Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz by Gender

Elizabeth Bluemle -- December 30th, 2010

If there’s one thing writing this blog has shown me, it’s that I seem to enjoy collecting and aggregating and looking at lists of interesting and useful data. (I think it’s that whole illusion-of-order-in-a-chaotic-world impulse.)

Two big projects I’ve done for ShelfTalker have been inordinately satisfying: the Starred Review round-up I collect throughout each year (an updated, end-of-year, full 2010 list will be posted soon), and the continually updated World Full of Color library, highlighting more than 630 books that are not race-focused but feature main characters of color.

My most recent project has been the creation of an Excel spreadsheet of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz award and honor books and authors, including data on the gender of the authors. (I plan to do the same for the Coretta Scott King award and the Sibert award soon.) I would also have collected data on the ratios of Caucasian award winners to award winners of color, but that disproportion is not only depressingly obvious to even casual followers of these awards, but has been discussed in many other places.)

This effort started when I noticed that, while women have historically outnumbered men in the children’s literature field, the Caldecott medals show a reverse ratio: 47 gold medals have gone to 43 men, while 20 medals have gone to 16 women. The medals are deserved and the books distinguished. But can it really be the case that male artists are more than three times as talented as female artists? Do male artists take more risks than female artists and are rewarded accordingly? Or are men’s creative efforts taken more seriously than women’s? Does our society unconsciously/ subconsciously still value men’s work more than women’s? At conferences in even female-dominated fields, I notice that men are much more likely to be featured as keynote speakers and male panelists often outnumber female panelists 3:1 in the premiere sessions. The numbers made me curious.

So then I ran the Newbery numbers, and the results are tipped in the opposite direction. The majority of gold medals have gone to women—59 have gone to 55 women, while 28 have gone to 27 men. Of the honors: 65 men have won 87 Newbery honors, whereas 147 women have won 197 Newbery honors.

I’m not a statistician, and the only way numbers like this can really mean anything is to have more data: for instance, to know the actual numbers of male and female children’s book authors and illustrators published during each year of these awards, and then look at the ratios again. Still, in a world whose population is roughly 50/50 male and female, the discrepancies in these ratios says something about our field and its history, and I’m interesting in thinking about exactly what those somethings are.

Anyone have thoughts on the subject?

I’m going to do a summary by genre soon, too. Just need to track down a few more of the out-of-print books.

As for this year’s January 10 awards: good luck to all of the authors and artists hardly even daring to secretly cross their fingers hoping for an early-morning phone call a week from Monday! I can’t wait to see your names in lights. And for those of you with secret hopes who don’t get that phone call, try to remember that your fine work will find its grateful audience even without the shiny sticker.

Note about the numbers below: I have tried to be as accurate as possible in my tallies, making my lists directly from the ALA website and sorting the results and counting the winners and honors several times. (It also took quite a while to track down the genders of several of the earlier authors. Thank goodness for the internet, is all I have to say.) So I think the numbers are pretty spot-on, but I am a mere human, with limited spreadsheet capabilities, so I’m happy to hear about any discrepancies from other listmakers out there.


Out of 72 Caldecott Gold Medals:
47 have gone to 43 men
20 have gone to 16 women
5 have gone to 5 male/female pairs (all unique illustrator pairs)

Out of 226 Caldecott Honors:
138 have gone to 88 men
83 have gone to 53 women
5 have gone to 4 male/female pairs

Caldecott combined summary, out of 298 medals total:
191 have gone to 100 men (*note: some winners are also honor recipients)
102 have gone to 61 women (*ditto)
10 have gone to 6 male/female pairs


Out of 87 Newbery Gold Medals:
59 have gone to 55 women
28 have gone to 27 men

Out of 292 Newbery Honors:
197 have gone to 147 women
87 have gone to 65 men
5 have gone to 3 male-female co-author teams
1 has gone to a two-woman co-author team
1 has gone to a female author writing under a male pseudonym
1 has gone to a two-man co-author team

Newbery combined summary, out of 379 awards total:
256 have gone to 174 women (*note: some winners are also honor recipients)
115 have gone to 80 men (*ditto)
5 have gone to 3 male-female co-author teams
1 has gone to a two-woman co-author team
1 has gone to a female author writing under a male pseudonym
1 has gone to a two-man co-author team

Printz Award

Out of 11 Printz Gold Medals:
6 have gone to six women
5 have gone to five men

Out of 41 Printz honors:
23 honor medals have gone to 22 women
17 honor medals have gone to 15 men
1 honor medal has gone to an anthology with poems by authors of both sexes (female editor)

Printz combined summary, out of 52 awards total:
29 medals have gone to 28 women
22 medals have gone to 20 men
1 medal has gone to an anthology with poems by authors of both sexes (female editor)

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