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Trade books' contextualization of consequential women's historical significance

John H. Bickford (Department of Teaching, Learning, and Foundations, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, USA)
Toluwalase V. Solomon (Department of Teaching, Learning, and Foundations, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 3 December 2020

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




This paper explores the representation of consequential women in history within children's and young adult biographies.


The data pool was established by developing a list of women's names extracted from common textbooks and state social studies curricula. Early-grade (K-4th) and middle-grade (5th-8th) in-print books were selected for juxtaposition because these students have the least prior knowledge and are perhaps most dependent on the text. Two researchers independently engaged in qualitative content analysis research methods, which included open and axial coding.


Early- and middle-grade biographies aptly established the historical significance of, but largely failed to contextualize, each figure's experiences, accomplishments and contemporaneous tensions. The women were presented as consequential, though their advocacies were not situated within the larger context.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations included a dearth of women featured in both state standards and biographies, limited audience (early and middle grades) and exclusion of out-of-print books. Comparable inquiries into narrative nonfiction, expository texts and historical fiction, which have different emphases than biographies, are areas for future research.

Practical implications

Discussion focused on the significance of findings for teachers and researchers. Early- and middle-grade teachers are guided to contextualize the selected historical figures using primary and secondary source supplements.


No previous scholarship exists on this particular topic. Comparable inquiries examine trade books' depiction of historical significance, not contextualization of continuity and change.



The authors thank the Eastern Illinois University’s Council on Faculty Research for funding this inquiry.


Bickford, J.H. and Solomon, T.V. (2021), "Trade books' contextualization of consequential women's historical significance", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 43-60.



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