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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

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.

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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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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.


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.


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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