Archival Research Project, by Audrey Burke, Kailee Berge, Lily Block, and Emma Frahm

Annotation of The Girl’s Own Book (Archive item)-Kailee

    Overall this is a book of girl’s activities from the 1800s. There are many discrepancies online for the exact publishing date. The table of contents shows a range of topics, including sections titled “Sports and Pastimes”, “Little Games with Cards”, “Riddles”, and various sections of craft instructions for various pincushions, reticules, needle books, dolls, pen-wipers, and other household items. Upon closer inspection of the doll section due to the course having a heavy emphasis on doll play, the dolls crafts included a “Jointed Linen Doll” and a “Black Doll. The book has numerous pictures to help understand the instructions of the book.

     A close reading of the introduction provides the reader with a better understanding of the purpose of the book. The introduction is in a script format, with characters Juliet, Mrs. Morrington, Isabella, and Henrietta. Mrs. Morrington introduces the book to the girls, promoting the exercises and crafts, and how the book focuses on fun rather than “overeducating”. With a closer analysis, the reader can learn more about girlhood in that time period. Mrs. Morrington works as a saleswoman, advertising values of the book that might appeal to parents and children in this time period. The girls talk of being bored of normal “party” activities and daily activities, complain of dancing not involving everyone, and state that there is “enough music and dancing in school”. These comments on social gatherings and activities are still relevant to today’s youth. Additionally, the brief reference to their school demonstrates their experience with education in that time period. Further research shows that education during the 1860s varied from small schools where the teachers were left to their own devices to academic schools where girls and boys were separated. The advertising of crafts that are amusing and teach skills in “cutting, fixing, and sewing” gives insight to what is being taught at home during this time, as well as what type of education is valued by society.  Mrs. Morrington’s worries that leisurely activities becoming obsolete and families over-educating their children will result in boring kids. This demonstrates the values that parents wanted in their kids. In this case, being amicable and fun.

    The historical context adds to this representation of girlhood activities. The author Eliza Leslie lived from 1787-1858. She published many books, many of which were cookbooks, as well as household management and etiquette books.  She contributed to various magazines as well. This book was published in America during the 1800’s, a time period with very set gender roles. Additionally, this book is aimed at a more upper middle class to upper class family given the lifestyle depicted here that would not have been that of the lower classes during this era. 

    This piece offers a significant perspective of American girlhood at that time and aids to the connections we make in class. For instance the various activities girls participated in, the values parents wanted in their children, daily activities that could have shaped young girls, as well as society’s influence on “girl” activities of that time. We see keywords such as girlhood, education, and even domestic when looking at some of the crafts included in the book. The large section focussed on pincushions reinforces the idea of domesticity and domestic education within young girls, while scripting appropriate actions for free time. Also, Juliet mentions that she prefers linen dolls over wax dolls because she is “always afraid to handle” the wax doll. We’ve heard this sentiment in class in regards to how the material of the doll shapes dollplay. This piece was interesting to me because it gave direct examples of what young girls might do in their freetime, or consider fun in that time period, allowing me to compare different experiences of girlhood to the girlhood represented in the book. 

Annotation of Barbie Advertisement-Emma

Barbie Advertisement: 

   Short Summary 

  1. This advertisement contains footage of young girls taking on real life professional presences such as a college professor, a veterinarian, a men’s soccer coach, an archaeologist in a museum, and a businesswoman followed by footage of them imagining these experiences with their Barbie dolls.  

Close Reading

  1. This item fits in with other literature and items we’ve studied during this semester in the terms of “girlhood” and doll play in children’s lives. In comparison to the children’s play we’ve analyzed how “gollies” script with literature, advertising, and adult influence, this Barbie advertisement scripts imaginative play allowing girls to fulfil their childhood dreams and explore the question that all children want to find the answer to: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Important topics

  1. A child’s girlhood is defined by the way this time period affects the rest of their adult lives. Their childhood is influenced by adults in what literature and experiences they provide to them. These things script children’s play which leads to their development as well. 

Information about the author

  1. The producers of this advertisement are the Barbie brand. Barbie was created by an American toy company called Mattel. Barbie is a whole brand of toys that includes dolls, accessories, movies, books, video games, and more. This franchise is known widely among children and has a large influence in their lives because they spread their brand among many platforms in children’s lives. 

Location were advertisement appears

  1. This piece is an advertisement so it appears on many media platforms such as TV commercials, social media, youtube, etc. This advertisement was created in October of 2015 and is posted to youtube with the description of “Hidden cameras capture real reactions to girls imagining everything they might one day become.”

Historical context

  1. This advertisement being made in modern day, the 21st century, shows that this advertisement is made to empower young children to dream big and follow their dreams. This company is trying to script empowerment to those children that play with Barbies. 

Other information

  1. This advertisement is obviously used for children, to increase their imagination and encourage them to play with their product, but it is also used to try to sell their product to the children’s parents. Children can only play with Barbies if their parents buy them for them. Barbie is trying to prove the greatness that their toys bring children so that parents will buy Barbies for their children. 

Significance of piece for the study of American girlhood

  1. This piece is important for the study of American girlhood today because the Barbie franchise is spread across many nations and their messages are implemented into the lives of many girls who are experiencing girlhood, especially in America. I think it would be interesting to compare the Barbie franchise to the American Girl Doll franchise. These are two doll companies with similar products as Barbie has books, digital shows, and specific specialized characters as well. 

Annotation of I Want To Be A Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross-Audrey


This book is about a little girl living in the city who is telling her father that she doesn’t want to do “normal” girly girl things like sit and chat or go to school and play quiet games indoors, and she talk about her dreams of being a cowgirl who is free to do as she pleases. This book is printed largely but only has about 22 pages worth of material, and has large colorful illustrations.

Close Reading

This book tells the story in rhymes, which makes it accessible and fun for younger kids to read or listen to. This children’s book can be related to the Keywords essay “Tomboy”, because the actions that the girl in this book wants to partake in go directly against stereotypical gendered actions. The little girl wants to roam free and be “wild”. However, this is not depicted in a negative way throughout the story; the little girl is saying all of the things she wants to do to her father, and is depicted as having fun throughout her adventures. In the end, her father, who is depicted as a businessman, joins her in her wishes to run off and be a cowgirl/cowboy. This scripts the idea that it’s acceptable to not go along with gendered actions for girls, and to pursue activities that you want.

Important Topics

As mentioned before, the idea of tomboyism is important in this story, as well as domesticity and home. The little girl seems to reject the domestic duties of a “young lady”, such as cleaning, cooking, doing the laundry, and “being a schoolgirl with her head stuck inside a book”. Home is also an important concept to think of, because in this story the only two characters are the little girl and her father, alluding to the fact that it is a single parent household being supported by the father. This goes against part of the discussion we had in class regarding the idea that home is almost directly tied to a motherly presence. Although the little girl doesn’t seem to be happy in her urban city setting, she is most certainly happy to be with her father. 

Information about the Authors

Jeanne Willis is an author who was born in St. Albans, United Kingdom in 1959, and Tony Ross is an author and illustrator who was born in Wandsworth, London in 1938. Willis and Ross have been literary partners for a very long time, and have published many books together. Some titles you might recognize are Misery Moo, Hippospotamus, and The T-Rex Who Lost His Specs! This team has a very distinct writing and illustrating style that make their books appealing to children around the ages of 5-7. 

Historical Context

I Want To Be A Cowgirl was originally published in the UK in 2001 by Andersen Press Ltd, and was later published in the US in 2002 by Henry Holt and Company. The fact that this book was released right at the start of the 21st century is important. The early 2000’s leading up till now was a time that the media and such really started to encourage young girls to pursue what they had dreams for, and not so much what a gendered society has enforced onto the girlhood experience in the past.

Significance for studying American girlhood

This is an interesting book to look at when talking about the experiences of American girlhood, seeing as though it depicts a different story than what would be “typically accepted”. Having this story be available to younger children is important because it gives representation to a different side of some girls’ experiences of girlhood, and its message is still relevant today. 

Annotation of Girl Scouts at Home Article-Kailee

    This is an online news article written by Illana Raia for the news website Thrive Global, published April 7th, 2020. Illana Raia, a former Arps lawyer and guest lecturer at Columbia University, founded  Être in 2016 – a resource and mentorship platform for girls approaching high school. She promotes education and supporting the goals of girls, and these values are reflected in this article. The article contains quotes, images, and a video from Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo. The intended audience is most likely parents or others that are bored during quarantine. The article highlights the new Girl Scouts At Home website, as well as the modern Girl Scouts program some may not be aware of. The article demonstrates the different badges and activities. STEM badges include coding, space education, and engineering. Entrepreneurship badges can help turn longtime dreams into real ways to make a difference. Some badges focus on outdoor activities and skills, for instance art and respecting wildlife, as well as life skills. The end touches upon the history and goals of Girl Scouts. The historical background of the Girl Scout program, paired with the fact that STEM and businesses were traditionally male dominated fields demonstrates a shift in societal views of girls.

    The article has many aspects to it. Firstly, the tone of this article has the tone of a blogger trying to sell the reader something.  The various links embedded into the online article gives the reader a direct way to look at all the aspects of the new Girl Scouts program. It says that the badges are “filtered by grade level”. This is due to the skill level associated with each activity, and is not a “This isn’t appropriate for certain ages, so they shouldn’t have access” scenario, which we have seen with material that is considered “too heavy” for kids. The service is free and online, making it accessible to those who may not have access to youth programs. This is in response to Covid-19, but could this be a way to bring Girl Scouts to children after Covid-19? The focus on various aspects such as both art and STEM, as well as playing an active role in the community allows various aspects of learning and growing to be explored. This demonstrates the changing values of society’s idea of girlhood. Girlhood is a time of new experiences, a perfect time to explore interests. 

    This article, as well as the idea of girls scouts in general, connects to many topics covered in class. The material culture of traditional girl-scouts scripts actions. Girl Scouts have a distinct uniform and earn badges to document learning, as highlighted by the article. This idea of collecting badges pushes kids to try to earn more. On the other hand, this article states that to participate in this online program, you don’t need to be a traditional “girl scout”. There’s more emphasis on education in this article than filling the material goals. Representation is a big topic in class. The image of a girl scout and the image of girlhood used to both be very stereotypical and excluding many. The idea that experiences in girlhood shape growth. Education/values emphasized in Girl Scouts are reflective of society, as shown by the author who has worked towards creating resources for girls, and her work is reflected in this article. In elementary school, I-like many others- was a girl scout. Since then, the Girl Scout program has changed a lot. Like many other aspects of childhood, it is interesting to see how things change over time as societal norms change. 

Annotation of the Always #LikeAGirl commercial -Lily

  1. An explanation of what this item is and what we know about where, when, and how it was created.
    1. This video was produced by Always, with the intention of empowering young girls. On the Always website, there is a page entitled “Our Epic Battle #LikeAGirl.” What appears to be the mission statement reads, “In 2014, Always launched a new leg of its epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence through puberty and beyond by tackling the societal limitations that stand in their way. Since then, #LikeAGirl has gone from a simple phrase to a powerful and empowering movement.” In the video itself, the producers are asking children and various young adults to show what they think certain acts would look like if the phrase “like a girl” was added at the end. For example, when they ask older girls or even young boys what it looks like to run like a girl, they frolic with their hands in the air, often yelping. However, when the young girls are asked to run like a girl, they run fast with full force and demonstrating strength. This demonstrates how, overtime, society tells girls that they are physically lesser than. Always created this campaign in order to keep girls empowered as they enter puberty. 
  2. What about the previous things do we need to be familiar with to make sense of this object when we encounter it? 
    1. The video is rather self-explanatory. However, something to maybe keep in mind is the source of this video. It was created by the company Always, a popular feminine products brand. I believe Always’ main intention was to help girls feel confident in their bodies. The fact that most companies are driven by a profit motive, leads me to believe Always believes this campaign will stimulate financial growth for two obvious reasons. The first one being the casual, “straight to the point” aspect of this video. I first stumbled upon it I social media which highlights its viral nature. The video keeps its viewers attention and points to a powerful message surrounding the degradation of females in the world. If people can tie this clear but powerful message to Always, they are most likely to be a follower/customer of the brand. The second reason is that if Always is attempting to empower girls going through puberty. This is a time when girls can begin to feel insecure about their changing bodies, as girls tend to go through puberty before boys. Yes Always is empowering these young girls, but they are also doing so to promote their feminine products. In the end, the result of empowerment is awesome and necessary, but it is important to look at the deep intention from the source. They want to be a player in making women feel confident, but the idea that the intention in making the video is empowerment to generate profit can feel a bit weird and wrong. 
  3. Information about the archival collection in which the item is held. Do you know anything about how the item was obtained by the archive?
    1. This Always ad went viral in 2014. Its relevance and prevalence to this day indicates that it isn’t going anywhere for a while. For the purposes of this project, I found the video on youtube, but it can be found all over the internet. It’s always important to question sources from the internet but this video contains the same content it did when it was first released by Always so its original message still stands.  
  4. The significance of these items for our study of American Girls and American Girlhood. Why is this piece interesting? Why have you chosen this to present to your classmates?
    1. My favorite thing about this piece is seeing the young girls feel so radically different than the older ones. In the “run like a girl” example I mentioned before, the teen girl awkwardly held her hands in the air while she slowly jogged and laughed. Her body positioning led me to see her insecurities surrounding her body. I do not by any means see this as a flaw towards this actress but rather a truth towards the vast majority of girls that age. The younger girls do not think about the way their bodies look with every action they take, but somewhere along the way to adulthood it becomes all they think about. I remember in elementary school thinking that I was fast, aggressive, and all around good at sports. As the years went on, I somehow became embarrassed trying my hardest. My face started to become red very easily when embarrassed but especially when doing a physically tolling activity. The early stages of puberty I exhibited before my male peers (sweating, developing a body that was new) filled me with embarrassment of possible ridicule. I believe this weird time of puberty and sports caused me to feel sort of weird about my body, and I don’t think I noticed that until watching the contrast of girls and teenage women in the Always campaign. 


After presenting each of our archival artifacts, our group became very interested in the role of activities in girlhood. We decided to pick Kailee’s archival artifact which was a book of girl’s activities from the Civil War Era titled The Girl’s Own Book. Each group member then did research and found a non archival artifact that portrayed some sort of girl’s activity. Our non archival artifacts, the Barbie advertisement, I Want To Be a Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, the Girl Scouts at Home article, and the Always #LikeAGirl commercial, all relate back to the archival artifact that is a book of girl’s activities such as “sports and pastimes”, “little games with cards”, “riddles”, and craft instructions for various pincushions and needle books. Each artifact plays a role, including the archival artifact, scripting children’s play and girl’s participation in certain activities during girlhood. Each was made for girls and influences girlhood in various ways. 

The items chosen demonstrate various topics covered in class, specifically the relationship between the activities of girls and aspects that affect girls as they grow up. The idea of the keyword girlhood is represented as many of the definitions from the keywords essay. These artifacts demonstrate girlhood as a time of psychological development, physical development, and the participation in girl culture. Lily’s #LikeAGirl campaign demonstrates the aspect of puberty as a vulnerable time for girls as they navigate societal expectations and their own changes. At this stage, they are susceptible to the degradation of women in the world, which negatively affects their perception of themselves as well as other females. The participation in girlhood culture is seen through playing with Barbies as seen in Emma’s Barbie commercial, as well as programs like Girl Scouts that are intended to help girls as they grow up. 

The term tomboy reinforces the label of “acting like a boy”, or behaviors that are outside of society’s view of how girls should act. The idea of a tomboy reinforces gender dichotomy in that specific actions are associated with certain genders with little overlap. The idea of girls acting “wild” is perceived as boyish, and is often seen as a developmental stage girls go through while on the way to adhering to normal gender roles. Many of the works comment on these gendered roles and their influence on girls. In the #LikeAGirl commercial, the older participants portray the idea of males being seen as stronger and athletic while girls are portrayed as weak. The younger girls contradicted this, further demonstrating the commercial’s purpose to empower girls and break the stereotype. The diverse range of careers in the Barbie commercial, especially of male-dominated fields, fights against the idea of gendered roles/interests. Furthermore the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” contradicts the idea that girls will grow out of these gendered interests. In Audrey’s I Want to be a Cowgirl children’s story, the little girl wants to roam free and be “wild”. Unlike the traditional frowning upon of girls partaking in “boyish” behavior, the story does not depict these actions in a negative way. This positive portrayal plays a part in the education of young girls.

Education for children happens constantly. Kids learn at school and home, through experience in the world and interactions, and while reading or playing. In the Girl Scouts article, we see the diverse education that programs like Girl Scouts provides. The focus on STEM and entrepreneurship not only teach girls about the topics, but valuable skills for life.  The #LikeAGirl commercial demonstrates that society’s ideals of females are not born with but taught as people grow older. When kids read I Want to be a Cowgirl, they may not be as susceptible to society’s idea of gender roles. From class, we know that children can learn from the scripting a material promotes, such as with the Gollies. The Barbie dolls from the Barbie commercial scripts imaginative play allowing girls to explore careers and believe that they can be a doctor, a veterinarian, a coach, and so on. This may seem like they’re only playing, but at this point in their lives, learning these lessons can affect their actions in the future. On the other hand, in The Girl’s Own Book, the crafts and activities specifically aimed at girls scripts a gendered, domestic play. The large section dedicated to crafting pincushions and needle books speaks volumes for the societal expectations for girls at the time. These gendered teachings would influence the girls’ journey into adulthood. The education that girls receive at such an influential time in their lives comes from many sources. Some sources teach them to dream big and go against gendered ideals, others reinforce a binary way of thinking. 
Since Kailee’s archival item, The Girl’s Own Book, focused on what we wanted to talk about, we decided to have the other four items be one at home artifact from each of us. Since we had limited archival research opportunities, our four other items ended up being from a more modern standpoint. The rest of our items are from the early 2000’s and span all the way to 2020. They each follow a similar line in the sense that they talk about girls activities,  and the aim for this project is to show the diversity and change over the years in the activities that girls like to, don’t like to do, and how society views that. Emma’s Barbie advertisement is a great way to showcase that nowadays young girls are being more outward about having ambitious dreams, and how society is more willing to aid those successes than say in the late 1800’s. In I Want To Be A Cowgirl, the little girl challenges gendered activities placed onto girlhood and does as she pleases, eventually gaining the full support of her father. The Girl Scouts article was chosen because it emphasizes the new opportunities for younger girls to get early involvement into a STEM program, which, for a long time has been seen as a male dominated area of work. Girl Scouts has always been about teaching young girls new life skills, but adding this to the program takes it one step further into pushing against the gender roles of girlhood. Finally, the #LikeAGirl trend started by the Always ad is included because it demonstrates the difference between how young girls view themselves vs. how society views them on a timeline of before and after puberty, respectively. The idea of “girls activities” falls right in line with this ad and how different ages see themselves throughout girlhood.

Leave a Reply