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[personal profile] badgerbag
Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm (1920) is about an orphan 13 year old girl whose kind uncle adopts her and then goes off to work in his oil fields somewhere Out West. He sends her by train to the farm of an old school friend of his so she can learn to ride and have fun for the summer. This school friend, Mrs. Peabody, turns out to have married an abusive, stingy man who has basically killed her spirit and soul so much that she keeps a slovenly house and cooks dull fried potatoes and ham every day. There are flies everywhere. Oh, misery! Betty befriends the orphaned "poorhouse rat" 14 year old boy Bob Henderson who is totally abused and starved and overworked. Mr. Peabody has cheated the two hired men of their wages, too! Betty's outraged!

Betty doesn't have much going for her other than a lot of entitlement and a bad temper, which she beats herself up over every time she tells off Mr. Peabody. She was pretty brave when she unharnessed and reharnessed the balky horse when it was stuck in the middle of the crossroads in the dark where motorcars might hit them and had to drag her injured uncle back home. And she was a bit brave, or lucky, when she overheard the chicken theives plotting to load up the truck full of Mrs. Peabody's chickens! Betty didn't think they were really bad and luckily didn't have to testify against them, because of extenuating circumstances like Mr. Peabody being a cheat and a miser!

There was an interesting bit where Betty thinks to herself that though he is a poorhouse rat, Bob is clearly a boy of good breeding, because his hands and feet are well-proportioned. Unlike the hired men! Bob also has a mysterious box with some papers that have his parents' marriage certificate and some other information and he's going to go to Washington someday to find the mysterious bookstore owner who seemed like he might know something about his mother's family. Do you think he'll turn out to be super rich? I DUNNO! Do you think he is pretty much already in love with Betty?! Or will he be her cousin? I vote for the love plot.

So, I'm going to keep reading for the explanations of social class, and the inevitable boarding school. In this town she befriended Dr. Guerin's family and his daughters who will surely end up as chums in her school, going to Pine Island or Cliff Richards or Blue Lake or perhaps Out West. We'll see!

It's odd for this book to be from 1920 and yet completely free of mention of the war that just happened!
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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... )


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

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