Monday, July 28, 2014

List highlights: Girls' stuff

Lately, as you may have noticed, I seem to be almost as obsessed with books aimed at girls and young woman as I am with middlebrow fiction more generally.  Even if I don't feel compelled to read all of the girls' fiction I come across (though obviously lately I have felt compelled often enough), I still always enjoy exploring what was published and getting a feel for the plots and the style of a very interesting subgenre.  Whether they're school stories, adventure tales, romances, or career novels, they seem to have as much to tell us about the culture and gender roles of the time period as any other writings of the period.  Not to mention that they can have an irresistible charm all their own.

As it happens, my most recent update to the Overwhelming List doesn't feature any writers who specialized in school stories.  This is because I'm still wrestling with the intimidating number of new writers I've come across in the wonderful Encyclopedia of Girls' School Stories (aka The Book) by Sue Sims and Hilary Clare and am hoping to do an update devoted entirely to them at some point in the not-too-distant future.  For my most recent update, then, I included only those authors who specialized in fiction for young people that isn't specifically school-related.  There proved to be some quite interesting ones that were new to me—including a few that I may indeed feel compelled to read.

JOSEPHINE KAMM is surely the edgiest of the authors listed here.  She pioneered the field of young adult novels, which was really only coming into its own in the 1960s when she shook things up with Young Mother (1965), her acclaimed and controversial novel about a pregnant teenager.  She had earlier published two girls' career novels, Janet Carr, Journalist (1953), and Student Almoner (1955), as well as biographies of Gertrude Bell, Fanny Burney, Emmeline Pankhurst, and two pioneers of girls' education, Frances Buss and Dorothea Beale, two histories which sound right up my alley—Hope Deferred: Girls' Education in English History (1965) and Rapiers and Battleaxes: The Women's Movement and Its Aftermath (1966)—and several works of Jewish history.  But that was all late in her career, and I find myself also drawn to her five very early novels for adults, which have the enticing titles All Quiet at Home (1936), Disorderly Caravan (1938), Nettles to My Head (1939), Peace, Perfect Peace (1947), and Come, Draw This Curtain (1948).

Fellow blogger CallMeMadam posted not too long ago about FREDA C. BOND and her post was the first time I'd come across Bond's works and made me particularly want to check out the WWII-era trilogy The End House (1943), The Lancasters at Lynford (1944), and Susan and Priscilla (1945).  Bond also wrote the later Carols series, comprised of The Holiday that Wasn't (1947), The Week before Christmas (1948), The Carols Explore (1949), and Squibs at School (1951).  Her career apparently began with a single novel for adults, The Philanthropists (1933), about which precious little information is available.

Girls' career stories are always interesting to peruse for what they say about the assumptions and priorities of their day—not to mention for some often lovely or entertaining jacket art.  In this update, I came across two more authors who specialized in career stories.  ROSAMOND BERTRAM, about whom little seems to be known, focused on journalism in her novels, while JOAN LLEWELYN OWENS, who likewise remains shrouded in some obscurity, wrote about more widely varied careers, including medicine.

Perhaps ALICE MARGARET STEVENSON could also be seen as a career story author, though since she published only a single novel, there's only one career to focus on.  Her 1920 novel Hilary: The Story of a College Girl (1920), is about a young woman at Oxford who becomes a missionary providing medical attention to Indian women.

And it's possible that BARBARA VEREKER belongs in the career category as well, though I haven't found enough information about her work to be sure.  She may have been involved in the film industry herself, as she published a history of the cinema as well as Caroline at the Film Studios (1955), which could be a career story.  But Caroline returned in three more novels which don't seem to carry on the theme—Adventure for Caroline (1956), Caroline in Scotland (1957), and Caroline in Wales (1959).

MARGARET BAINES REED was the daughter of boys' school story author Talbot Baines Reed.  Much of her work is historical fiction for children, such as The Forest Road (1923), The Foundling of Thornesford: A Story of Norman and Saxon (1926), Sir Adam's Orchard: : A Story of York and Lancaster (1926), and The Gate House: A Story of Queen Elizabeth's Days (1927), but some of her later works sound suspiciously like girls' school stories, including H.R.H. Miss Johnson (1929) and Betty Lends a Hand (1930).  What do you think?

I know little enough about MAUDE LEESON, but her early novels are apparently romances for girls, including The Fords of Hilton Langley (1913) and The Marriage of Cecilia (1914).  SYBIL HADDOCK published only five novels, including several in the Orfull series which sound intriguing.  And SYBIL BURR was already mentioned in my Mystery List for her intriguing Scottish mystery Lantern of the North/Night Train to Scotland.  But she is best known for Life with Lisa (1958), a fictional diary written by a 12-year-old girl, which was reprinted by Puffin in 1979 and adapted for Radio 4 in 2003.

That's all for this round.  Do any of these particularly strike your fancy?

ROSAMOND BERTRAM (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of at least six career novels for girls, including Ann Thorne, Reporter (1939), Mary Truslove, Detective (1940), Ann Thorne Comes to America (1941), Philippa Drives On (1947), Scoop for Ann Thorne (1949), and Front Page Ann Thorne (1951).

Novelist and author of Girls Own type tales, including a trilogy discussed hereThe End House (1943), The Lancasters at Lynford (1944), and Susan and Priscilla (1945); others include The Holiday That Wasn't (1947), Squibs at School (1951), and an early adult novel, The Philanthropists (1933).

SYBIL [EDITH] BURR (1909-2002)
Author of several children’s novels in the 1950s, including the intriguing Lantern of the North (1954, aka Night Train to Scotland), a mystery with a 15-year-old heroine, The Saint Bride Blue (1956), apparently also set in Scotland, and Life With Lisa (1958), dramatized for Radio 4 in 2003.

SYBIL HADDOCK (dates unknown)
Author of five novels for girls, including several featuring a single character, Nancy Orfull, and her family; titles include Vera the Vet (1940), That Orfull Girl (1943), That Orfull Family (1944), Nancy Takes a Hand (1952), and Nancy Runs the Show (1958).

JOSEPHINE KAMM (1905-1989)
(née Hart)
Known for her pioneering young adult novels, including Young Mother (1965), about a pregnant teen, Kamm started with five adult novels—All Quiet at Home (1936), Disorderly Caravan (1938), Nettles to My Head (1939), Peace, Perfect Peace (1947), and Come, Draw This Curtain (1948).

MAUDE LEESON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of at least six novels just before and after WWI; early titles like The Fords of Hilton Langley (1913) and The Marriage of Cecilia (1914) seem to be cheerful romances for young girls, while later works like God's Price (1920) and Still Waters (1922) are more serious.

(married name Venner)
More research needed; author of both fiction and non-fiction about career choices for girls; her fiction includes Sally Grayson: Wren (1954), Margaret Becomes a Doctor (1957), A Library Life for Deborah (1957), and Diana Seton: Veterinary Student (1960).

Daughter of boys' school story author Talbot Baines Reed; much of her work is historical fiction for children, such as The Forest Road (1923) and Sir Adam's Orchard (1926), but some works seem like school stories, including H.R.H. Miss Johnson (1929) and Betty Lends a Hand (1930).

(née Adams)
Scholar and author of several books on Indian culture and language, Stevenson also published a single novel, Hilary: The Story of a College Girl (1920), about a young woman at Oxford who becomes a missionary providing medical attention to Indian women.

Journalist, playwright, and author of four girls’ stories—Caroline at the Film Studios (1955), Adventure for Caroline (1956), Caroline in Scotland (1957), and Caroline in Wales (1959)—as well as The Story of Films (1961); could she have been associated with the film industry in some way?


  1. Well! All this cover art just makes me drool.

    Now, I especially like Ann Thorne, Reporter. Clearly it looks like it should be Ann Thorne, Society Page Columnist. But then, throughout the history of journalism, editors and the public in general just assumed that when it came to women reporters, the two terms were interchangable.

    I'm guessing our Ann is NOT the sophisticated dame in the slinky white gown, but the woman in green. And I'm guess that's her iPhone she's holding, as she reports on the breaking news from Lady Upward's social event of the year.

    1. That's hilarious, Susan. It certainly looks like an iPhone to me! And now that you've made me look more closely at the cover, what on earth is the man in green in the background doing? Dancing? Conducting a band? Giving a heil Hitler salute? Presumably his position would have signified something to contemporary readers, but I'm puzzled.

    2. I think he's reaching the culmination of his song - mike in his left hand, right arm outstretched to give emphasis to the last chords.....

  2. Needless to say "H.R.H. Miss Johnson" is a title I definitely find most intriguing! Tom

  3. Josephine Kamm definitely rings a bell from way back. I think I must have read her Young Mother. I had no idea she had written a history featuring the founder of my Alma Mater. Well Dorothea Beale didn't actually found Cheltenham Ladies College, she took it over as a failing school - and soon sorted that out!. Must get a copy.

    I simply love the board cover of The Fords of Hilton Langley. I have a number of books of that era just for the sake of their glorious covers and I shall keep an eye out for that one.

    I'm much looking forward to the promised post on the school stories update.....will lock up my purse (English style purse) first.

    1. Yes, several of Kamm's biographical works seem worthwhile. I hope she does justice to Beale. I agree that The Fords cover is enticing, but I doubt if I'm likely to stumble across a copy in the U.S. As for the list, it may still take a while, but I will get to it. Perhaps I should have a disclaimer on my blog that I am not responsible for any burdens on your purse that may result from visiting!

    2. Hmm - not sure that waives the moral responsibility ;-)

    3. Well, I make no claims about morals either, Cestina! :-)

  4. Student Almoner is the winner for me. They really knew how to make a catchy title back then... ;-) Another wonderful list!

    1. It does sound pretty scintillating, doesn't it, Vicki? Of course, I had to look up what an almoner is, since we don't use the term in the U.S., but I have to say, that one's not high on my to read list...

    2. Without looking it up, I always thought an almoner was some kind of church-certified beggar (you know...alms for the poor)....

      Okay, now I've looked it up. Not quite.

    3. No almoners in Canada either, Susan? I feel better about my own ignorance now. I wonder if the term is still in use? It must have been fairly common at mid-century, for it to have been the topic of a career novel.

    4. A colleague of mine started her career as a hospital almoner. It was a possible route into social work as I understand it. There is a hospital almoner in one of Nevil Shute's books - "Ruined City", I think.

    5. Thanks for sharing that. I keep meaning to read some Nevil Shute, so perhaps I'll get around to that novel soon and I'll know more about what an almoner is.

  5. Fascinating lists and cover illustrations! I remember reading a series of career novels for girls in the seventies by Marjorie Gayler. They had titles like Out of the Bandbox, Tuesday Girl and Daphne Sets a Fashion. I'd love to re-read them.

    1. Thank you, Nicola! Oh dear, those titles must be a bit after my time period, but they do sound very seductive. You're just feeding my obsessions!

  6. I am looking for fictional girls/women working in engineering. I wondered if the new opportunities that emerged during the two world wars may have produced any girls' novels with such a heroine. Any thoughts?


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