while their brothers finished high school. During the summer of 1909, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company’s workers went out on strike in protest of their working conditions and low wages. These underclass workers were supported by the middle-class Women’s Trade Union League, part of the social reform movement who wanted to improve European immigrants’ lives. Additional support for the strikers came from college-educated young women and wealthy women from New York society. Women strikers had to confront family and society’s expectations for them by picketing, facing violence on the picket lines, being arrested, participating in union activities, and speaking publicly to gain support for the strike. Although the results of the strike did not meet the strikers’ expectations, they did gain a small increase in pay, overtime wages, shorter hours, and an end to the oppressive fines and rental payments. The strike also led to the strengthening of the first permanent working women’s union, the ILGWU, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.


dePaola, T. (1979). Oliver Button is a sissy. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.


Picture book, lower elementary level. Other children call Oliver Button a sissy because he likes to do things other boys usually do not, such as jumping rope, reading books, drawing pictures, playing with paper dolls, and dancing. He is not very good at playing ball, so his parents enroll him in Ms. Leah's Dancing School. When the other boys discover Oliver is taking dancing lessons, they write "Oliver Button is a sissy" on the school wall. After much dance practice, Oliver enters a talent contest and although he dances well, he does not win. He fears further ridicule from the other boys and returns reluctantly to school the next day to discover "Oliver Button is a star!" written on the school wall.


Ellis, D. (2000). The breadwinner. Toronto: Groundwood Books.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The text is fictional, but is based on the stories the author heard from people living in Afghan refugee camps. Parvana, the main character, is an 11-year-old girl living in Kabul, Afghanistan with her family after the Taliban came to power in 1996. Through Parvana’s story, readers discover the Taliban’s oppressive restrictions placed on girls and women. No females were allowed outside without a male escort or a note from a male family member. When they left their homes, girls and women had to cover themselves completely with a burqa. Girls could not attend school and women could not have jobs. After Parvana’s father was imprisoned, Parvana disguised herself as a boy and earned money, bought food, and carried water for her family. Parvana’s sisters were unable to be outside their tiny apartment for one and one-half years. The text offers a chilling portrayal of the devastating impact of extreme sexism on women and girls.


Ellis, D. (2002). Parvana’s journey. Toronto: Groundwood Books.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This novel is the sequel to The Breadwinner and follows Parvana as she searches for her mother, sisters, and brother after her father’s death. Because of the sexist oppression which still exists in Afghanistan, Parvana continues to disguise herself as a boy in order to travel and escape the constraining burqa covering. During her journey she becomes a primary caretaker for a baby, a young boy, and another girl who were without family who could care for them. Parvana, the group’s leader, shows great strength, maturity, and ingenuity in finding food, boiling water to drink, washing clothing, treating sores and illnesses, and teaching the younger children how to survive as well as how to read and count. Although the text is fictional, it portrays the daunting challenges for children to survive in a country devastated by war. It also is a testimony to the strength and hope of a young girl who refuses to give in to despair.


Fireside, B. J. (1994). Is there a woman in the house. . . or senate? Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman.


Middle school level, adult resource. The author first reviews the importance of the United States Congress in making laws, then calls readers' attention to women's lack of representation in Congress from the time it first met in 1789 until 1917 when Jeanette Rankin became the first woman member of the House of Representatives. Most of the text profiles 10 women who served in the House of Representatives or the Senate or both from 1917 until the present. The author chose women who represented different regions of the United States; had different religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds; and held different views on social and political issues. Both Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm overcame racism and sexism in their lives to become members of the House of Representatives while Jeanette Rankin, Margaret Chase Smith, Bella Abzug, Patricia Schroeder, Millicent Fenwick, Barbara Mikulski, Nancy Kassebaum, and Geraldine Ferraro dealt with sexism as they became the first women in Congress. The author highlights each woman's background, her motivations for moving into political office, and her major accomplishments while in office. Readers can appreciate how courageous each woman was in challenging women's traditional role by becoming a member of Congress.


Fritz, J. (1995). You want women to vote, Lizzie Stanton? New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The author provides a lively portrayal of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her experiences as a child and adult which motivated her to fight for women's right to vote, and the opposition she faced from family, clergy, and the general public. Judge Cady never approved of his daughter's public speaking and threatened to disinherit her if she continued and husband Henry was often away from home, leaving the care of their seven children to Elizabeth. Despite this lack of family support, Elizabeth developed friendships with other women with similar goals, especially Susan B. Anthony. Together and individually they gave speeches encouraging suffrage for women while encountering sexist views that women were not suited for voting and participating in public life. Although Stanton did not live to see women have the right to vote, her perseverance and dedication to women's equality is inspiring.


Gehret, J. (1994). Susan B. Anthony and justice for all. Fairport, NY: Verbal Images.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The author supplies a chronological description of Susan B. Anthony's life beginning with her family's Quaker beliefs regarding women's and African Americans' equality and disdain for alcohol. These early experiences planted the seeds for Anthony's activism in the temperance, abolitionist, and women's suffrage movement. As a young adult, Anthony taught school and became involved in the temperance movement and, along with others in her family, the anti-slavery movement. The author sketches in the historical context of Anthony's activities to show significant events and trends which influenced Anthony as well as contrast her endeavors with women's traditional role. When Anthony discovered women were expected to be silent at temperance meetings and the need for laws to limit the sale of alcohol, she became convinced of the importance of women's political equality through suffrage. The text describes Anthony's years of public speaking against slavery, alcohol abuse, and women's inequality as well as her arrest and trial for voting before passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton became an excellent team campaigning for women's suffrage, the text describes differences and conflicts between the two women, including Stanton's refusal to help Anthony with debts incurred in the publication of their newspaper, the Revolution. By the end of the book, readers can appreciate Anthony's courage and tenacity in fighting for equality in an era of limited opportunities for women.


Hanmer, T. J. (1990). Taking a stand against sexism and sex discrimination. New York: Franklin Watts.


Middle school level, adult resource. This book explains the definitions of sexism and sex discrimination and provides a concise history of sexism and how it has led to the pervasive discrimination of contemporary times. It refutes the belief that equality between women and men has been achieved by listing unequal treatment in educational institutions and in the workplace and by linking women's lack of power to the social problem of violence directed against women. However, women have not passively accepted sexism and sex discrimination and the book traces the history of women's rights activism from the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 to the women's suffrage movement to the present. Historical activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Jane Addams are portrayed as well as contemporary young activists. Jane fought for equal newspaper coverage of girls' sports; Jack fought for the right for boys to take cooking classes and girls to take shop and mechanical drawing in school; and Tanya fought for the right to be hired as a "stock boy" with a higher salary than a "checkout girl." The author explains discrimination against women with families who work outside the home, in the workplace itself, and in the justice system. She suggests different social action strategies to address various forms of sexist discrimination.


Hoffman, M. (1991). Amazing Grace. New York: Dial.


Picture book, lower elementary level. Grace, an African American girl, loved stories and acting them out. When her teacher announced the class would dramatize the play Peter Pan, Grace expressed her desire to play the lead. However, her classmates complained she could not because she was a girl and Black. Nana, Grace's grandmother, took her to the ballet Romeo and Juliet to see an African American woman as Juliet. Seeing the ballet helped to bolster Grace's confidence to practice and audition for the lead in Peter Pan. Her classmates were impressed with Grace's dramatic abilities and despite selecting a girl for a "boy's role," they unanimously chose Grace to be Peter Pan. A significant weakness of the text is Grace's stereotypical depiction of Native Americans which should be discussed with readers.


Jimenez, K. P. (2000). Are you a boy or a girl? Toronto: Green Dragon.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text raises questions about what makes a girl and illustrates that girls may choose to wear their hair short, play with airplanes, and engage in such sports as basketball and soccer. It illustrates the harmful effects of ridicule when girls do not choose traditional “girl” activities. An important message of the text is that girls can do “boy” things and boys can do “girl” things.


Johnson, P. H. (1988). The boy toy. Durham, NC: Lollipop Power Books.


Picture book, lower elementary level. Chad's grandmother makes him a doll for Christmas which closely resembles Chad himself. The doll becomes his favorite toy and constant companion. When Chad begins school, he wants to become friends with another boy Sam. When Sam and Chad play in the housekeeping center, Sam announces that boys do not play with dolls because they are "girl toys." When one girl pretends to be a doctor in order to take care of sick dolls, Sam insists that girls cannot be doctors and demands to be the doctor himself. Sam's insistence leads to everyone's play becoming more stereotyped by gender. When Chad becomes ill and is treated by a woman doctor, he realizes Sam is wrong about girls not being doctors, could be wrong about dolls being "girl toys," and begins playing with his doll again. He also discovers Sam sleeps with a teddy bear when he is ill.


Johnston, N. (1995). Remember the ladies: The first women's rights convention. New York: Scholastic.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This text focuses primarily on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the influential experiences in the early part of her life as well as those during marriage and becoming a parent which led to her activism for equality. Stanton had more privileges than many women because of her family's wealth. She also experienced the frustrations of carrying out women's traditional role of running a household and parenting seven children with debating women's and African American's position in life with "radicals" of the time period. A detailed description of the 1848 Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention is provided, along with Stanton's most radical proposal of suffrage for women. Readers become aware of the personal price Stanton paid in her work for political and legal equality for women.


Judes, M.-O. (1996). Max: The stubborn little wolf. New York: Scholastic.


Picture book, elementary level. The text portrays Max, a young male wolf, who aspires to become a florist, much to his father’s dismay. Max’s father asserts that wolf father and sons are hunters, and Max must also become a hunter. However, Max retorts he does not like to hunt and does not like to eat meat that is hunted, although he is willing to eat meat that is purchased. Although Max’s father tries to convince his son to become a hunter rather than a florist, his efforts result in Max deciding to make perfumes rather than become a florist. The book can be used to discuss traditional gender roles and the challenges of choosing not to follow them.


Krull, K. (2004). A woman for president: The story of Victorial Woodhull. New York: Walker.


Picture book, upper elementary level. The text portrays the unconventional life of Victoria Claflin Woodhull, who grew up poor, made a living as a fortune teller and healer, earned and lost wealth, married three times and divorced twice, and accomplished many notable feats for women in the 19th century. She and her sister Tennessee formed the first female-owned American company which bought and sold stocks and founded their own newspaper. Victoria was the first woman in history to address Congress and spoke about the Constitutional right for women to vote. She was the first to run for President in 1872, although she was not allowed to vote.


Levinson, N. S. (1997). She’s been working on the railroad. New York: Lodestar.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This text provides valuable background knowledge on a gap in most people’s understanding of railroad workers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The author’s purpose is to inform readers of women’s participation in the railroad industry despite the sexism they encountered in lower pay and resistance from male workers. Many women began working on railroads in the late 19th century as telegraph operators who controlled train traffic and also sold tickets and dispatched trains. Women were involved in improving railroad car refrigeration in order to transport perishable food across the country. During World War I and World War II, women were recruited to replace men who served in the armed forces. At this time women worked as clerks, machinists, dispatchers, flaggers, drawbridge tenders, welders, brakers, and freight handlers. It wasn’t until the 1970s and the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that women were able to become engineers. However, a woman has yet to become president of a major railroad.


McCully, E. A. (1996). The ballot box battle. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


Picture book, elementary level. The author creates a fictional main character, Cordelia, to portray Elizabeth Cady Stanton's efforts to win the vote for women. As Cordelia takes care of Mrs. Stanton's horse and receives riding lessons from her, she learns about Elizabeth Cady Stanton's childhood attempts to prove her worthiness as a girl to her father. Despite Mrs. Stanton's academic achievements in subjects only boys studied, she was never able to gain the approval from her father she so desired. The text also portrays Elizabeth Cady Stanton's efforts to vote in the 1880 election and was refused despite being a citizen, a taxpayer, of legal voting age, and able to read and write. The futile effort to vote is depicted as a courage action amidst protests by men at the polls.


McCully, E. A. (1996). The bobbin girl. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.


Picture book, upper elementary level. The main character, Rebecca, is a ten-year-old bobbin girl working 13 1/2 hours a day in a cotton mill in Lowell, Massachusetts during the 1830s. Rebecca's small wages are needed in her family just as other "mill girls" work to earn money for a dowry, to pay off the mortgage on family farm, to pay for a brother's Harvard tuition, or to run away from an abusive father. The book shows the harsh, unsafe conditions of the mills which lead to lung disease or injury. The author portrays the "mill girls" joining together to protest a cut in wages by "turning out" or stopping their work, marching through town, and withdrawing their money from the local bank. Even though the strike did not cause the mill owners to reinstate the original wages, the text displays the power of young women and girls to stand up for their rights to be treated humanely as workers.


McGovern, A. (1975). The secret soldier: The story of Deborah Sampson. New York: Scholastic.


Upper elementary level. The author describes Deborah Sampson's childhood during the 1760s and 1770s, including being separated from her parents due to her father's early death and her mother's illness and poverty. Although Deborah was not allowed to attend school when she lived with and worked for a family, she borrowed the children's books and practiced reading and writing. When Deborah was freed from this work at the age of 18, in the summer she taught school because men were busy fighting in the Revolutionary War. Deborah deliberately avoided marriage because of the limited rights married women had at this time. In the winter she worked as a weaver and, yearning to have adventures in life usually reserved for men, wove herself a suit of men's clothes, and enlisted in the army. Deborah Sampson became Robert Shurtliff and rather than experience exciting adventures, discovered that war meant watching others die, marching until one's shoes fell apart, and going without food. Once when she was wounded, she removed the bullet from her own leg rather than risk someone discovering she was a woman. After becoming very ill from a fever, a physician uncovered Deborah's secret and she was discharged from the service with a good record. After marrying and having children, Deborah again broke women's traditional role by traveling alone around the country speaking about her experiences as a soldier and against war.


Meltzer, M. (1998). Ten queens: Portraits of women of power. New York: Dutton.


Middle school level/adult resource. The author focused on ten women who had power, ruled in their own right or, if they were married to a king, were actively involved in ruling. Although these women lived during the time when monarchs were viewed as infallible and having the divine right to rule (from the 5th century B. C. through the end of the 18th century), it was also a time when women were viewed as inferior, subjugated to men, and unnatural if they engaged in activities traditionally associated with men, such as governing. The author describes the historical and social context of each woman including the sexism limiting women’s opportunities; contributions they made to their people or country; and their harmful actions. Women portrayed in the text include Esther, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Zenobia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabel of Spain, Elizabeth I, Christina of Sweden, Maria Theresa, and Catherine the Great.



Neuberger, A. E. (1995). The girl-son. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.


Upper elementary level. The main character, Induk Pahk, was born in 1896 in Korea. At that time, only boys were believed able to learn and attend school, but after Induk's father and brother died, Induk's mother defied tradition, became independent, and courageously disguised Induk as a boy and sent her to school. For one year, Induk learned about the world of boys as she played and learned only with boys. Induk's mother discovered another school and became a peddler to sell the cloth she wove to enable Induk to live at and attend the Samsung Methodist Mission School for Girls during the next four years. Finally, through Induk's and her mother's courage and others' generosity, Induk attended and graduated from Ewha High School and College, became a teacher at the high school and college, and established a new school. All this was accomplished while living in a society which emphasized women should be meek, quiet, and take care of their homes and families.


Pogrebin, L. C. (Ed.). (1982). Stories for free children. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Upper elementary level, adult resource. A collection of stories originating from the "Story for Free Children" section of Ms. magazine. The title comes from the belief that children should be allowed to be themselves, to develop their talents and interests without having to fit into traditional female or male roles. The first section, Fables and Fairy Tales for Everyday Life, includes "The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet" which illustrates the damaging effects of conformity on women. "The Princess and the Admiral," "Three Strong Women," and "The Ten-Woman Bicycle" reach back to a thirteenth-century kingdom, an ancient Japanese village, and a nineteenth-century bicycle factory to reveal that there have always been women who are clever, mighty, and brave. "X" exposes the foolish notion of dividing humanity into girls and boys with distinctly different toys, games, clothing, academic strengths, and eventually work. Section two, Famous Women, Found Women, includes women often excluded from history texts such as Deborah Sampson, the secret soldier of the Revolutionary War; Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere; Lucretia Mott and Amelia Bloomer, who defied society and won new freedoms for women; and Mary Patten, the young woman who commanded a clipper ship through 54 days of stormy sea. Section three, Fun, Facts, and Feelings, deals with everyday reality such as violence, unemployment, sex discrimination, boys taking responsibility around the house, and the importance of "teddy bear" security even for boys.


Reit, S. (1988). Beyond Rebel lines: The incredible story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War spy. New York: Harcourt Brace.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The author describes Emma Edmonds’ desire to step outside women’s traditional role during the Civil War by disguising herself as a man and enlisting in the Union army. The author attributes some of Emma’s motivation to play a more significant role in the war to her father’s rejection of her as a daughter when he wanted a son. Whereas women were relegated to knitting socks, rolling bandages, making cloth for blankets and uniforms, and nursing and writing letters for wounded soldiers, Emma disguised as Franklin Thompson hoped to serve as a battlefield nurse, a job reserved for men only. Not only was Emma able to nurse wounded soldiers, but also became a spy for the Union. Using such creative disguises as a male freed slave, Irish woman peddler, an African American washerwoman, and a Confederate sympathizer, Edmonds collected valuable information on Confederate troops to help the Union. Her success was interrupted by contracting malaria which forced her to leave the army rather than risk exposing her identity.


Rosen, D. S. (1995). A fire in her bones: The story of Mary Lyon. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.


Upper elementary/middle school level. Mary Lyon loved learning and going to school despite the limited educational opportunities for girls in the early 1800s. In some communities girls could attend school only in the summer while the boys worked in the fields and had few opportunities for advanced study. Mary attended the district school longer than many girls, then her reputation as a good student earned her the invitation to teach at another district school, although for less money than a man would earn at the same job. For the next several years, Mary alternated between teaching school and attending academies and female seminaries for advanced study because no colleges were open for women at the time. Mary also gained experience as an administrator of different academies for girls and dealt with public beliefs that girls did not need as much education as boys and women did not have a head for business. However, Mary worked hard to realize her dream of opening Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, a permanent school comparable to colleges for men with low tuition so poor young women could afford to attend. The school focused on preparing women to become teachers, required students to complete housekeeping chores to keep costs low, and maintained high academic standards.


Ross, R. B. (1988). The bet's on, Lizzie Bingman! Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Upper elementary/middle school level. This novel takes place in 1914 and the main character, 14-year-old Lizzie Bingman, finds it difficult to adhere to traditional roles for girls and women at that time. She loudly complains about the freedoms her brothers enjoy while her own life is much more restrictive. Lizzie's mother is a very community-minded woman who tries to do things to help others, but still embraces and reinforces women's traditional roles and encourages her daughter to do the same. Lizzie engages in some very daring activities at the time including smoking a cigarette which burns down a barn, disguising herself as a boy and attending a circus "hurdy-gurdy show" with women dancers, drinking all-purpose remedies sold at the circus, falling asleep in one of the circus wagons and being taken to another town, witnessing a murder, and testifying at the murder trial. The book closes with glimpses of some members of Lizzie's family changing their minds about women's equality.


Rynbach, I. V. & Shea, P. D. (2010). The taxing case of the cows: A true story about suffrage. Boston: Clarion Books.


Elementary level. The text is historical fiction based on events in the lives of Abby and Julie Smith who lived in Glastonbury, Connecticut in the 19th century. The author lists sources for the text. The Smith sisters protested the town leaders’ decision to tax single female landowners more than other landowners, especially since they and other women had no voice or vote in this decision. The sisters were not allowed to speak at town meetings when they demanded the right to vote. The sisters refused to pay the additional tax at first, then they paid a portion of it, a practice allowed for male landowners. However, the tax collector took their seven cows as payment for the tax. When the tax collector attempted to auction the cows to pay the tax, no one bid more than a few dollars for the cows, which allowed the sisters to purchase them for the amount of the tax bill. When the sisters continued to refuse to pay the additional tax, they fought the tax collector’s attempt to take some of their land as payment, in violation of the law. The Smith sisters eventually won their case and toured the U.S. speaking about women’s rights. Neither lived to see women achieve the right to vote.


Slade, S. (2014). Friends for freedom: The story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.


Picture book, elementary level. The biography of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass compares the differences between their lives and the historical period they lived in, which made it unlikely that the two of them would become friends. However, their commitment to equality for African Americans and women drew them together. They spoke out publicly together about equality for African Americans and women even when others attacked them for their ideas. When the Fifteenth Amendment was proposed to give Black men the right to vote, but not women, Douglass agreed with this amendment, but not Anthony. She believed women should not wait for the right to vote, which caused a rift in their relationship. However, they were able to maintain their friendship, communicate with each other in letters, give speeches together, and attend conventions together for over 45 years. In the author’s and illustrator’s note, the author and illustrator explain the research involved in preparing the book and include source notes and a selected bibliography.


Sreenivasan, J. (1996). The moon over Crete. St. Louis, MO: Smooth Stone.


Upper elementary level. This novel begins with the main character Lily’s frustrations with gender inequality and being harassed by a boy at school. An especially understanding flute teacher Mrs. Zinn shares some of her own experiences of gender inequality with Lily, but also tells about a society in Crete 3500 years earlier which was more egalitarian, meaning women were valued and listened to and held such important positions as priestess and queen. Mrs. Zinn takes Lily on a time travel journey back to Crete so Lily can see and participate in this society herself. During their visit, Lily sees women and men taking care of children, making pottery, and participating in the dangerous “bull games.” Lily is especially happy to discover boys listening to girls and treating them well, girls’ freedom to gather plants away from their homes without fear for their safety, and encouragement to confront males who do not treat her as she wanted.


Sullivan, G. (1994). The day the women got the vote: A photo history of the women's rights movement. New York: Scholastic.


Middle school level, adult resource. The author summarizes European American and African American women's work for equality beginning in the early 19th century until the 1990s. The text is generously embellished with photographs of leaders and historical events. The author divides the women's movement into two separate movements, the first focusing on ending slavery and gaining suffrage. The current, second movement focuses on broader changes regarding marriage, family life, the workplace, and women's and men's roles. During the first movement, women fought for the right to vote; for educational opportunities beyond elementary school for European American and African American women; for better working conditions in factories; for an end to slavery; for the termination of alcohol abuse; and for civil rights for African Americans. The author describes women's participation in many economic and military activities in the Civil War and World War I and II which many women believed would lead to greater economic and political equality for women, but often did not. In the current women's movement, the author reviews several laws which outlaw discrimination against women; individuals who have been the first women to hold positions traditionally occupied by men; organizations and publications which support women's equality; and areas still needing work to achieve gender equality.


Woodridge, C. N. (2001). When Esther Morris headed West. New York: Holiday House.


Picture book, elementary level. The text documents how women won the right to vote and hold office in the Wyoming Territory in 1869 when women were denied this right in all other parts of the U.S. Although Esther Morris advocated for women’s suffrage, she was joined in this view by Colonel William Bright. After this law was passed, Esther Morris ran for and was elected South Pass City Justice of the Peace and voted in an election in 1870. The author’s note explains why it was easier for women to achieve the right to vote in western territories rather than eastern states at this time. Only a majority vote of the legislature and the governor’s signature were required to pass laws in territories.


Zeinert, K. (1995). Elizabeth Van Lew: Southern Belle, Union Spy. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon.


Upper elementary/middle school level. The author portrays Elizabeth Van Lew’s activities during and following the Civil War which reveal how much she deviated from the acceptable roles for Southern women at the time. Van Lew’s parents were wealthy and well-educated, as was Van Lew herself. They lived in a mansion in Richmond, Virginia and were considered one of the city’s finest families. However, Elizabeth never married, was outspoken and independent, expressed her views on politics, developed antislavery views and actions, and publicly supported the Union during the Civil War. All of these actions were unacceptable for Southern women. She freed the family’s slaves, bought family members of former slaves when they were offered for sale, and reunited the families. During the war, Van Lew visited Yankee prisoners, taking them food, writing materials, and medical care. She collected information from the prisoners, creatively relayed that information to Union generals, and helped prisoners escape. She became one of the best Union spies, a very unusual role for women. Following the war, when Van Lew needed money to maintain her mansion, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed her Richmond’s postmaster, when few women worked outside the home. Unfortunately, Van Lew’s refusal to support the Confederacy and fulfill women’s traditional role contributed to her loss of employment and ostracism by Richmond society.


Zolotow, C. (1972). William's doll. New York: HarperTrophy.


Picture book, lower elementary level. William wants a doll to play with even though his brother and the boy next door call him a sissy. His father purchases William a basketball and an electric train to encourage more traditional play which William enjoys, but his desire to play with a doll does not wane. Finally, William's grandmother purchases William a doll so he can love it and care for it as preparation for being a father.



Adult Resources Dealing With Sexism


Al-Sharif, M. (2017). Daring to drive: A Saudi woman’s awakening. New York: Simon & Schuster.


The text describes the author’s experiences of being born to a poor family in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and growing up female with strict religious restrictions in the country. The author followed the central Muslim rites of prayer five times a day, fasting, reading the Koran, performing the daily religious recitations, and wearing a facial covering. Saudi women and children were not legally protected from domestic violence, and the author experienced violence at the hands of both her parents. Both Al-Sharif and her sister were circumcised as children at the insistence of their parents despite their wails and screams and the possibility of criminal charges. Al-Sharif’s academic talents and her mother’s determination that her children become educated contributed to her earning a computer science degree and eventually becoming the first Saudi woman to work in information security at Saudi-Aramco Oil Company. Despite her education and employment, she faced many of the restrictions all Saudi women experience, such as not being able to conduct any official business without her father, husband, or mahram (close male family relative whom she cannot marry). In order to attend college, Saudi women had to have permission from their male guardian. If female college students were taught by male professors, the teachers taught by closed-circuit television to avoid direct contact between male teachers and female students. Saudi women could not drive a car, rent an apartment or house, be admitted to a hospital, study certain fields such as engineering, or be licensed to practice law. They had to use separate entrances from men when entering universities, banks, restaurants, and mosques and sit in separate sections in restaurants from unrelated men. When Al-Sharif worked at Aramco, she was not allowed to attend training courses with male colleagues nor ride the buses on the Aramco grounds, which were reserved for men. In 2011, Al-Sharif was imprisoned for driving a car and charged with “driving while female,” although no formal Saudi laws existed to deny women driving rights. The author eventually lost her job because of her actions and publicly speaking out for women’s rights. However, Al-Sharif is encouraged by recent royal decrees which allow women to work in shops and malls as cashiers, run for elected municipal positions, and participate in an unelected advisory council for the king. There is also some discussion of women being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, although it will likely be far in the future.


Crawford, S. H. (1996). Beyond dolls and guns: 101 ways to help children avoid gender bias. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


The text is written for parents, educators, and other adults who work with children to help them address the problem of sexism. The author clarifies the terms sexism, discrimination, and bias. She encourages readers to know the legal basis for educational equality through Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1972. The law provides for equal access for girls and boys to educational classes or programs and equal treatment in terms of policies and funding. The law has especially expanded girls’ participation in high school sports, although boys’ involvement remains almost twice as great. The text offers advice in identifying gender bias and taking action to counteract gender stereotypes. Important components of the text include suggested resources for learning about famous women in history and nonsexist children’s and adult reference books and appendices which summarize inclusive language guidelines and research on how girls and boys are treated differently at home and school.


Ebadi, S. (2016). Until we are free: My fight for human rights in Iran. New York: Random House.


The author describes her experiences following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, which led to the loss of her position as a judge. During the 1990s, Ebadi served as a human rights lawyer who defended women’s and children’s rights and founded a human rights center to speak out against discrimination. These activities led to Ebadi receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work for democracy and human rights, which the Iranian government ignored. After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Ebadi faced consistent and severe persecution for her criticisms of the Islamic Republic in Iran. The Iranian government wiretapped her phones, detained and arrested family members, harassed colleagues, seized her offices, and eventually took her home and dissolved her marriage. Ebadi provided an interesting perspective on the “Arab spring,” which occurred in 2011. People in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya came together and ousted their dictators, but the Islamists who came to power following the dictators intensified gender discrimination, limited women’s rights, and curtailed freedom of expression. Iran eventually became so unsafe for Ebadi that she left the country she loved in 2009 and continues to live in exile in London. The author describes deteriorating conditions for Iranian women in 2014: women were not permitted to work in city cafes and restaurants, female musicians could no longer perform onstage, women civil servants could not work alongside men, and women could not watch the year’s soccer World Cup from public cinemas and cafes. According to Ebadi, Iran wants to become the leading Shia power in the world and encourage Shias in other countries to rise up against their Sunni rulers, such as in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. This goal places Iran in opposition to Saudi Arabia, who sees itself as the leading Sunni country in the world. Ebadi is very critical of the Iranian government, but hopeful that the Iranian people will work for change.


Gates, M. (2019). The moment of lift: How empowering women changes the world. New York: Flatiron Books.


Melinda Gates, the author, focuses on the importance of lifting up women in order to lift up humanity. As co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she decides on the projects their foundation supports and became a global advocate for women and girls. As Melinda and Bill Gates learned about different problems around the world, they not only visited the countries where these problems existed and talked with the people experiencing them, but also sought solutions for the problems. They began with saving children’s lives in poor countries through vaccines that weren’t previously available, then discovered that women in poor countries often did not have access to contraceptives. Many women had more children than they could feed or take care of, which led to poor health for the mothers and an increase in mortality for children. The author became an advocate for family planning and devoted foundation resources to it. As Melinda went on to learn about other issues affecting women, including maternal and newborn health, women’s and girls’ education, unpaid work, child marriage, women in agriculture, and women in the workplace, she worked to eliminate the barriers which kept women in poverty. When women are lifted out of poverty, their families and communities also flourish. The author describes her intention and that of her foundation to promote equality among women and men, which improves the world, but to also promote connections among people so that everyone is invested in the well-being of others. Ideally, the moment of lift happens when we love without limits and see ourselves in others.


Gillibrand, K. (2014). Off the sidelines: Raise your voice, change the world. New York: Ballentine Books.


The author, Kirsten Gillibrand, is currently a United States Senator representing the state of New York in Congress. She describes the process she went through in becoming involved in politics, the women in her family who were politically active, and the women in politics who inspired her to become involved. After realizing the work she was doing as a corporate lawyer was not satisfying, she decided to run for office. She first became a representative for the 20th district in New York state in 2007, then lobbied for and was appointed to complete Hillary Clinton’s senate term when she became Secretary of State in 2009. Gillibrand describes her passion to fight for those with little voice: people who are poor, first responders to the 9/11 tragedy, ordinary families, women in the armed services, and women workers. She calls attention to injustices for women in the United States: expensive daycare, preschool education not available to everyone, lack of family leave, low minimum wage, women’s unequal pay compared to men’s, and company leadership dominated by men. The most revealing chapter focuses on the sexism she experienced as a corporate lawyer, political candidate, and member of Congress. Her bosses at her law firm commented on her appearance rather than her work, colleagues in Congress commented on her weight, and one labor leader told her “you need to be beautiful again” as a way of winning support from labor. When she dieted and lost weight, one male senator said “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby!” Gillibrand advocates for more women in government to change laws correcting the difficulties that women experience in integrating family and work, earning a living wage, and being safe from domestic violence and sexual assault.


Grogan, T. (2003). Boys and girls together: Improving gender relationships in K-6 classrooms. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.


The author provides very practical suggestions for eroding gender segregation in school, which can contribute to sexism, sexist stereotypes, and antagonistic relationships between girls and boys. She offers ideas from a number of elementary teachers, who were interviewed for the text, as well as print resources. The text provides suggestions for encouraging girls and boys to work and play together in the classroom, creating gender inclusive classroom conversations, constructing a gender-balanced curriculum, and fostering opportunities for girls and boys to eat lunch together and play together at recess.


Kargar, Z. (2012). Dear Zari: The secret lives of the women of Afghanistan. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.


The author chose 13 stories from the hundreds of stories she heard from women from Afghanistan, including her own, describing important events of their lives. The stories originally aired on the radio program Afghan Woman’s Hour which aired from 2005 to 2010 and was presented and produced by the author from the United Kingdom. The overall purpose of the stories is to provide a “glimpse into a closed and complex society and give an insight into what it’s like to live in one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries” (p. xix). The author introduces each woman’s story with its historical, cultural context so readers develop a greater understanding of the meaning of the stories. The author’s own story describes her life with her family during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Mujahedeen’s attacks on the government. Her family lived comfortably; her father was the head of national radio and a government minister, and the daughters attended school. With the upheaval during the war among the Mujahedeens, the author and her family fled to Pakistan. They lived there for several years until the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, and the author’s family knew they were not safe in Pakistan. Their economic struggles and desire to live in the United Kingdom led the author’s parents’ agreement to an arranged marriage for their daughter. The author tells her story to let the world know that Afghan girls usually have no say in choosing a spouse. Other stories include a young girl’s exchange for a second wife for her father because her mother did not give birth to sons; another young girl forced to marry a drug addict and shamed for loving a man of her choosing; yet another young girl forced to marry a man to settle a family dispute and was treated like an animal by her husband and his family; a young girl, the oldest child in her family, spent all her days in a dark room making carpets for sale with her mother instead of attending school; another young girl was divorced by her husband because she did not bleed on her wedding night as proof of her virginity; yet another young girl entered into an arranged marriage so her husband’s family could hide his gay lifestyle; and another young woman was divorced by her husband after she lost a leg during a bombing. In addition to stories about Afghan women’s severe oppression and hardships, the author includes stories of women who stand up for their rightful family inheritance, sew clothes to pay for their support or support their family by making kites, and choose their own husbands.


Kingsolver, B. (1996). Holding the line: Women in the great Arizona mine strike of 1983. Ithaca, NY: IRL Press.


The author describes the copper mine strike in Arizona from June, 1983 through December, 1984 based largely on interviews with 75 people, mostly Latina women directly involved in the strike. The strike occurred because Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation asked miners to take cuts in wages, benefits, holidays, and vacation time and lose their cost of living protection and eventually their seniority. The book portrays how the women’s lives changed because of their participation in the strike and how they dealt with all the sexism they encountered. The mass media, labor unions, governmental officials, and even their own husbands ignored women’s importance in the strike and expected them to remain in a supportive role. Even though male miners were in the majority in the mines, during the strike they were legally prevented from participating on the picket line and eventually found jobs outside of the mines to support their families. Sometimes these jobs were in different counties or states. Women viewed the picket line as a way to help their families survive and stand up for their rights. They personally observed how the mining company, law enforcement, and the police worked together to break the strike through arrests, the presence of the national guard carrying weapons, and evictions. A number of the women became more independent in their families (and sometimes separated or divorced), confident public speakers, vocal advocates for civil rights, women’s rights, and international labor rights, and determined to find jobs outside the home. Eventually the union was decertified, but the unions filed civil rights suits against the government and Phelps Dodge for excessive bonds, arrests without cause, or discrimination. The unions were successful in their suits and awarded damages.


Ledbetter, L. & Isom, L. S. (2012). Grace and grit: My fight for equal pay and fairness at Goodyear and beyond. New York: Three Rivers Press.


Lilly Ledbetter narrates her experiences working in management at Goodyear for 19 years. She applied for a position with Goodyear to provide greater economic security for her family–college educations for her two children and retirement and medical care for her and her husband. Lilly grew up struggling economically and she and her husband also faced economic challenges after they married. She hoped working at Goodyear would change their economic status. However, as a manager, she faced inappropriate sexual comments from other male managers, explicit expectations that her evaluations would improve only by having sex with her supervisor, threats of being moved from her position if she did not have sex with another manager, low evaluations without documentation that her work was lacking, suspension without pay for “mistakes,” inappropriate touching from other supervisors, harsh criticism of her work by other managers in front of her team, sabotage by other managers, a lack of training on using machines she was to supervise, undeserved blame for production problems, and demotions for “making the wrong people mad and causing trouble.” Letty complained to the human resources department at Goodyear, but nothing was resolved to her satisfaction. When she discovered she was making $13,000 to $14,000 less per year than male managers, she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC gave Letty the right to sue, which she did. She filed suit against Goodyear that they violated the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Even though Letty won the first lawsuit, it was overturned on appeal and by the Supreme Court. Letty continued to lobby Congress to change the law, which it did in 2008. Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, “which ensured that individuals subjected to unlawful pay discrimination had an effective recourse to assert their rights under the federal antidiscrimination laws.” President Obama signed the act into law in January, 2009.


Nordberg, J. (2014). The underground girls of Kabul: In search of a hidden resistance in Afghanistan. New York: Broadway Books.


The book is a result of research the author completed in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Because of the strong patriarchal society in Afghanistan in which women have little status and power, receive less education, are expected to be invisible so they are not seen or heard, and are pressured not to work or leave their homes without their husbands, boys are preferred over girls. Women who marry are expected to bear at least one son in order to fulfill cultural expectations and have a good standing and reputation in the community. The life expectancy for women in Afghanistan is 44 years, and much of that time is spent in pregnancy. When women have only daughters, the parents in middle class and upper class families may ask one of the daughters to assume the role of a son until puberty when she returns to a female identity. These “sons” or bacha posh dress and act like sons and enjoy all the freedom to play, talk loudly, run, move around the community, look others in the eye, and ride in the front seat of a car. For families with little income, their “sons” often hold jobs to help support their families. These “sons” don’t enjoy the freedom associated with the male role because their time is spent working. At times, families decide to turn their infant daughter into a boy to bring the mother good luck in producing a son in the future. Having a bacha posh in the family is considered acceptable as long as the girl is returned to her female identity before she enters puberty when she must marry and have children. The author concludes that taking a male identity is an example of resistance to patriarchy and how women use innovation to protest their lack of power. She also asserts that countries with increased equality are less violent and economically stable. The more progress for women in Afghanistan will ultimately lead to more progress for the country overall.


See, L. (2005). Snow Flower and the secret fan. New York: Random House.


Although the book is fictional, it is based on the author’s family background as a descendant of a Chinese immigrant, time spent with family in Los Angeles Chinatown, as well as research she completed in China and the United States. The text explores examples of sexist oppression Chinese women faced in the 19th century from footbinding, lack of education and literacy, relegation to the upstairs “women’s room” of homes and their denial to participate in the “outer realm” of life outside their homes to the emphasis on their obedience to their fathers, husbands, and sons. However, one way Chinese women communicated with one another and developed a voice was through nu shu or women’s secret form of writing. It is believed to be the only written language in the world developed by women for their use only. Lily, the main character, and Snow Flower, her closest friend, communicated throughout their lives through nu shu when they became laotong, “old sames,” or secret writing partners. The author endeavored to portray the lives of two Chinese women in the 19th century and their experiences and perspective on having their feet bound in order to achieve the ideal three-inch foot, considered their best and most important feature. Girls with bound feet were more likely to marry into a wealthier family and achieve true happiness and fulfillment by giving birth to a son. Girls were not valued in Chinese society at that time because they were a financial burden and did not remain with, contribute resources, or care for their parents after they married and had children. The text is a very engaging, emotional story about the lives of Lily and Snow Flower and their friendship over many decades.


Sharif, S. (2011). On the edge of being: An Afghan woman’s journey. Toronto: Sumach Press.


The author relates important events in her own life growing up in Afghanistan and the lives of other women who experienced oppression in the patriarchal Afghanistan culture. She summarizes the historical context and effects on women’s lives from the Soviet occupation and resistance to it from 1979-1989 to the Mujahideen control, then the Taliban control of the government, to the current efforts to create a democratic form of government within Afghanistan. Women experienced cruel treatment under each form of government, although democracy led to some improvements for some women. The author describes her love and admiration for her own father who treated his daughters equally to his sons, insisted on education for all his daughters and sons, and grew from his experiences as a religious student, then a religious leader, a judge, and finally a deputy governor and governor. However, the author acknowledges her father was not open-minded toward her mother and was demeaning, strict, and suspicious with her, who was illiterate and 15 years younger than her father. The author’s stories reveal her own rape and sexual abuse by the family cook, the sexual abuse of women family servants by father and brothers, women being beaten or killed if they made noise, exposed any part of their bodies, or did not follow strict behavior standards, and young girls married off to older men to raise money, as gifts, as a medium of exchange for another young girl/wife, or as retribution for a family member’s death. Her stories included narratives of women who were stoned, beaten, or imprisoned for even suspected adultery while men received no punishment. The author herself completed university in the United States and became a Canadian citizen, although she recognizes her immigrant, second-class status. She states that women of Afghanistan have been second-rate citizens in their own country because they are women just as immigrants are second-rate citizens in other countries.


Woodson, J. (2016). Another Brooklyn. New York: Amistad.


The text is fictional, but describes empowering possibilities and oppression for young, African American women living in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970s. The novel portrays the young women’s positive talk with each other to help them overcome the challenges they faced with parents’ mental health, drug, or controlling issues; poverty; attacks from males; and pressures from boyfriends to become sexually active. The author emphasizes the importance of friendship among four young, African American women as well as events which can fracture those friendships.


Audiovisual Resources Dealing With Sexism


ABC News. (Producer). (1994). The fairer sex? [Videotape]. (Available from CorVision, 1359 Barclay Boulevard, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089).


Upper elementary/middle school level. When two European American young adults, one female and one male, apply for jobs, shop for cars, and schedule time to play golf, they are treated differently by prospective employers, car sales staff, and the golf course staff. The woman is offered a lower status position, quoted a higher price for the car, and given a less convenient time to play golf. Although the two “testers” did not expect to find gender discrimination, they learned that women are still treated unfairly in the 1990s.


DePaola, T, Scagliotti, J. & Usher, J. (Executive Producers). (2001). Oliver Button is a star [Videotape]. (Available from Hunt & Scagliotti Productions, 26 Ayers Road, Monson, MA 01057,


Middle school level and adult resource. The video is based on the children’s book Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomi dePaola, which reflects part of the author’s childhood. The videotape portrays an elementary teacher reading and discussing the book with young children. They review stereotypes for girls’ activities and boys’ activities, the harm produced when children are called names for being “different,” and how children might affirm children who are “different.” The classroom scene is interspersed with a performance of the text including music and drama as the author reads the text to the audience. In addition, several adults, including dePaola, describe their childhood experiences of having interests and talents which defy traditional gender expectations. The video illustrates the harmfulness of gender stereotypes, sexism, and bullying on children and adults.


Social Action Projects To Address Sexism


1. Analyze television shows and commercials for sexist images. Are the male characters strong, aggressive, and significantly more numerous than the weak, passive, sexy or "pure" female characters? Who is valued for their appearance? Who is valued for their ideas and work? Who is doing the "important" things? Who fills a more trivial position? Write letters to the producers, advertisers, television networks, or local newspapers to report your findings. Compliment the networks and advertisers who show positive images of women and men and encourage those portraying sexist images to make changes.


2. Visit a toy store to discover if toys are separated into "girl toy" and "boy toy" categories. Are girls and boys encouraged to play with different kinds of toys? Write to the store manager to share your findings and make recommendations for changes or compliment the store for its egalitarian messages about toys.


3. Investigate the advertising of toys in the local newspaper and in advertising supplements. Are girls and boys shown playing with different kinds of toys? Do girls play only with typical "girl toys" while boys play only with traditional "boy toys?" Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper and to local advertisers to share your findings and offer any needed changes.


4. Analyze student organizations for sex discrimination in the leadership positions. Is there equality between girls and boys within the leadership? Who usually holds the position of president? Who is usually the secretary? Write a letter to the student organization and adult sponsor to explain your findings and suggest any changes in order for the student organization to have gender equality within the leadership.


5. Analyze the textbooks in your classroom to discover if the authors are both women and men, if the pictures and text include women and men in equal numbers and importance. Write letters to the publishers, principal, superintendent, and board of education to compliment the publication and adoption of equitable texts or to encourage the development and adoption of more equitable texts.


6. Analyze the children's literature and periodicals in the school's media center for equal numbers of positive portrayals of women and men. Recommend books and periodicals to the media center specialist. For example, suggest the school subscribe to New Moon: The magazine for girls and their dreams, a bimonthly publication created to inspire and empower girls and give them the courage to stick up for themselves in the face of discrimination. The magazine's editorial board consists of girls ages eight to 14. Write to: New Moon Publishers, Box 3587, Duluth, MN 55803.


Social problems/social action

Annotated bibliography list