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[personal profile] badgerbag
I remember Ruth Fielding as being bold, thoughtful, creative, brave, and somewhat of a no-nonsense personality, who works hard on achieving financial independence. She was an orphaned teenager who comes to a small town to live with her mean, crusty old uncle Jabez Potter who runs the local mill on the banks of the Lumano River. His arthritic, hunchbacked, ancient, warm-hearted housekeeper "Aunt Alviry" is not actually Ruth's aunt but is a servant and for a long time is the only person who loves Ruth. Uncle Jabez doesn't believe in educating girls. But Ruth manages to win him over somehow. Anyway, Ruth goes off to boarding school at Briarwood Hall with her rich, beautiful motor-car-driving friend Helen Cameron, makes friends with everyone, and ends a terrible schoolgirl rivalry by creating just one big sorority, the Sweetbriars. I seem to recall their moonlight and candlelight ceremony where they're hanging out in togas by a graceful statue, with a harp. Ruth goes on to have a lot of adventures that center around her solving mysteries, helping poor girls get an education. Her companions include the jolly and popular plump girl, Jennie; and the slightly bitter lame girl, Mercy, as well as a rich friend with a cute brother and a motorcar. Nothing new there, right? But...

Ruth Fielding book cover

The cool thing about Ruth Fielding is that she's a scriptwriter for moving pictures! She saves her school when a building burns down by writing a moving picture scenario for Mr. Hamilton from the Aelectron Corporation! And goes on to become a successful writer, even transitioning from silent film to the talkies.

Note the fashion in the cover picture. It reminds me of the book from the Betsy-Tacy series where Betsy and the other girls try to look like Gibson Girls, with their dresses gracefully draped instead of being tightly fitted, and a "droop" to their figure, slouching rather than standing up straight.

I believe this might be the series where all the girls make graduation dresses from simple white cheesecloth so that the poor girls won't feel outshone by rich girl satin and lace. Or is that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? There was an amazingly cunning plan for their class valedictorian, Mercy the lame girl, to be able to graduate on stage by the clever and unprecedented use of a podium or a sort of Grecian drapery on a dais. Because it would be impossible for her to graduate on crutches despite her being the damn valedictorian on crutches! Mercy had a sharp temper because of her pain and illness and difference, and all the other girls take that into stride. She wasn't cured magically like Katy and Pollyanna and she didn't develop perfect patience; she stays crippled and a little bit bitchy. She's my hero!

Alice B. Emerson was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Known authors who wrote Ruth Fielding books include Mildred Wirt Benson, W. Bert Foster, and Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward. Thanks to Jennifer at Series Books for Girls blog, which I've only just now found while searching for anyone... anyone... on the net who is also obsessed with this stuff!

Click through for my re-read and chapter by chapter summary of Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill in all its glorious faily goodness. Or, you can read the full text here from Project Gutenberg. Summary: The miser has a heart of gold; the crippled girl walks again; Ruth wins the spelling bee and gets a new dress; there is a lone page where a Mammy and a young black girl make cameo appearances. The young black girl does not get to go to school or make any friends or get any dresses...

Read more... )
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[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!


girlycon: A white girl in a school uniform with her horse, from the cover of Leader of the Lower School by Angela Brazil. (Default)

January 2013

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