From Elsie Dinsmore to Blair Waldorf: American Girls’ Series and Femininity Through the Twenty-first Century

Zak-Cohen, Beth [Browse]
Senior thesis
93 pages


Meadow, Tey [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Sociology [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
The following paper explores American ideals of femininity through an examination of girls’ series literature across time. The study examines plots, occupations, actions, romance, beauty and other factors across three periods of novels (1860-1880, 1930-1950, 1985-2005). The analysis indicates that first-wave and second-wave feminism have drastically changed ideals of behavior and profession for females. However, throughout all three periods, sexuality and beauty have consistently been placed as vital for women, more gratifying for girls than political or economic power. Society’s ideal men still dominate romantic interactions and never enter the domestic sphere, while women are always expected to do housework and childcare. Furthermore, the novels reflect a lack of willingness, in modern American society and culture, to directly address these gender norms and inequalities.

Supplementary Information