When I was a little girl, I had this adorable little book called “What Girls Can Be.” I remember how much I loved the pretty and colorful pictures in it. Every page had this really cute girl with a really precious cat doing funny things. The girl also had on really cute clothes (mostly consisting of very short skirts).
At that time, I didn’t notice that this book was telling me my options were limited. I was like 6, and like I said, I was in it for the pictures. The book said in verse that “what girls can be” were the following: Nurse, Stewardess, Ballerina, Candy Shop Owner, Model, Movie Star, Artist, Nursery School Teacher, Singer, Dress Designer, Bride, Housewife, and Mother. That’s it. Not a doctor, scientist, or college professor. It had to be something cute and girly. And, I’m pretty sure Bride isn’t even a profession, so that doesn’t even count.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the professions it mentioned (except we don’t really say Stewardess or Secretary anymore, but in 1965 when this book was published, we did, so it’s cool).
If anything, back then, the book inspired me to want to write and illustrate children’s books. I would try to replicate the pictures from the book. Later, I continued to love to draw, and would create cute little characters (that looked similar to the girl in the book). I wrote several stories and illustrated some of them.
Now, decades later, I look at this book, all tattered, and I chuckle. I marvel at how times have changed. This book is so retro, and a reminder of a time my own daughter, who’s 6, like I was, when I got the book, will never know. Books now tell girls that they can be ANYTHING! Thank God!
Looking back, I have to admit, I did try out some of the professions mentioned in the book. I took ballet (never becoming a true ballerina), I did a tiny bit of modeling as a teen, I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer (until I realized I’m not very good at sewing), I majored in art for a while, I was a nursery school teacher, I was a business owner (although not of a candy shop), I was a bride (but I’ll reiterate, it’s not a profession), and I am a mother (the best job ever). I’m also a School Psychologist, Writer, and Inventor.
I’m sure my daughter will be several different things too. And that’s fine, as long as she knows that girls can be whatever they want to be!