News & Politics

Hallmark’s old-school list of what girls can be: model, actress, mom


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

What Girls Can Be

Author: Dean Walley, words; Maria Hughes, art
Date: None given; probably the late 1960s
Publisher: Hallmark
Discovered at: Read “Write” Training Center & Book Store, Moriarty, New Mexico

The Cover Promises: “Oh, The Places You’ll Go . . . Within the Strangling Confines of Tradition.”

Representative Quote:

“I might design dresses in the very latest style.
It would be nice to be a bride who comes walking down the aisle.”

What girl doesn’t dream of a luminescent Shmoo dress?

For almost thirty years now, the United States has given its womanfolk the freedom to participate fully in society, in some cases even when there’s lifting or math.

But it wasn’t always this way! According to TV miniseries, in the early 1960s most American women were astronauts’ wives whose daughters had but two options outside traditional marriage: mistress to a Kennedy or enroll at Radcliffe to study horsefacedness. (Thanks to Kennedy connections, both were good for course credit.)

By the late 1960s, women had more choices still. Many of these are documented in this remarkable kids’ book from Hallmark, the Kansas City company who for almost 100 years has spared Americans from having to articulate their feelings.

Author Dean Walley and illustrator Maria Hughes include 12 possibilities for what girls can be. These include:


Four of the book’s possible careers demand strict attention to physical appearance.

Two other jobs from the book demand slender sexiness: ballerina, pop singer. And it wouldn’t hurt at other positions, either.


That’s not too daring, I guess. But what can we make of this one?


Note that she’s only equipped to teach nursery school. And David Lee Roth.

Between the little girl’s creepy/cutesy sexiness and that cat she always has with her, all this kept reminding me of another antique kids book I recently found:

In all, 6 of the book’s 12 careers are in the arts. In more practical fields, Hallmark proposes becoming a nurse, stewardess, or candy-shop owner (?) Combined, these amount to 9 of the 12 things that girls could be back when the book was published.

The final three: mother, bride and housewife. That’s 25 per cent!

(I include that number because girls cannot be mathematicians.)

Shocking Detail:
At the same crap shop, I discovered a half dozen Happy Days novels, which I have arranged chronologically below. See if you can trace a shift in the show’s focus.

Walley and Hughes collaborated on a second book, What Boys Can Be. I haven’t seen it, but according to a 1972 American Journal of Sociology article by Lenore J. Wietzman, the conclusion tells us that junior “can one day grow up to be president.”

Compare that to the finale of What Girls Can Be:

“Even”! Because the best, most exciting fate you can hope for is the one that society has long proscribed you!

Now, how loudly must a housewife have to yell to keep a phone conversation going as she runs the vacuum?

Hey, you could do worse than follow @studiesincrap on Twitter!

Archive Highlights