Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Raising Mighty Girls

March 8th is International Women’s Day. It was first observed in 1909 in New York and is now a holiday in many nations around the world. It has typically been a day for people to protest and strike for women’s rights around the world. While some people look at this as an activist’s dream, or a reason to march, or a divisive thing, I like to think that it is a day for us to celebrate strong women everywhere, a day to highlight women lifting other women up.

Why is it that so often girls spend more time cutting each other down instead of building each other up? I don’t recall learning to be a cutthroat competitor in grade school, but I do remember that it was far too easy to get caught up in the gossip and biting comments made about other girls, either as a participant or a victim. This goes
way beyond not having books with strong female characters and I am left wondering if there is something in our DNA that makes many girls view other girls as competition rather than friends.

I think it is important for us to instill a sense of inner strength in girls and women the world over. But it is even more important to instill a sense of sisterhood. And I am not saying that in a ultra-feminist-let’s-march-on-Washington kind of way. We don’t need to put on pink hats and put down men in order to be strong and support each other. As I type this, I worry that this will spawn some political debate and I want to nip that in the bud. That is not what this post is about.

I came across a video this morning on Facebook. It was originally posted by a page I follow and love – Rebel Girls. The creators of this page have published a fabulous book titled Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. You can check it out here. Their mission is to empower girls to grow up to be strong women! Anyhoo… here is the video for you to watch – I found it eye-opening.

This post is about teaching girls that they truly can do anything they put their minds to. And I think it’s important that they have equal representation in children’s books. I am not sure though that the disproportionate number of books that either don’t have girls at all or have girls who are too dumb to speak is not as glaringly obvious as this video makes it out to be.

I don’t think all princesses need to be replaced with female scientists. Yes, many princesses in kid lit are portrayed as wimps waiting to be saved by a man, but there are many who use some female ingenuity and courage to change their lives themselves. After all, didn’t Cinderella’s fairy godmother get her to the ball in the first place?

Another page I follow on FB, and share many posts from is A Mighty Girl. (They also have a great website full of inspirational toys and books for girls, FYI!) They, too, want to empower girls to grow into extraordinary women. I am not ashamed to say that even as I approach 50, I am still inspired by their stories and posts.

One of my favorite books as a kid was Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It was about two girls who save themselves.  Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series is my hero. Though she is often referred to as bossy, she is also considered to be much smarter than either Harry or Ron. Matilda, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, Esperanza Rising, Ella Enchanted, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Hunger Games — There are many books out there that show us what strong girls are like!

For those of you trying to raise strong girls, or trying to find your strong inner girl, here are some links to reading lists of children’s books with strong female characters!

Top Read Along Books Starring Mighty Girls
Cool Girls of Children’s Literature
Early Chapter Books with Fierce Female Characters
50 of the Best Female Heroines in Middle Grade Books
Telling Her Story: 60 Books for Women’s History Month

What do you think? Do you feel girls are well-represented in the books that are written for young readers? What are some of your favorite kids books with strong female characters?

 

3 Comments

  1. I think strong female characters need to be represented in all genres and in books for every audience. There are so many strong, wonderful and intelligent women in the world and they need to be showcased. In my first novel that was the idea behind Alexis, the main female character. I didn’t want her to be put in any inferior positions. And I refuse to have women shown as weaker than men.

    • Excellent! Without really thinking about it, I have written five books with strong female leads. In my first published book, my main character, Delia, not only speaks (a lot!), but also leads the charge to save the world! 😊 My antagonist is another strong female, a force to be reckoned with.

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