Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Ramona Caponegro, Ph.D, Chair

Committee Member

Amanda Allen, Ph.D, Second Reader


In opposition to a literary tradition of damsel-in-distress female characters, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, and Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie provide examples of empowered, intelligent, and capable young girls living in a mid-20th century environment and successfully subverting patriarchal norms. Drawing on Laura Mulvey’s theory on women as spectacle, Hélène Cixous’s concept of l’ecriture feminine, and New Historicist influences, I explore the common threads within these post-World War II era texts. Pippi’s strength and humor, Harriet’s spying and writing, and Flavia’s scientific expertise and detectival work illustrate their ability to bend gender conventions and defy authorities and institutions that seek to tame them. With their infiltration of spaces, fragmentation of the male gaze, and seizure of language, these heroines set a precedent for readers to follow, and these texts offer possibilities for social disruption in the name of female child empowerment.