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A Feminist Reading of ‘The Babysitters Club’

“For many of us,” Brooke Hauser writes for the New Yorker, “the Baby-Sitters Club offered an early glimpse into the world of ambitious working women. Granted, they were middle-schoolers, but they were girl bosses, role models long before pop culture gave us Olivia Pope, Liz Lemon, or Leslie Knope.”

For those of us who didn’t grow up chewing through every Harry Potter book, but instead fed our appetite on the B.S.C., it’s hard to not remember strong-willed and entrepreneurial Kristy, VP Claudia, reserved Mary Anne and the handful of characters that marked the pages, and our childhoods.


Returning to the books with a new perspective many years later, Brooke Hauser, a writer at the New Yorker sees more in Ann M. Martin’s young adult collection, than just sitters and rowdy children. She saw a group of young girls who hashed out business plans and advertising campaigns, brainstormed potential clients and created logos for easy identification. She saw what Martin intended an attentive reader to see:

“I still wanted to present this idea of girls who could be entrepreneurial,” Martin told Hauser, girls “who ran this business successfully, even though they were not perfect.”

“I didn’t want to present one-dimensional girls who only cared about boys and makeup and what to wear to the next dance.”

Martin (Image courtesy of New Yorker)

Martin’s books were novel for the time. There were female lead YA books – Martin remembers growing up on Nancy Drew – but few books centered on a collective of girls, of friends, and those who kicked ass and ran a successful babysitting business at that. Martin’s characters were no accident. Writing in the ‘Decade of Women’, Martin witnessed the first edition of Ms. Magazine, the seminal rise of Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinman, protests and progressive legislature and marches on Washington. She was steeped in the second wave and her books didn’t slip through any crack in her personal and political beliefs. The B.S.C. is kid-friendly feminism: a model of friendship, intelligence, and work, bound up in a single spine. Commenting on her long career and her feminist outlook, Martin said:

I wouldn’t say that I had a feminist agenda, but I certainly had a feminist perspective […] I think of myself as a feminist. I wanted to portray a very diverse group of characters, not only from different racial backgrounds, but from different kinds of family backgrounds, religions, and perspectives on life. I just really wanted a group of girls who were very different from one another and who became very close friends.

For the full story, check it out here on the New Yorker.


Featured image courtesy of Bustle.