Positive Female Characters Missing in Children’s Books

My Aunt Louise is one of my favorite ladies in the entire world. She lives in Michigan, where I was born and spent the largest portion of  my life. Aunt Louise has this generous habit of cutting out relevant articles from newspapers and magazines and sending them to me. I love receiving them. My mother in law who is also in her eighties does the very same thing.

Sending stories with love

This fact makes me feel like it is a generational thing that I get to benefit from.  It is like a passed-down quilt or treasured recipe. I love receiving these little envelopes of information. Not only were they packaged just for me, it also means the sender (whom I love so much) thought of me so kindly in their leisure time of reading. It is such a thoughtful act that I feel happy and grateful every time I receive one.

Recently, an envelope with Aunt Louise’s perfect mom-like cursive writing arrived. The article inside had been carefully extracted from the Detroit Free Press. It was about the lack of female characters in children’s picture books. What? I didn’t even know that was a thing.  I read the article and was confounded. This is something I had never even considered.  Was there really a lack of female protagonists in children’s picture books?  It seems yes is the answer.  Positive female characters are missing in children’s literature.

Where are the female characters in children’s books?

According to a study conducted at Florida State:

  • Only 7.5 percent of nearly 6,000 picture books published between 1900 and 2000 depict female animal protagonists
  • Male animals were the central characters in more than 23 percent each year
  • No more than 33 percent of children’s books in any given year featured an adult woman or female animal, but adult men and male animals appeared in 100 percent of the books.

I did a bit more research myself and found several more articles about this very topic. According to Jennie Yabroff of the Washington Post:

Of the 69 Caldecott Medal and Honor winners since 2000, just four — “Kitten’s First Full Moon,” “Interrupting Chicken,” “Olivia” and “A Ball for Daisy” (which has no text but identifies Daisy as “she” on the jacket copy) — have animal protagonists that are clearly identified as female.

Female lead characters are clearly underrepresented in children’s picture books.  The void is staggering.

Violet is one more positive female character

This makes me feel incredibly proud of Violet.  She is the protagonist of my upcoming children’s picture book. Violet is a brave, effervescent, free thinking female octopus. She has many of the qualities that we strive to teach the little girls and boys in our lives. Those qualities include the courage to stand up for individuality, self love and compassion in leadership. It is exciting to be one of the writers raising the number of positive female characters in children’s picture books.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read the full Washington Post article here:


Find the full Florida State University article here: https://www.fsu.edu/news/2011/05/06/gender.bias/


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