Friday Hoyden from fiction: PM Anne Adair


“Roos in Shoes” by Tom Keneally (of Schindler’s Ark fame) is the first picture book I can recall seeing with a female character who is a political leader.

The book features a Prime Minister Anne Adair, who helps support a mob of kangaroos in their protest demonstration to to save the day against marauding developers who wish to evict the roos and the Drewe family from their farm.

“One day Prime Minister Anne Adair
arrived along with daughter, Clair.
They saw the roos in solemn lines
wearing their finest number nines.
Clair turned to her quite famous mother
and said, ‘Now listen, Mum, I’d rather
see those towers all torn down,
and put much further out of town.
Somewhere that won’t upset these creatures,
Somewhere that doesn’t have such features
as Drewes,
and roos in shoes.'”

Half of her block-voting Ministry is female, too.


So what say ye? There are plenty of Queens, but have you noticed any other female PMs, Chancellors, Premiers, or Presidents in kidlit?

Categories: gender & feminism


7 replies

  1. Can’t say I have! The biggest kids author in like, forever, is a woman – so why did JK have to make her lead character a boy? Wouldn’t it have sold as well if Hermione had the Harry role?
    a very public sociologist’s last blog post..Early Spring Clean

  2. I really don’t think most boys would have been willing to read the books if they’d had a female protagonist. Girls are taught to read across gender subject positions– we have to, or we won’t be culturally literate. Boys have no such imperative. This, of course, plays into the whole misogynistic attitude that “girls’ things” are somehow demeaning to boys. Hell, the reason that J. K. Rowling had to use her initials rather than her first name was because the publishers thought that boys wouldn’t read a book that they knew was written by a woman, regardless of its male protagonist!
    Rowling does, however, have a couple of female Ministers for Magic– they simply don’t feature in the “present”. The books mention a woman who was Minister before Cornelius Fudge, and one of the Witches features on her website was the first female Minister for Magic, back in the 19th century. Of course this is typical of the way that Rowling constructs and illusion of gender equality in her world– she SAYS that women can do anything men can do, but when you look at the people who are actually doing these things in the pages of the text, it’s almost always men. And even when it is the women (like Hermione) they’re so ancillary. And honestly, Hermione saves Harry’s arse so much in these books, she really should have been the heroine.
    I just hope that Rowling’s next protagonist is a strong female– because boys will read it now, if she writes it. And I do suspect that women’s rights are quite important to Rowling– I just think that she hasn’t reflected strongly enough on the way that her own books reflect patriarchal discourses.

  3. Not much available in terms of female leaders in kidlit from what I see.

    If you move up to teen fiction one finds all sorts of female leaders in the fantasy or historical romance section who play their part in a warrior society, or as a priestess, or some other position where they speak for a broader community. But an elected female leader in a modern setting? Not so much.

  4. I’m wondering how true the “Boys won’t read a female protagonists!” is nowadays. Is this a piece of self-perpetuating received wisdom? Is it changing? My kid is only five, but he doesn’t seem to be showing any preference for a male protagonist so far (I make a point of choosing both as much as possible).
    If kids are exposed to 80% (to pluck a number out of the air) male protagonists, and if authors/publishers refuse to put books out there with female protagonists and with plots of the type to appeal to masculine-socialised kids, what opportunities are m-s kids getting to make their choice freely, or even to learn that there is a choice?
    It would be cool to start seeing female leaders (I’m not even necessarily protagonists, here) outside of the fantasy genre.

  5. Great observation and.. no, I’ve never seen anything like this in one of my daughter’s books.
    blue milk’s last blog post..Feminism and homeschooling

  6. You know I was thinking about your comment about boys reading female characters in the context of reading about gender acquisition in children. At 3 or 4 kids see gender attributes as unbreakable ‘rules’ which they hold very rigidly often refusing to do something that they think isn’t a ‘boy thing’. Cognitively they can’t manage to hold two separate ideas about the one object, and actually believe that changing the apearance of an object changes the object (ie a man wearing womans clothes is a woman). Once a bit older they start to realise that sex/gender is permanent (ie if a boy they will grow up to be a man) and show a lot more interest in understanding the ‘group’ that they belong to and it’s rules.
    It is common for boys of 5 or 6 to have female friends and play with other girls in the playground at school. But by 7 or 8 it is much more common for children to ignore the other sex (even a friend out of school may be ignored in front of the same sex peer group). This is the age of the ‘girl germs’ kind of phase. One theory for this is that kids are learning what their own gender is and how it behaves, and another is that kids are more drawn to other children with the same disposition and interests and this reinforces those differences. By 9 or so they are getting gradually more flexible about these things and starting to contrast their real world experience with what the ‘group’ tells them about the rules about boys or girls.
    Many boys in primary school start to identify reading with mums and teachers (usually female) and make the link that reading isn’t a boys thing, but a girl thing and hence avoid it because of that. As this is a normal part of the development of gender identity I wonder if it is reasonable to think that boys might not read books about girl characters when they get a bit older? Will be interested to hear how the lad goes in this regard.

  7. Fimail said “I wonder if it is reasonable to think that boys might not read books about girl characters when they get a bit older?”
    Actually, some of my favorite books as a kid were in the “Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf” series by Catherine Storr. Dunno if they’re still in print, but they are brilliant.
    I just googled and found this Amazon review (of the audio version), which says

    My son and his four cousins, all male, have all memorized this cassette. One of them, 18, can recite nearly the whole book by memory.

    Not saying you’re wrong in general, but this is a good example of a female author writing of a heroine with feminine, not tomboy traits, (she becomes quite sympathetic to the wolf and occasionally helps him out of trouble) that boys around 10 years old absolutely love. (My daughter did too).
    Any other’s like this? I’m seeking ideas for my grandson when he gets older.
    Dave Bath’s last blog post..A tale of two itty-bitties

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