Jane Yolen Tackles Cinderella

The other day, US News & World Report ran a story on “Cinderella.” Bottom line: the new Disney film perpetuates the wrong image of the famous fairy tale character. She’s not the “sweet, accommodating and passive heroine” we’ve been led to believe; in earlier versions of the tale, Cinderella was really a brave, clever, assertive, savvy and ambitious princess.

Jane Yolen today...

Jane Yolen today…

The story quotes Jane Yolen, “one of America’s best-known storytellers.” As far back as 1977, she warned that the 1950 Disney version of “Cinderella” sends kids the wrong message.

Instead of learning that a wish and action can make dreams come true, children learn “only to wait for something or someone to save them.”

It’s not enough today, Yolen says, to rely solely on niceness.

She should know. A child of the 1950s — a time when gender roles were far more rigidly enforced than today — she carved an exciting path for herself.

And she did it in Westport.

...and Jane Yolen, 1955-56 Staples basketball captain.

…and Jane Yolen, 1955-56 Staples basketball captain.

The author or editor of more than 280 books — including Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight — she was a dynamo at Staples. Before graduating in 1956 she was news editor of the school paper Inklings, captain of the girls basketball team, and vice president of the Spanish and Latin Clubs.

She also sang in the choir, served on the yearbook and Soundings literary magazine staffs, won 2 “Voice of Democracy” contests, and worked as a Westport Library page and Sunday school teacher.

Yolen went on to Smith College, and published her 1st book at 22. She also raised 3 children.

Far fewer doors were open to young women 60 years ago than today. But Jane Yolen walked (or, more likely, ran) through the ones that were — and probably pushed a few stuck ones open herself.

Sounds as if young girls (and boys) in 2015 should be watching a movie about her.

Not Cinderella.

(To learn more about Jane Yolen’s life, click on www.janeyolen.com)

3 responses to “Jane Yolen Tackles Cinderella

  1. Just like so many heroine writers (my favourites): Katherine Paterson, Robin McKinley, Janet Lunn, Madeleine L’Engle, Ruth Park, Elizabeth George Speare to name a few, Jane Yolen’s works send the message that girls/boys are not afraid of adventure, that part of learning about ourselves involves learning about others, too. Oh, and Courage.

  2. Jane-
    Did you play by Iowa girls rules of 6 players – 3 guards and 3 forwards? It looks like you are holding a men’s size basketball. What other teams did you play? And finally, did Staples girls basketball cease during the sixties and return after Title IX was passed into law?
    I’m a proud dad of a Staples girls basketball player and captain, and a big fan of the women’s game. The level of play is incredible. My daughter loves your uniform and is sending this link to her teammates!
    Lou Mall

  3. Lou: here’s some background on Staples girls’ basketball from my era that Dan wrote about as part of an article on my classmate, Martha Kirchhof (Staples ’71).


    Martha went to the Final Four of the AIAW three times when she played college hoops at Southern Connecticut in the 1970s. This tourney was the predecessor to the NCAA.