Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Moms do badly, but grandmas do worse: The nexus of sexism and ageism in children's classics

Document Type


Publication Date



While the origins of the absent or dead mother in literary classics have been explored at length,less attention has been paid to the role grandmother figures play once the impact of the mother has been minimized or eliminated. In many of the most influential tales our children read,female elders, unlike the mothers, are granted the right to live but are cast in hopelessly stereotypical terms. The result is a handful of characters with a handful of attributes that perpetuate themselves throughout literary history, crowding out more diverse and multi-dimensional portrayals. Doing away with important female characters reveals a deeply entrenched sexism which is then compounded by a hefty dose ageism when female elders are permitted to appear only to be diminished. Women in children’s classics fare badly, but old women even do worse.