Heroines and Mothers: Female Representation in the Carnegie Medal Winners 1936–2020

Lindahl-Wise, Mette. 2023. Heroines and Mothers: Female Representation in the Carnegie Medal Winners 1936–2020. Children's Literature in Education, ISSN 0045-6713 [Article] (In Press)

s10583-023-09527-x.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This article presents quantitative research into the representations of females in Carnegie Medal-winning books 1936–2020. The relative presence or absence of female protagonists (heroines) and their mothers are used as proxies for gauging whether the representation of females is equitable. The research shows male protagonists outnumber female ones by a ratio of 1.58. Further, adult females are underrepresented in the narratives, as only 42% feature mothers who are alive and present in the story. Mothers are even underrepresented in fictional lone-parent families. While there is a strong correlation between female authors and female characters, the bias against fictional females is pronounced and so pervasive that it may signal a ‘symbolic annihilation’ of females in this particular cultural product. Societal changes and realities appear to have been slow to manifest in the Carnegies and a bias against females has not been attenuated even in recent years. Reflecting the diversity of lived experience in books is essential, and it is imperative that readers, including girls, are offered opportunities for identification—not only with protagonists but also adult females who might serve as role models to help them navigate towards adulthood.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



Gender diversity, Carnegie Medal, Mothers, Family in children’s fiction, United Kingdom

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


2 March 2023Accepted
29 May 2023Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2023 09:25

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2023 09:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)