A Girl Can Do: Recognizing and Representing Girlhood

Tiffany R. Isselhardt (Ed.)

by Haley E. Aaron (Alabama Department of Archives and History), Renée E. Mazinegiizhigoo-kwe Bédard (Nipissing University), Nancy Beiles (Museum at Eldridge Street), Alex Delare (New York City Children’s Theater), Tania Gigliotti (Drawn to Books), Heather Fitzsimmons Frey (MacEwan University), Åsa Ljungström (Mid Sweden University, Sweden), Eli McClain (University of Cambridge), Elizabeth D. Worley Medley (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Ruby Oram (Texas State University), Rachel Serkin (Museum at Eldridge Street), Maria Smith (Syracuse University), Georgia Thomas-Parr (University of Sheffield)

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'A Girl Can Do' features a myriad of fascinating chapters that complicate and expand our understandings of girlhood. While scholars often marginalize the history of girlhood, this book demonstrates that the study of girlhood cannot be ignored and illustrates how taking girls’ perspectives and experiences into consideration enriches our views of historical events, people, and places. Studying girlhood is not without its challenges, but the authors demonstrate how employing innovative methodologies—including Indigenous folklore and descendant knowledge and biographical approaches—and sources—including scrapbooks and spatial analysis of archaeological sites—can help uncover girls’ lives and experiences. One of the unique aspects and great strengths of the book is that it brings together two areas of history often discussed separately: studying and researching girlhood and interpreting and representing girlhood for the public. The chapters on incorporating girlhood narratives in museums, historic sites, exhibits, and public history programs raise important questions about making institutions more inclusive and negotiating sexism and racism in public spaces.

Another key strength of the collection is its interdisciplinarity and how it brings together scholars and historians working on girlhood in a variety of settings. The chapters are written in a clear and accessible way that will appeal to a wide audience. 'A Girl Can Do' will interest readers, students, and scholars engaged in various fields, from public history and museum studies to gender and childhood studies.

Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Dillenburg
Department of History
The Ohio State University at Newark

How do scholars research and interpret marginalized populations, especially those that are seldom recognized as marginalized or whose sources are believed to be rare?

Combining intersectional feminism and public history methodologies, ‘A Girl Can Do: Recognizing and Representing Girlhood’ reflects on how girlhood is found, researched, and interpreted in museums, archives, and historic sites. Defining “girl” as “self-identifying females under the age of 21,” ‘A Girl Can Do’ lays the groundwork for understanding girlhood, its constructs, and its marginalization while providing faculty, students, and working professionals with ten case studies on researching and working with girlhood.

Contributors include archaeologists, archivists, curators, educators, and historians who demonstrate how adding a girl studies lens fosters greater inclusivity and diversity in our work. Whether studying spatial techniques of marginalization in colonial Peru, the daybooks as records of girlhood in late-nineteenth century Sweden, or collaborating with self-identifying fangirls to produce a pop-up exhibition, the contributors demonstrate the variety of sources and methods that can be used to interpret this oft-overlooked population. Throughout, ‘A Girl Can Do’ petitions for collaborative and creative thinking in how we can reframe and reinterpret our sources – both traditional and overlooked – to shed new light on how girls have contributed to, and provide frames of reference for, human history and culture.

List of figures


Ashley E. Remer

Introduction: What can a girl do?
Tiffany R. Isselhardt
Girl Musseum

Part I: Recognizing and Exploring Girlhood

Chapter 1 Kwezens: Recognizing and representing Anishinaabeg girlhood
Dr. Renée E. Mazinegiizhigoo-kwe Bédard
Nipissing University

Chapter 2 “But I am a child and I don’t feel grown up”: The early life of Helen Miller Gould
Eli E. McClain
University of Cambridge

Chapter 3 A daughter being brought up in the 1890s: Interpreting the notes of a daybook
Dr. Åsa Ljungström
Mid Sweden University, Sweden

Chapter 4 Weaving girls into colonial history: Spatialization of girlhood at a colonial textile mill
Maria Smith
Syracuse University

Chapter 5 Spaces of self: Girl’s scrapbooks at the Alabama Department of Archives and History
Haley Aaron
Alabama Department of Archives and History

Part II: Representing and Interpreting Girlhood

Chapter 6 Big fangirl energy: Celebrating girls via exhibitions
Dr. Georgia Thomas-Parr
University of Sheffield

Chapter 7 “A School Built Around the Girl”: Finding girlhood to diversify Chicago's built environment
Dr. Ruby Oram
Texas State University

Chapter 8 Good intentions gone awry: Fieldtrips and gender at a Georgia Museum
Dr. Elizabeth D. Worley Medley
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

Chapter 9 Clara Lemlich and the revolt of the girls: A guide for young activists
Rachel Serkin
Museum at Eldridge Street
Nancy Beiles
Museum at Eldridge Street
Alex Delare
New York City Children’s Theater

Chapter 10 Time traveling girls: How girl volunteers at Fort Edmonton Park create activism
Dr. Heather Fitzsimmons Frey
MacEwan University
Tania Gigliotti
Drawn to Books



Tiffany R. Isselhardt holds a Master of Public History from Appalachian State University and is the co-author of ‘Exploring American Girlhood in 50 Historic Treasures’ (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021). She currently serves as Development and Exhibitions Manager at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University as well as Program Developer for Girl Museum. Her research focuses on uncovering the hidden history of girls to advocate for gender equality, and how museums can better interpret and provide programming inclusive of girls’ unique history and culture. She has presented on girlhood at several conferences, including the International Girl Studies Association and the National Council on Public History, and enjoys working at the intersections of history, material culture, and girl studies.

Public history, Girlhood, Anishinaabeg, Helen Miller Gould, Daybook, Textile mill, Scrapbooks, Exhibitions, Chicago, Field trips, Clara Lemlich, Fort Edmonton Park, HERstory

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

A Girl Can Do: Recognizing and Representing Girlhood





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


11 B&W and 18 Color

Publication date

July 2022