This thesis will analyze four American children’s novels written during the mid to latter part of the nineteen century and demonstrate how a progression of agency of the female role took shape in girls’ fiction during this period in history. With the novel The Wide, Wide World, readers observe a protagonist who is primarily being acted upon by others, but soon learns to acquire agency and independence by employing feminine virtues or qualities of "true womanhood." According to Barbara Welter, the "Cult of Domesticity" was the prevailing value system among the upper and middle classes during the nineteenth-century, which held the central belief that women were supposed to possess four cardinal virtues (piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness) to be considered respectable females. In Susan Warner’s novel, The Wide, Wide World, the character of Ellen Montgomery learns to wield feminine principles to attain respect and agency. The novel Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley builds onto this idea and features a protagonist that is also being acted upon, and whose decisions are reflective of others. However, the heroine of the story, Elsie Dinsmore, is steadfast in her spiritual beliefs, and it is her possession of an inherent belief in her faith that soon permits her greater autonomy and veneration from others. By being devoutly religious, Elsie is extolled for her pious behavior, which in the end, permits her agency to act freely and make decisions on her own. Shortly after the release of Finley’s story, came a novel that changed the course of children’s fiction forever. In Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, we observe the heroine Jo March, an ambitious adolescent who longs to do something great with her life. Similar to Elsie, nothing will stop Jo as she empowers herself to forge her way into the male-dominated, public sphere to pursue her dreams of becoming a published author. In the process of making decisions on her own, Jo claims agency and by the end of the novel, is living a life she desires. The last children’s story discussed in this essay is a novel by Helen Hunt Jackson. In the story Nelly’s Silver Mine, we observe a heroine who possesses the independence and a natural ability to act freely. Her character not only makes decisions on her own but also has an established sense of self. By examining the role of the female protagonist in all four novels, readers can observe how a shift or progression of agency occurred in American girl’s books towards the later part of the century and set the stage for future novels.