Sexism Annotated Bibliography
Dr. Ava L. McCall
● Children’s Literature
● Audiovisual Resources Dealing With Sexism
● Social Action Projects To Address Sexism
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
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
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,
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:
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’
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 &
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
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:
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:
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:
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
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
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