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[personal profile] badgerbag
This isn't getting a huge writeup from me, but I read it last night and it was fairly amusing.

Betty Wales is a college girl at Hampton and is one of those all-around nice girls, not specially talented at anything except having lots of friends and seeing the best in everyone. These books are very strange and amusing for their pictures of College Life in whenever it was - I think the very early 1900s. Basketball is AWESOME. The girls are constantly running around in shorts doing physical culture exercises. Then they rush to take out their pigtails and 'gym' suits to don a sweet white linen ensemble to take tea with a faculty member. The amateur theatrical fundraisers also rule. There's a bohemian Greenwich Village girl who is super sophisticated and popular.

Freshman and sophomore girls have official "crushes" on upperclasswomen, who invite them to dinners and dances and bring them bunches of violets. The crushes are much discussed and some teachers feel they aren't appropriate! The best bits of the book are when the girls tease each other about their crushes, or when their nervousness and hero-worship is described in detail.
" Oh, Eleanor ! ' said Betty reproachfully.
" As if any one could improve you ! '

Eleanor's evening dress was a pale yellow
satin that brought out the brown lights in her
hair and eyes and the gleaming whiteness of
her shoulders. There were violets in her hair,
which was piled high on her head, and more
violets at her waist ; and as she stood full in
the light, smiling at Betty's earnestness, Betty
was sure she had never seen any one half so
lovely.


In this volume: plagiarism! Eleanor Watson, the snobby girl, screws up! Should Betty rescue her? Should Eleanor's screwup be covered up so as not to ruin her life? What about the honor code of the school? Nothing special happens and there's no big mystery or Adventure. Betty does go on the train to New York City, gets caught in a blizzard, stays by herself in a hotel, and visits the bohemian editor of a new literary magazine and is *only minorly sexually harassed*.

Only one girl Helen Adams, cares about learning anything, and she's a grind and a 'dig' who Betty has only partly saved from total geekdom and taught to be a little more like other girls who like normal girl things. (UGH!)

Here's the full text of Betty Wales, Sophomore but I recommend starting with Betty Wales, Freshman. I've read the Senior one too. These books feel a bit odd and clumsy and it's hard to understand sometimes what the heck's going on.

badgerbag: (lesbiaaaans!)
[personal profile] badgerbag
I don't have a copy of Ginnie and Geneva, the first in the series, but last night I read Ginnie and the Mystery House, Ginnie and the New Girl, and Ginnie's Babysitting Service. As I recall it, the first book is about Ginnie, who is very femmy fourth grader, making friends with Genevra who is butch and wears "dungarees". Dungarees loom large in this book. You have to don them before you rake leaves, or crawl through a secret passageway in an attic, or go sleigh riding, and if you don't have your damn dungarees then you just have to stand there helplessly in your school dress as you watch the nice neighbor boy, Peter Ladd, do exciting things and get dirty. Meanwhile your Mother is probably in the kitchen, where she always is if she isn't running the vacuum; making a light, fluffy, angel food cake from a box with lemon jello.




In the Ginnie and the New Girl it's all about jealousy! OMG! That new girl Marcia keeps talking about her rich uncle and her pearl ring! She pretended to twist her ankle just to lure the awesome tomboy Geneva, Ginnie's BEST FRIEND, into coming to her house. Do you think that she might just be really lonely, but nice underneath? Suspense! There is a good bit about a party that struck me even in 1979 or so as *completely alien*. At this party, there are place cards at the dinner table. There is dinner. There is some kind of guessing game called Coffee Pot. Then some girls against boys crap happens and the girls are locked in the hayloft or something. I notice there was no hi fi; how come? Ginnie and her friends also get to go on a bus to New York and go to museums by themselves although they're in 6th grade. Free range kids, yeah!

Ginnie and the Mystery House features a slightly batty frail old lady in a big house two blocks away where the houses are shabby. Mysterious lights, bells, fear, a dark house! Do you think maybe Ginnie and her friends will save the crazy old lady from herself? And find her lost money? Arrrrrgh! And the New Girl's family from the last book might move into her house, instead of the dreary apartment they lived in that kept her so cruelly isolated from other children? I DUNNO!

Ginnie's Babysitting Service is the best one aside from the first. It was very vivid in my mind all through my childhood. Ginnie begins to angst about not having any artistic talent like Geneva or her friend Lucy the artist. She also wants money to spend at the five and dime, and to go to New York where god knows she'll probably have egg creams or go ice skating... She and Geneva decide to babysit after several failed money making schemes. Geneva sucks at babysitting. She's too rough and butch for it! She scowls a lot! In her dungarees! Ginnie loves the children and sets up all her old toys in the attic to make a nursery. She offers to the head of the Ladies' Democratic Club that there should be a mothers' discussion group after school, for moms of babies and young children, and pay her a cut rate for babysitting in her attic nursery! Since Geneva is full of babysitting fail, Ginnie's friend Anna, who is shy, gentle, and poor, becomes her business partner. What I liked about this book, I think, was the entrepreneurial spirit of Ginnie, the way she arranged everything nicely in the attic, and how she really liked learning the specific things that worked to take care of young children. Though otherwise I identified with Geneva the tomboy, I too enjoyed babysitting and figuring out child psychology!

In this weird magic world there is no history and everyone is white. Young mothers all stay at home with their babies, cooking things from boxes and mixes and vacuuming daily with aprons on!

Ginnie enjoys life to the fullest, often falling into reveries of sensuality as she bites into a crisp perfect apple or rakes leaves while smelling woodsmoke with her jolly father or hikes up a hill with her friends or savors several delicious hamburgers in a roadside diner when the bus from New York City stalls in the snow. Everything she experiences is pretty much perfect so you get to share her raptures as she goes to department store with her father who buys The Perfect Powder Blue Angora Sweater for her mother and then gets it gift wrapped with Perfect crisp wrapping paper in a dreamy shade of spring green with a bow that makes Ginnie proud to hold the package.

It gushes on like that, and other than the lesbian subtext between Ginnie and Geneva, those descriptions are the best part!
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Tonight I picked up The Motor Maids' School Days by Katherine Stokes, published in 1911. Three school girls in the little seaport town of West Haven see an automobile approaching... Keep in mind this is before power steering, and cars broke down constantly, so you had to be pretty strong and know how to fix stuff.
It was a graceful little machine large enough to hold five or six people comfortably, its body painted a warm and pleasing shade of red, its cushions upholstered in a slightly darker shade which harmonized perfectly with the red of the body. A young girl, sitting on the front seat, was running the car as easily and steadily as an experienced chauffeur. Making a graceful curve, she turned into the driveway which led to the school grounds and presently drew up under a large shed, where people were in the habit of hitching their horses and vehicles on Field Day, or when football was in season.


The Motor Maids' School Days

It's Billie Campbell, come home from abroad where she was living in hotels with her widowed father, to spend her sophomore year with some "real schoolgirls" who like to do things outdoors. Nancy, Elinor, and Mary, who are nice, sporty, and have jolly outdoor times, invite her to be in the Bluebirds school club. Belle Rogers, the class snob, invites her to be in the "Mystic Seven" with only the richest girls who dress up in frills all the time and have tea parties. DRAMA!

Belle the snob goes home to have a migraine, plots her revenge, and is given "headache powders" by her over-indulgent mother. When she's angry, she loses all her beauty!

In contrast, the Bluebirds have a rule that they must NEVER QUARREL.

In short order Billie is abducted by suspicious looking men, probably smugglers. One has one arm and one eye and a scar across his face and the other one is named Pedro. Like I said, totally smugglers. They steal her car and leave her in a shack. Billie thinks, "Oh, how I'd like to be a man for about five minutes! Then they wouldn't dare!"

She's at the very shack where coincidentally the Bluebirds and their very nice boy chums come by to investigate a rumor of some smugglers!

Then there's some totally half-assed action where one of the nice boys, Charlie Clay, changes clothes with Billie. We see her short red petticoats (!) He fits in her clothes and shoes perfectly. The smugglers come back and have a gun. Charlie fakes it with a wrench. They all drive off. I wonder if we're supposed to think that Charlie possessed a mysterious manly quality that let him scare away the bad guys? Or should we be thinking that if he's the same height and build as Billie, who surely also has a wrench about her person, why is Billie so down on herself and her ability to fight? It comes off like a badly done attempt to girly Billie up a little after saying what a great, confident driver she was.

Then, a picnic - lemonade - A mysterious beautiful dark-haired woman with flashing eyes is wounded and tells the girls to retrieve a small box from the wreck of her car - Then the woman is abducted but drops a card in the road with a short note explaining they have to keep the box VERY SECRET. Billie's Cousin Helen, a spinster, takes the girls on a trip to a country hotel a few miles away for a "ball" ... and has, without telling them, arranged for some nice boys to be there to dance with them. They mix up suitcases with Belle (the evil snob girl from the Mystic Seven) and Belle sees the box, which is crammed full of JEWELS. They dance. The hotel burns down. Belle and Billie end up on the roof of the burning building with the one-armed scarfaced man! Belle the Snob goes down the rope first, without knowing how to do it right, and cuts up her hands terribly. She'll never be able to play the piano again! I predict this is not one of the books where The Bluebirds teach the snob girls how to be nice and they all end up in one big school club.

This is not how I spent my sophomore year of high school, at ALL.

Political assessments:

Gender: Women's Liberation through healthy outdoor sports and being chums with boys.
Race: Dark flashing eyed Spanish speaking smugglers.
Class: It's okay for your parents to work, or be poor, as long as you go to a nice school.
Age: 55 year old spinsters are ANCIENT.
Able-ism: One armed, one-eyed, scarred people = evil.

Predictions:

Cousin Helen the Spinster has a mystery in her past. I predict her long lost beau (lost at sea?) will be a real European prince. The dark haired lady with the jewels and auto wreck might be his sister. The family of Belle the snob will lose all their money.

Coming soon, the end to Motor Maids (in comments on this entry. Will there be more racefail? Will my predictions turn out correct?

Next week I promise to write a giant dissertation sort of thing on Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, the best book ever.

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