The Little Engine That Could: Female, and “Literally the First to Lean In!”

me no days


Children who read the story may not think much about whether the little blue engine is male or female. But adults do. If you remember the story, three trains — all male — refuse to help the broken-down engine over the mountain. They are too important, too busy, or too tired to pull an engine full of toys. (“I won’t carry the likes of you!” they said to the disappointed dolls and stuffed animals).

The little blue engine who (after significant cajoling) agrees to help is female — and also self-deprecating. “They only use me for switching trains in the yard. I have never been on the other side of the mountain,” she protests.

And then the little engine just leans right in and does it: she disrupts the sluggish train economy and flawlessly executes a deliverables hack to the benefit of a group of young consumers a full century before Y Combinator. Francesco Sedita, president of the Penguin division that publishes this beloved children’s book, calls the engine “literally the first to lean in! She really is the poster engine of the can-do attitude.” I think I can, I think I can, I think I can lean back and fall down the mountain instead with the lazy boys, because I haven’t gotten lunch yet and I’m hangry. [NPR]