In the past few years, there has been a proliferation of children’s nonfiction books published that contain biographical profiles of several historical (and present-day) women. As a feminist, I love seeing this trend grow. We need updated and appealling books about women in kid lit. However, despite my excitement at seeing these books pop up in my library, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are all these books the same? Who is being profiled in these books? Are publishers just monetizing the rise of feminism?
I apologize in advance for the amount of word clouds in this post, but it just happens that they are a handy tool for visualizing this data. Let’s look at titles. I gathered a selection of titles published between 2014 and summer of 2018:
Frequency of Words in Titles
This cloud shows the frequency of words in the above titles. Based on this alone, I was skeptical. The number of times the words “trailblazer,” “bad,” “fearless,” and the like were used in titles from the same few years supported my theory that this trend is more of a publishing money grab than a genuine attempt to educate young girls on the badassery of their ancestors.
Who Is Profiled in These Books?
After looking at titles, I decided to go through these books, one by one, list and count every woman that was profiled. So I requested all of them from my public library and recorded it in a spreadsheet. What I found was amazing and contradicted my initial skepticism. Most of these books profiled a unique set of women, minus a few of the biggest names. There were 413 women profiled in 16 titles. That’s amazing!
The biggest names can be seen above. Malala Yousafzai was the only woman profiled in nearly every book. Right behind her was Marie Curie. Other popular women were Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Ada Lovelace, Wangari Muta Maathai, Harriet Tubman, Cleopatra, and Ruby Bridges. I encourage you to zoom in on the above cloud because seeing all these women’s names side by side is genuinely uplifting.
Honestly, this all surprised me, pleasantly. If you’d like to know which of these books I consider “essential” to your child’s library, see my post Best Children’s Biographies of Women.
I’d be happy to share the raw data with anyone interested— just use my Contact Page!