The books written for children emphasize manners (ways of behaving), with less detail about the rules of etiquette. They also address both boys and girls, usually equally. The desired behaviors - kindness, empathy, respect for elders - are illustrated regardless of gender. The one exception I have found so far is Being Nice is Lots of Fun (1955), which has twice as many male characters as female ones. The boys are also depicted negatively twice as often as the girls, exhibiting such behaviors as dawdling, crankiness, roughhousing, selfishness, stubbornness, and poor hygiene. The girls’ sins are fewer: grabbing things without asking, talking too much, and messiness, which is apparently so terrible that “Messie Bessie” appears in three of the book’s story poems.
More gendered advice kicks in with works for preteens and teens, along with more attention to the rules of etiquette. Most of the books for this age group either emphasize advice for girls or are specifically directed at them. In fact, only one of the nearly thirty books I consulted was primarily aimed at teenaged boys. I will discuss advice for this age group in a separate column.
In the meantime, enjoy this slide show of images from the children’s etiquette books.