Category Archives: 2014

Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures: Film as a Distraction during WW1

© Copyright 2014 Bianca Perry, Ryerson University


Book Cover of Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures, 1916. First Dust Jacket.
Book Cover of Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures, 1916. First Dust Jacket.

Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures Or, Helping the Dormitory Fund is a 208-paged juvenile novel situated in Ryerson’s CLA Collection. It was written by W. Bert Foster under the pseudonym Alice B. Emerson and published by the Cupples & Leon Company in New York, 1916. There is one illustration by W. Rogers on the frontispiece of a filming scene in chapter nineteen.

One of Ruth’s main passions in the novel Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures is, as the title suggests, film. As the book was published in 1916, cinema in the United States was still relatively in its early stages of development. This meant that cinema was a new and popular topic which the American people wanted to know more about. In this way, Ruth’s discovery of film coincides with the country’s discovery of film. Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures is associated with the Great War. The characters in the novel are not directly involved in or affected by the war since the United States did not join World War 1 until a year after the book was published. However, in association with the war, moving pictures acted as a distraction for people. This worked in several ways, including, but not limited to, the theatre environment, movies for the purpose of entertainment or escapism, and the glamour of movie-making.


Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures follows Ruth and her two best friends, twins Tom and Helen Cameron. At the outset of the novel, the trio spots a moving picture company filming a scene. When the main actress falls into the river, Ruth and her friends save the actress and bring her to Ruth’s non-biological Aunt Alvirah to recover at their home, the Red Mill. When Tom shows interest in the actress, Ruth feels a tinge of jealousy, demonstrating the possibility of a romantic future between the two. Even though this is the ninth book in the series, it was not all that difficult to tell what the relationships between the characters were like because the author gives a brief summary of each of the previous books in the third chapter.

The girls of Briarwood Hall film a scene.
The girls of Briarwood Hall film a scene.

Upon meeting the producer, Mr. Hammond, Ruth divulges that she plans to write a moving picture script and Mr. Hammond agrees to read it. An inspired Ruth secretly begins writing her scenario “Curiosity.” Ruth and Helen return to the all girls school, Briarwood Hall, for their final year. Ruth sends her finished scenario off to Mr. Hammond. While at dinner, the West Dormitory, housing all of Ruth’s and Helen’s possessions, burns down. With an expired insurance on the building, there is no money available to rebuild it. The girls each contribute what they can but it is still not enough. Ruth wants to come up with a plan where all the girls can contribute equally since money is not expendable for everyone. When Mr. Hammond replies, impressed with Ruth’s work, he sends her money and tells her he is going to start filming the scenario right away. This is when the two story lines intersect and Ruth comes up with the idea to write a moving picture scenario, aptly titled “The Heart of a Schoolgirl” set at Briarwood Hall, using all the girls as extras. All the profits from the film will go toward helping the dormitory fund. Mr. Hammond approves the idea and Ruth and her team get to work, finding huge success at the end of the novel. Both scenarios written by Ruth are met with enthusiasm by audiences while she gains personal satisfaction from earning money using her brain in something she is passionate about. And finally, Ruth and her friends graduate high school.

Production and Reception

Edward Stratemeyer started a company known as the Stratemeyer Syndicate in which he and hired writers wrote more than 800 books [for children] under 65 pseudonyms (McDowell). While Stratemeyer is a writer, he did not pen the Ruth Fielding series. The Ruth Fielding series was one of the series he produced. In a process detailed in an interview with newspaper Newark Sunday Call (Lawrence), Stratemeyer plotted the novels, gave the outlines to hired writers and edited the manuscript he received from them before sending it to publishers; therefore, playing a huge role in the creation and production of the Ruth Fielding series.

In an advertisement from a New York based magazine, promoting a department store, Ruth Fielding is listed with other girl-specific book series set at low, accessible prices. The fact that this book is listed in an ad for Christmas gift ideas gives a thorough idea of how the book was received and consumed by its audience.

The popularity of the Stratemeyer Syndicate books created much tension. It sparked debate on quality fiction versus literary merit (Soderbergh). Tensions also arose between what early 20th century girls wanted to read versus what their elders, specifically the librarians, thought the girls should be reading. Books with traditional cultural values (i.e. care-taking) and religious behavior were acceptable and promoted by librarians while series books were viewed as immoral and negatively influential (Hamilton-Honey). Despite being discouraged by many adults at the time, the series still soared in popularity and in sales. This speaks volumes about how girls at the time viewed Ruth and how they were interested in, if not inspired by, her path of self-discovery outside of the home.

Working Girls

The Girl Scouts were created in 1912. While there were women trying to keep girls traditional, there was also this entity teaching young girls that they could, if they wanted to, become more than a housewife. The message being promoted here to young girls is different than what they were likely hearing at home, at school, or in society (Revzin). The creation of the girls scouts (which today promotes well-roundedness in girls) around the time of the novel’s publishing date delineates the shift in some attitudes of girlhood.

Around the 1910s, there was also a shift in cultural attitudes toward moving pictures. To keep it relevant, it has been suggested that girl’s books series encouraged young girls to attend movies during that time (Inness). Ruth Fielding decides early on in the book that she wants to become a moving picture writer. Her interest in and pursuit of a career as a moving picture writer would have inevitably influenced many young girls in the world. Ruth unknowingly and unintentionally represented a business not entirely closed to women.

Furthermore, during America’s active war years (1917-1918), women contributed to the war effort. As men were conscripted and went off to war, women were encouraged to “do their bit” and pick up where the men left off, including anything from factory work to farming (Kim). While Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures was published a year before the war at a time when girls were being scrutinized for participating in work in the public sphere, it is interesting to see how only a year later women were being thrust into all sorts of fields outside of domestic work due to the war.

Overview of Film History

The history of film is long and complex. It includes many facets such as sound, color, lighting, cinematic technique, editing, and longevity. As such, this will be a very brief overview. No one inventor is credited with the creation of cinema. George Eastman, Thomas Edison, and the Lumière Brothers are noted as early contributors. However, many others have contributed to film’s progression. The first motion picture camera was invented in the 1890’s. Within a few years, practical systems for recording and reproducing motion using a single camera came about. Then, short silent films (usually scenes from a stage play or of everyday life) were projected on a screen before a paying (albeit informal) audience. By 1900, filmmakers began using basic editing techniques and film narratives. Around 1910, silent cinema was accompanied by a musical background. Technicolor did not come till much later in the 1930’s (Jacobs). World War 1 marked a transition in the film industry: short one-reel programs transformed into feature films. Theaters became larger and more expensive. Moreover, while war halted the growth of the film industry in other countries, the United States’ late entry into the war allowed the industry to grow exponentially.

First Row: Nickelodeon theatres, 1910s. Second Row: Upper-class Movie palaces.
First Row: Nickelodeon theatres, 1910s.
Second Row: Upper-class movie palaces.

Theatre Environment

Theatres have always involved a shared space with low lighting where everyone is in attendance for the same purpose: to watch the action occurring on screen. The Nickelodeon (1905) located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was the first theatre in the United States. The creators, Harry Davis and John P. Harris, moved about 100 seats and a projector into an empty store. Attendees were charged five cents (or, a nickel – the origin of its name). The success of this endeavor saw nickelodeon theatres pop up all over the country.

As I began mentioning earlier, a cultural shift occurs in the 1910s. The shift occurs in the idea that moving pictures were only for the working class as they were cheap and unintelligent in content. However, it became seen as something the upper classes could also enjoy as movies became longer and more varied in content and theatres became more luxurious. With advance tickets and reserved seating, these theatres, also known as movie palaces, became sort of replicas of opera houses (Jacobs). They had live orchestras, sloped seating and comfortable chairs. Venues served upward 2,500-6,000 people.

The darkness of the theatre environment suggests a place to hide away for a few hours. Depending on genre, films could move entire audiences to laughter or to tears. Shared experience brought the citizens of the country together in much the same way war propaganda attempted too. Ruth and her friends share the experience of attending the premiere of their film together to watch their work come to fruition. Emotions (nervousness, anxiousness, excitement) run high but are soothed in the darkness.

Movies for Entertainment or Escapism

Regardless of genre, films offered audiences the chance to be figuratively transported to another world, enthralling them with make-believe. While viewing a film, people could escape or be entertained in a few ways. A person could temporarily forget routine, mundane life and live vicariously though the character on screen. The characters on screen would be a part of an exaggerated adventure that everyday people would not or could not take part in. The rise of feature films and the increase in popularity of lengthier films may have suggested that people not only wanted to be entertained for a longer amount of time but that they also enjoyed the escape offered to them in that fixed setting. While Ruth’s second scenario is written in hopes that it will raise money for her school, her first scenario is written purely for the purpose of entertainment.

Glamour of Celebrity

The 1910s saw a rise in interest in the people starring in moving pictures. Certain faces and names became guaranteed to attract audiences (Jacobs). Thus, the glamour of moving-making and those involved in it was born. The creation of this “star system” (where a face equals movie ticket sales) suggests widespread adoration, if not obsession. What follows is the desire to know everything about that person through reading magazines or newspapers, and listening to radio interviews. The idea of a recognizable person, or rather, a celebrity, gave people something else to focus on and something else to speak about. Much like in the novel when Ruth and her friends fish actress Hazel Gray out of a river, not one of them can resist ogling in their own way. Tom thinks she’s beautiful and adores her instantly. Helen wants to be her. Ruth wants to know how she became an actress and question her about the process of becoming a writer.


Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures follows Ruth as she pursues and achieves her dream of becoming a moving picture writer. This positively influences and encourages other young readers of the series to do the same. As Ruth is discovering cinema in the mid-1910s, so is the rest of the country. At the same time, World War 1 is occurring outside the borders of the United States but remained a constant threat. One of the ways in which Americans distracted themselves from this grim and scary reality was to attend movie screenings. The idea of film as a distraction during the Great War worked in several ways: people could hide away together in dark, semi-intimate rooms, people could become swept away by the stories on screen, or people could become obsessed with the real lives of movie stars.

Link to CLA

Link to online version of book


Work Cited:

Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures or, Helping the Dormitory Fund. New York: Cupples & Leon Co, 1916. Print.

Gimbels Department Store. Advertisement. The Evening World [New York] 16 Dec 1915: 15. Web. Feb.

Hamilton-Honey, Emily. “Guardians of Morality: Librarians and American Girls’ Series Fiction, 1890-1950.” Library Trends 60.4 (2012): 765–785. Web. Feb

Inness, Sherrie A. “The Feminine En-Gendering of Film Consumption and Film Technology in Popular Girls’ Serial Novels, 1914-1931.” Journal of Popular Culture 29.3 (1995): 169. Web. Feb.

Jacobs, Christopher P. “Development of the Cinema: From Scientific Novelty to a New Art and Entertainment Industry”. Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema, Ed. Donald McCaffrey. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999. 1-14. Print.

Kim, Tae H. “Where Women Worked During World War I”. Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Project. Washington State University, 2003. Web. 22 Feb 2014.

Lawrence, Josephine. “The Newarker Whose Name Is Best Known”. Newark Sunday Call [Newark] 9 Dec 1917: n.p. Web. Feb.

McDowell, Edwin. “Syndicator of Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys Purchased”. New York Times [New York] 4 Aug 1984. Web. Feb.

Revzin, Rebekah E. “American Girlhood in the Early Twentieth Century: The Ideology of Girl Scout Literature, 1913-1930.” The Library Quarterly 68.3 (1998): 261–275. Web. Feb.

Soderbergh, Peter A. “The Stratemeyer Strain: Educators and the Juvenile Series Book, 1900-1973.” Journal of Popular Culture 7.4 (1974): 864-73. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

Encouraging Positive Behaviour From Children in Hunt’s About Harriet

© Copyright 2014 Jessica Almeida, Ryerson University

About Harriet – by Clara Whitehill Hunt, illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright


About Harriet is a medium-sized children’s book that includes a 152 pages of descriptions and pictures of a child named Harriet’s daily encounters and activities. Clara Whitehill Hunt, who was a teacher, librarian, author and supporter for children’s library services, wrote About Harriet. Maginel Wright Enright, who was an illustrator for children’s books and magazines, illustrated the pictures displayed throughout About Harriet. Houghton Mifflin Company and The Riverside Cambridge in Boston and New York respectively published About Harriet. This children’s book can be found in the Children’s Literature Archive Collection. Published in November 1916, About Harriet was read to children during the First World War. At this point the United States had not yet joined the war, but the fear of the American entrance was amongst the American citizens.

Hunt was well known for writing children’s books that focused on the positive rather than the negative. Knowing that the First World War was taking place, Hunt wrote About Harriet during a time when the world was at war to promote a positive atmosphere and peace. Hunt believed that it is careless to let children waste their time reading books with weak stories. Although they may have a strong storyline they lack the broadening of young minds and hearts, which Hunt believed a good children’s book should do.

The war can be scary for children who may not understand it, but books such as About Harriet can be used to reduce that fear and try to promote to children the idea that no matter what is going on in the world it’s important to stay positive and have a good outlook on life. The critical approach I will be taking when analyzing About Harriet will be focusing on Hunt’s use of children’s books to promote positive attitudes and good behaviour towards people. Children’s books have a substantial amount of influence on young minds and if we promote positive behaviour in our children’s books, the future could be without war.


About Harriet is a fascinating children’s book recommended for ages four to eight. This children’s book revolves around the endeavors of a young four-year-old girl who lives with her mother and father in the city throughout all the seven days of the week. There are also visually enjoyable illustrations that give graphics to Harriet’s daily actions.

This children’s book touches upon issues that families would go through on a daily bases and displays the way children should behave and act in each situation. By reading this children’s book, children should learn how to behave well and act in a well-mannered way. The story is divided into seven chapters that resemble the seven days of the week and tells the story of what she did on that day.

The story begins on a Friday morning where Harriet wakes up and helps her mother do chores around the house. For example she helps her mother wash dishes, bake and iron clothes. Then Harriet and her mother go to park where Harriet is confronted with dangerous situations in which she knows to avoid in order to be safe.

The weekend is spent at the beach with her family, which is where Harriet makes a new friend. Harriet also goes to church, which shows the importance of religion and morality.  The events that took place over the weekend introduce the importance of family and religion to the young impressionable children who are reading this book.

The remaining of the week revolves around Harriet and the series of events that her mother and herself engage in while her father is out at work. Events that took place include spending a day indoors because of horrible weather conditions, visits from various family members, going to the grocery store and spending the day downtown shopping and going to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Each event involved a well behaved young girl, who not once misbehaved.

Harriet and her mother eating dinner downtown. Illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright

This idea of a well-behaved young girl changed on Thursday. Harriet isn’t as behaved as he had been all week and her mother is not happy with her behaviour. She tells her mother that the reason why she is behaving naughtily is because of the book she had read, in which one of the characters was being naughty because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Harriet realizes that she is behaving naughty and apologizes to her mother. She tells her mother that she enjoys books of good people rather than books of naughty people. After her nap, they go to the library. Hunt includes the act of going to the library to show the significance of libraries and how important they are for children to visit. When they get home they play a game that makes Harriet realize that she will never be naughty again like she was that morning.

To end the story by having a day that is different than the others makes children realize that when you are a good person you do a lot more activities than when you are naughty. The moral of the story being that you should always be well behaved and never act mischievous. Essentially this children’s book promotes good behaviour in hopes that children will not act naughty and therefore there will be more peace in the world.

Production and Reception

The Riverside Cambridge and Houghton Mifflin Company published About Harriet. Henry Houghton originally started The Riverside Cambridge and in 1872, he entered a partnership with George Mifflin, thus creating the Houghton Mifflin Company (Dornbusch).

About Harriet was published a year before the United States entered World War One. Although it can be argued that Hunt wrote About Harriet with the possibility of America entering the war in mind, she wrote a book about a child that learns it is better to be good than bad in hopes that positive reinforcement of good behaviour would prevent future wars. Hunt believed that if a book promoted peace, there would less likely be future wars. This belief explains the production of About Harriet.

During this time period a lot of books about war were being published. About Harriet differed from most of the books because fighting and war were not included in Hunt’s children’s book. A month after About Harriet was published, it was advertised in the New York Sun under a listing of other children’s book that were also being published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. At the time About Harriet’s net price was $1.25. The book was well liked amongst parents and their children and was a favourite pick by children at bedtime.

The Purpose of Children’s Books During the First World War

America’s Entrance

Three years after World War One began, President Thomas Woodrow Wilson believed there was no alternative to war and declared America’s entrance in to the war in 1917. The Germans were the main reason for America’s entrance because of unrestricted submarine warfare. America’s ships were being bombed, leading to American merchant seaman and civilians being killed. This affected the American economy and caused the United States to join the Allies and invest a lot of money in them.  America believed that the only way to protect America’s financial investments was to join the war in hopes of a victory (Clements).

The entrance of America into the First World War instilled fear into many American citizens. While soldiers were preparing for war, parents at home were either worrying about their son fighting in a war or figuring out how they were going to explain to their children about what was going on in the world. This was seen as a prime time for the introduction of children’s books on war.  These books would give parents the materials they need in order to educate their children on what was happening.

Children’s Books on War

During war, it is not just the soldiers and citizens who suffer; children do too, even those who are not directly involved. Even if the child is not directly affected by the war physical or mentally, just simply worrying about the war can have a negative effect on children (Crowe).

How can children’s books on war be beneficial? Reading about war can lead to peace because today’s children are tomorrow’s adults. This idea of peace will benefit future generations. Good children’s books about war can inspire children to appreciate the sense of peace and realize the terror of war (Crowe). This inspiration can influence the children to cherish peace and promote it in order to prevent future wars.

Sustaining peace is not easy, but by having children’s books present the idea of peace reinforces that war can be avoided when people start to realize that foreigners and potential enemies are human just like they are (Crowe). Enforcing positive messages in children’s books can help create a brighter.

Harriet makes a friend at the beach. Illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright

The Message Behind Hunt’s About Harriet

Clara Whitehil Hunt was best known for her work with children’s literature services. When she thought about war only one word came to mind and that was ‘selfishness’. She explains this selfishness as wanting the power to control the minds and souls of men. She believed that the only way to get rid of war was to change human nature. A person’s human nature is a reflection of how they were brought up. If a child was told at a young age that it is important to fight for your country and it is your duty to, the child will grow up believing that you have no other choice but to join the army and fight in the war (Hunt). Therefore the only way to change human nature is to make sure children are being surrounded by positive behaviour. This is where Hunt believes children’s books are effective.

About Harriet involves a girl who behaves well, has perfect manners and never misbehaves. It is only on the last day of the week she decided to misbehave and mimic a behaviour she read in a book. However, this changes when Harriet quickly realizes that being bad is unacceptable and that it is better to be good than bad. Hunt includes this moral to educate children to always behave and that it’s better to be good than bad.

This moral also teaches parents that what their children reads influences the way that they behave. Harriet is around the same age as the children who are reading this book or who are having this book read to them, which allows the child to relate to Harriet. Children start to think that if he or she behaves well they will do all the exciting activities Harriet does. If everyone is good rather than bad it makes for a better world. Bad behaviour can create hate towards other people, which can lead to war. Hunt wants parents to read About Harriet to their children to promote positive behaviour, thus creating well-behaved children. Children believe what they have been taught by their elders.


Hunt states that we cannot afford to let children grow up without good books to read (Hunt). It is important to have these books available for children to read because the war can cause a lot of chaos, but with the help of positive reinforcement from children’s books there is hope for no future wars. Children are the future and it is up to today’s adults to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to create a world they would want to live in.

Link to About Harriet by Clara Whitehill Hunt  



Works Cited
Clements, Kendrick A. “Woodrow Wilson and World War I.” Presidential Studies
Quarterly 34.1 (2004): 62–82. Project Muse. Web. 20 Feb. 2014

Crowe, Chris. “Peace-Keeping Forces: YA War Books.” English Journal, High school
edition 89.5 (2000): 159–163. Project Muse. Web. 20 Feb. 2014

Dornbusch, Erin. “Riverside Press”. Industry in Cambridge. Web. 19 Feb. 2014

Hunt, Clara Whitehill. About Harriet. Illus. Maginel Wright Enright. Boston and New
York: Hougton Mifflin Company and The Riverside Cambridge, 1916. Children’s Literature Archive, Ryerson University. Print. –Link to the CLA Catalogue 

Hunt, Clara Whitehill. “The Child and the Book in War Times.” The English Journal 7.8 (1918): 487–496. JSTOR. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

“Just the Books For Boys and Girls From the List of Houghton Mifflin Company.” The
New York Sun 2 December 1916. Web. 20 Feb. 2014

War of the Classes: Essays Originally Written for Adults

© 2014, Shelly Koren, Ryerson University

war of the classes048


Jack London’s War of the Classes which is held in Ryerson University’s Children’s Literature Archive was published in 1905 by M. A. Donohue in both New York and Chicago. This set of essays discusses the urgency to dismantle the capitalist government in America and replace it with a socialist one, as the current government was not providing for its people. It is thus unusual that his essays are considered children’s literature, since they are highly opinionated, and do not abide by the conventional style of children stories of the time.

During the 1900s children stories were meant to entertain the readers, as they were taught morals through adventure. London followed this style quite closely which therefore led to his popularity, and his title of the first millionaire author in America (McAleer 1). Despite London’s popularity and income he was not satisfied writing for children, and attempted to market for adults as well. It can therefore be established that London’s War of the Classes was not initially advertised for children, as it does not adhere to the norm of story-telling. If London’s essays were not originally meant for a young audience one could assume that his writing was too radical, as the adult audience may have not been prepared for his debasing of a capitalist lifestyle.

War of the Classes

Jack London’s work of essays establishes why he became a socialist, and how it would ultimately correct the turbulence present in America. His work is therefore controversial unto itself, as his audience seems to be those who are comfortable in their capitalist state. This is evident as poor children and adults were less well read due to the rampant inequalities which were present during the 19th and early 20th century (Vinovskis 313).

London emphasizes the conflict that is apparent between the employee and the employer, as it was the employer’s interest to reject the needs of the worker. He accomplishes this through terms such as the tramp and the scab. He describes the tramp as someone affected by the lack of employment opportunities, and is therefore trapped in a perpetual cycle. London claims that the term scab is a worker who works harder than their co-workers but is still paid the same, or even less wage. London describes the consequences of becoming a scab, as they are never given the opportunity to advance in society. It is in the chapter “The Question of the Maximum” where he establishes that every social movement will have its peak and downfall, and that socialism will be the most suitable replacement for the capitalist system. London therefore diminishes his credibility as an adult author in America, as his text does not appeal to their government.

Once “The Question of the Maximum” comes to an end London establishes that his text was too radical for his audience. He claims that the text was originally written in 1898 but was rejected as the editor maintained that it was “too radical [in] nature, forfeited the sum paid for it, and did not publish it.  Nor, offered far and wide, could any other editor of bourgeois periodicals be found who was rash enough to publish it” (London).

Class War in America

During London’s lifetime there were social advances for the lower class population, which is evident through the persistence to create a ubiquitous education system. This was usually justified in order to protect the American society rather than helping the lower class economically (Vinovskis 317). Despite this, public schools became more common and adult illiteracy declined. By 1860 every child in Massachusetts, including those from the middle class were able to acquire some sort of education (Vinovskis 323). Although there were noticeable advances, there has been argument that public schools were specifically designed to propel the existing inequalities and to perpetuate the capitalist economy, as middle class children were given more attention than poor students in such classrooms. Different states approached the topic of education in various ways, as some only offered private high school education. As a result, one could realize that high schools were not designed for lower class children to acquire an education. There is argument that this was accomplished in order to perpetuate the inequalities between the classes, because it was assumed that the lower class would not share the same values and goals as the rich (Vinovskis 327).

The class war London discusses is researched by John Martin, who claims that the upper class did not value the poor, thus making a class war inevitable (512). He also asserts that concerns of the working class did not make it into congress, as there were few people willing to represent them (Martin 520). As a result, the issues had to be discussed through bills which were not usually acknowledged by party members. The only way to escape this war was through class consciousness, which is the when the working class people are aware of their position in society (Martin 513). Unfortunately this also did not diminish the discrepancies between the classes, as violence erupted between the classes in Colarado, Idaho, and San Francisco (Martin 515). This is the war London is facing, and the context of his essays.

Children Literature in the 1900s

London wrote most of his children stories between 1899 and 1907, and then later began to write for an older audience (Ward 92). In America London was incredibly famous for his children stories such as The Call of the Wind, The Sea-Wolf, and Martin Eden (Ward 92), as they abided by the norm of children stories during the time period. The guidelines of children’s stories are described by Mary Mapes Dodge, the editor for St. Nicholas Magazine, as she claims that children’s literature should entertain throughout the story (Ward 93). This illuminates the presence of the popular script of the hero and heroines who were good children with minor faults but also virtues. The most common plots were those where a child learned a lesson or saved the day, a theme which is not depicted in War of the Classes. London’s work of essays is further separated from the children literature genre which is highlighted by Dodge Magazine, as it distinguishes the reading material of adults and children: adults read informative periodicals, while children craved stories that were pleasurable (Ward 93).

This table represents what London refers to as the fight for financial superiority between American and the United Kingdom

London began writing for children because he was seeking a market for his work early in his career, which was given to him by the children’s magazines such as The Companion, St, Nicholas, and Holiday (Ward 92). Despite London’s aforementioned popularity, he did not think highly of his role as a children’s writer, but continued due to the money it granted him (Ward 93). It can therefore be extrapolated that London’s work of essays was not originally meant for children, as his stories rarely deviated from the norm. London’s work is further separated from the typical style of children’s literature due to its total lack of illustrations throughout the work of essays. Instead, these images are replaced with statistics and tables which establish the discrepancies between upper and lower classes. War of the Classes thus resembles Dodge’s description of adult magazine content, as it is informative rather than entertaining.


What is curious about London’s War of the Classes is the lack of articles regarding its reception, especially because his children stories were highly revered. Unlike his popular stories, his essays were difficult to research as I could find very few articles which explicitly mentioned the essays by name. One could therefore establish through the lack of reception and the aforementioned difficulty to publish the essays, that his work was too radical for his audience, thus diminishing its popularity. This is also clear through a newspaper article in the New York Times which was written in 1906, a year after London’s War of the Classes was available. While the article does not explicitly mention London’s essays, it portrays him in a radical manner due to the way he promotes his socialist ideologies. This is evident as the article references Yale professors who were anxious from his speech which expressed his opinion to deconstruct the bourgeois society (“Class War” 8).

Unlike the above article, London’s work of essays is explicitly mentioned in an article written in Vogue Magazine. In the article London is described as an acclaimed author for his classic children stories. It then goes on to explain his set of essays, and how it is an intriguing approach to society while also illuminating the holes in his argument. What is curious is how the column confesses that London is “economically […] rather shallow” (Harrison 790), as if to belittle his authority in the discussion of economics. In doing so, the article immediately allows their reader to negate London’s ideas. What is also significant is that Vogue reviewed his  essays, a magazine which was meant for the elites in society (Haye 129). One could therefore establish that London’s book was not meant for children, but instead for the elite individuals who frequented Vogue magazine; readers who were comfortable with their capitalist lifestyle.

London and Money

As already mentioned London was an incredibly famous writer in America due to his children stories. It is therefore curious that London complains about his income, which is evident in letters that he sends to Winston Churchill, as he requests to discover the rates Churchill receives for English and American magazines. One may consider this letter to be odd, as in 1909 his income from royalties was about $75000 (McAleer 4). London’s popularity as a children’s writer swiftly provided him with a significant sum of money. It can therefore be understood that London wanted his text to make the most amount of money as possible, which further separates the notion of War of the Classes from children’s literature. If his goal was to make money, London would not write a set of essays for children that was so dissimilar from what they were accustomed to.

Analysis and Conclusion

The ideological war that London reflects on in War of the Classes blatantly objects to the capitalist government in America by maintaining that it perpetuates rampant inequalities for the working class. It is thus unusual that London’s work is held at the Children Literature Archive, as his writing does not resemble the popular motifs which are commonly found in his children stories. The lack of articles regarding War of the Classes reception is thus understandable, as his work was too radical which was why it was not immediately published. One could assume that his writing was intended for a sophisticated upper class demographic, as he was referenced by both Yale professors and Vogue magazine, which promoted an elitist lifestyle. It is significant to note that money was incredibly essential for London, as it seems as though he is consistently looking for ways to acquire more. This also debunks the idea that his work is for children, as he wrote in a way that would compel his audience, as it promised him popularity and wealth. The War of the Classes is therefore a work of essays intended for adults, as it was opinionated and informative as opposed to entertaining.

 Works Cited

Link to War of the Classes

Link to CLA Exhibit

“Class War.” New York Times 1 Feb. 1906: 8. ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Harrison, Marie. “What They Read: War of the Classes.” Rev. of War of the Classes. Vogue May-June 1905: 790. ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Haye, Amy De La. “Vogue and the V&A Vitrine.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 10.1 (2006): 127-51. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

London, Jack. War of the Classes. Chicago/New York: M. A. Donohue, 1912. Print. Children’s Literature Archive: Ryerson University.

Martin, John. “Socialism and the Class War.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 23.3 (1909): 512-27. JSTOR. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Mcaleer, Joseph. “Jack London’s London Publisher.” Studies in American Naturalism 6.1 (2011): 1-24. Project Muse. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Titus, Warren I., and Jack London. “Two Unpublished Letters of Jack London.” California Historical Society Quarterly 39.4 (1960): 309-10. Jstor. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Vinovskis, M. A. “Schooling and Poor Children in 19th-Century America.” American Behavioral Scientist 35.3 (1992): 313-31. Scholars Portal. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Ward, Susan. “Jack London as a Children’s Writer.” Children’s Literature 5.1 (1976): 92-103. Project Muse. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.


The Probationer: Women and Romance in the Edwardian Era

© 2014, Christina Anto, Ryerson University

Probationer01 - Cover
Fig. 1. P.B. Hickling’s cover illustration and design for The Frantic Misfortunes of a Nurse, or, The Probationer, by A. M. Irvine


Amy Mary Irvine’s The Frantic Misfortunes of a Nurse, or, The Probationer is a romance novel published in 1910 by S.W. Partridge in London, England. Illustrated by the prolific, but little-known, artist Percy Bell Hickling (see fig. 1), it follows the story of a young woman’s ascent from the position of graceless and spoiled probationer to assistant nurse at a children’s hospital.

1910 also signals the end of the prosperous Edwardian era, an (approximate) decade of peace characterized by its shift away from Victorian morality and featuring the beginnings of Modernism. Britain’s entrance into the First World War in 1914 dramatically changed British economy and industry, and the roles of women changed with it. Both authors and readers of the Edwardian era were straddled between two perspectives, and the Great War changed this perspective into the Modern era.

The Probationer reflects Victorian ideas of femininity, maternity and romance. The novel is characteristic of popular Edwardian romance as it reinforces the ideal, but mandatory, behaviour of a woman as she enters adulthood. However, the novel also shows characteristics of the Modern, anticipating women’s rights by portraying an independent and gifted female protagonist’s professional and personal coming-of-age. The novel, like the Edwardian Era, straddles the past and the future and combines seemingly opposing sensibilities that reconciles the fantasy and the real.

The theoretical and historical context reflects on the reader of the novel. The Probationer had a young female readership a decade after its 1910 publication. The front inscription of the CLA’s copy indicates that the book was given to a young woman on her completion of

Fig. 2. Inside cover inscription. "Presented to Hilda Stebbins for Attending + Prep. of Lessons. March 14, 1919"
Fig. 2. Inside cover inscription. “Presented to Hilda Stebbins for Attending + Prep. of Lessons. March 14, 1919”

prep school lessons (see fig. 2). The societal context of the reader in post-war Britain would affect a reading of the novel, allowing a re-interpretation of the female protagonist that would foreshadow medical fiction, women’s rights and the rise of literary feminism.

The popularity of romance novels continued into the Edwardian era in their Victorian era form, and Edwardian perspectives of femininity were continuing Victorian ideas (Kullman 74). The Probationer, while a traditional Victorian formula romance, appears to have had a continued readership throughout the 20th century due to the copy’s inside cover inscription. The post-war reader differed greatly from the Victorian or Edwardian, and this longevity allows the book to be reinterpreted as a Modernist romance.

Summary of Contents

Probationer005 MESS TWO
Fig. 3. P. B. Hickling, “I whirled round at a muffled shriek from her” p. 57

The Probationer follows the story of an idle young woman from a wealthy family as she attempts to become a nurse. She envies an older family friend’s nursing occupation, and so she decides to become one herself. Her fantasies of rewarding, glamourous work are immediately dispelled upon her arrival, and the work proves to be gruelling and difficult. Her previous idleness is reflected in her ineptitude, and she drops pans, burns lunch, and endures all other sorts of mishaps that initially cause her to feel shame but contribute to her growing humility (see fig. 3). During these mishaps she begins to receive the teasing attention of the hospital’s leading doctor, Mr. Fleming. A fellow probationer tells her that Mr. Fleming is her fiancé, and Agnes is heartbroken until he refutes this claim. He confesses his love for her, and they decide to become engaged once she finished her term. The pro eventually receives the glowing compliments of her superiors, and decides to stay on at the hospital (fig. 4).

P.B. Hickling illustrates the six black-and-white plates included at key moments in the book. Each one shows Agnes Atherton at various moments in her journey from probationer to signed nurse.

Edwardian Era and Romantic Fiction

Fig. 4. P. B. Hickling, "I gazed at the fateful paper, and scrawled my name in the space indicated."
Fig. 4. P. B. Hickling, “I gazed at the fateful paper, and scrawled my name in the space indicated.” p. 177

The Edwardian Era is not exactly a literary era, and romance is not exactly a literary genre (Hynes 1). Critics are rarely in agreement to the definition of either, as the Edwardian Era extends to either 1910 or 1914 (Hynes 1), and definitions of romance are often reduced to a collection of features (McCracken 79). Virginia Woolf explains Edwardian literature as existing as a genre between genres (Hynes 9), and Edwardian romance novels straddled Victorian ideas of womanhood with the early shadows of Modernity (Hynes) and, ultimately, feminism. An Edwardian romance novel contained features of both prescribed Victorian propriety and the reinterpretation of femininity and womanhood of the war years and Modernity.

The Probationer quintessentially represents the features of a romance novel. Agnes is the perfect misunderstood heroine (the femme incomprise) (McCracken 78). Her object of desire (her fabula) is seemingly unattainable (barriers, or sjuzet). Only her ultimate acceptance of subordinate feminine to masculine authority allows her to overcome the barriers and receive her object of desire (McCracken 86), and she achieves this when she transforms into the idealized woman.

Agnes desires the love of Mr. Fleming, but it is also apparent that she desires acceptance and success in her profession. While her desire of the masculine authority figure is characteristic of the formula romance, Agnes’ self-actualization occurs outside of her romantic interests and this ultimately allows for a re-interpretation of the novel beyond Victorian tropes.

“Outer” Barriers to Love

Probationer03 - mr fleming
Fig. 5. P. B. Hickling, “He regarded me much as a naturalist might examine a new sort of animal” p. 160

The “outside” barrier to Agnes achieving her object of desire, Mr. Fleming, is Agnes’ fellow probationer Nurse Cotteril. Agnes’ peer confides in her that she is engaged to Mr. Fleming and this revelation sparks Agnes’ jealousy and passion for Mr. Fleming. Nurse Cotteril forbids Agnes from revealing this secret, citing a loss of position and stature for both herself and Mr. Fleming should their secret be exposed. Agnes’s jealousy thus has no outlet, and she translates this discontent into passive aggression towards her friend and Mr. Fleming (see fig. 5). Women are thus seen as competitive and spiteful, according to Victorian theories of biological determinism that explain the “natural” differences between men and women (Tanenbaum 60). Agnes, as the romantic heroine, is a representation of the typical, but imperfect, Victorian woman, and this imperfection is her sjuzet.

Agnes is also indiscriminate in her feelings, and these feelings translate into giddy and consuming preoccupation with her male object of desire. Rafford Pyke, in a 1901 treatise on “What Women Want in Men” explains that young, inexperienced women “flutter and blush” when the object of their affection is nearby, and that this is a distinctly British trait (46). Moving through her early years of maturity, the young woman is attracted to men of distinction, who inspire deference and admiration in their peers, rather than good looks (Pyke 47). As Agnes rarely comments on the attractiveness of her object of affection, her love for him appears to stem from his unattainability as both an engaged man and a learned doctor. The unattainability of Mr. Fleming underlies the conflict in the novel, and this conflict is mirrored in Agnes’ failure to be a proper, domesticated probationer.

Agnes’ Inner Conflict

Agnes’ “misfortunes” are also a feature of romantic fiction, as these represent an “inner” barrier to achieving her object of desire. She is the femme incomprise (Pyke 47), an identifiable and pitiable figure to the reader of a romance novel (McCracken 90). Agnes casts aside the traditional conventions of both the hospital and femininity by speaking her mind and displaying her ignorance. At first, these frank utterances are laughable, and her demands for the comforts of her previous life are juxtaposed with her domestic failure in the new setting of the remote children’s hospital. As she grows to be less demanding and more competent, her tactlessness becomes an endearing feature to the characters and the reader. By the end of the novel she receives praise from the head doctor, the head nurse, and her Mr. Fleming. This is the result of her transformation into the ideal woman while retaining her status as femme incomprise, the misunderstood woman that the reader identifies with.

These two barriers represent Agnes’ struggle to find love, which create the conflict in the novel. The barriers stem from her non-idealized feminine immaturity, and her maturation reflects contemporary ideas of the ideal woman in Victorian society.

Female Children’s Literature

Agnes’ barriers in the novel highlight the Victorian and Edwardian conceptions of girlhood, maturation and femininity. Pyke refers to young, maturing women as “young girls” as the stage of “young adulthood” did not exist as we know it today.

But children’s literature was a popular and surging genre of the time due to the growing acceptance of the child as a life stage and the rights of children expanding beyond the idea of required duty (Darton 299) The Victorian era abounded with classic, canonical children’s literature (Darton 293). Contemporary belief held that girls read more literature (Darton 305), and gift books were more often given to female children as novels were thought to be more accessible to girls (Darton 305). Tales for girls were written about adults, as girls were seen as more mature (Darton 305), and the stories took place in “adult” spaces. Darton calls this the shifting of the age curve, arguing that that girls grew up quickly in the Edwardian era.

World War One and Women in Britain

The onset of World War One for Britain definitively changed the remaining Victorian values of the early 20th century and ended the Edwardian era, and this impacted how women and children read literature after 1914.

Women began participating on the home front by supporting the men who went out to fight. The growing unequal gender distribution on home impacted the lives of children growing up in the early 1900s. Patriarchal lineage and household organization was questioned due to the lack of male adults in the home. This experience of young readers mirrors the experience of Agnes for multiple reasons. Agnes is transplanted into an intimidating occupation, and she is surrounded by women who offer little sympathy for her ineptitude and unfamiliarity with her new situation. Young readers would be suffering the loss of the familiar leadership of brothers and fathers, and The Probationer’s heroine is relatable in both her sudden loss of contextual familiarity.

As a nurse, she also represents the new representation of women in the workforce. Agnes leaves her home for her fantasy of noble work as a nurse, and has this fantasy replaced by a realistic, but still rewarding, occupation. Young women who acted as nurses were revered and romanticized, and those who read the book would also relate to the difficult, exhausting work that it was. However the book would still act as escapist fiction, since the nursing involves ill children, not war-torn soldiers, and it is not bloody or gory in any sense. It combines what McCracken explains as the romantic realism, the combination of real life into a romanticized and idealized setting. In this sense the novel still offers the satisfying children’s entertainment, but readers post-war would have engaged with Agnes’ profession in a unique way to readers of the Edwardian period.

She leaves the comfort of home for the noble cause, and this mirrors the showing of literature that says women should work outside of the home to support the troops. She believes in the noble cause despite the initially hard, unrewarding work, and its ultimate role in her happiness acts as propaganda for helping the nation achieve its war goals.

Probationer04 - coverside
Cover spine, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

Nursing itself becomes an interesting position of the book, as nursing was a popular and gendered occupation in the war.  The detailed aspects of nursing shown in the book foreshadows the rise of the genre of medical fiction.


The Probationer, as an Edwardian formula romance published on the cusp of the Great War, can be read as both a Victorian and a Modern novel, which prompts unique readings. As a product of the Victorian era, the novel can be seen as an affirmation of what was deemed to be proper women’s behaviour and the general role of a working woman in society. However, as the book was given to a young women in 1919, it can also be seen as a wartime or post-war story championing the independent heroine as she grows in her profession as a nurse.

Works Cited

Allen, Walter. The English Novel: A Short Critical History. New York:

Dutton, 1954. Print.

Darton, F. J. Harvey. Children’s Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 1932. Ed.

Brian Alderson. 3rd Ed. Newcastle: Oak Knoll, 1982. Print.

Hynes, Samuel. Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth

Century. London: Routledge. 1972. Print.

Irvine, Amy Mary. The Frantic Misfortunes of a Nurse, Or, The Probationer. London:

S. W. Partridge and Co., Ltd, 1910. Print.

Kullman, Thomas. “Constructions of History in Victorian and Edwardian Children’s

Books.” Ed. Anne Lawson Lucas. The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature.

Westport: Praeger, 2003. 73-80. Print.

McCracken, Scott. Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1998. Print.

Pyke, Rafford. “What Women Like in Men.” Ed. Susan Ostrov Weisser. Women and

Romance: A Reader. New York: New York UP, 2001. Print.

Tanenbaum, Leora. Catfight: Women and Competition. New York: Seven Stories P, 2002.


The American Girl on the Home Front in Jean Webster’s Dear Enemy

© Copyright 2014 Danielle Parris, Ryerson

In the Children’s Literature Archive (CLA), located on 111 Gerrard Street, the novel Dear Enemy is cataloged. This ‘Top 10 Best-Seller’ novel was written and illustrated by Alice Jane Chandler Webster, or otherwise known as Jean Webster. Published by Grosset and Dunlap, in New York in 1915, the novel is situated under the genre of Young Adult Fiction. Dear Enemy is included in the larger CLA exhibit Children’s Books and War, because it was published during the years of The Great War with a context dedicated to the education of young adults, particularly female adolescents.

America, in the early years of the Twentieth Century, was going through several changes and many cultural movements had taken over the American lifestyle and literature. The Progressive Era, the suffrage movement, Transcendentalism and The Great War were just a few campaigns of the early 1900s[1]. Though war had begun in 1914, Americans did not solely focus on the war, society was preoccupied with the various cultural transitions taking place. These times of reformation had great impacts on literature and thus writers of the period. Jean Webster was no acceptation, for the suffrage fight was one close to her heart, she was a student and advocator (qtd. in Phillips A.K. 68).

Webster, born in Fredonia, New York, had become known as an influential and clever writer for her era. She was a 1901 Vassar College graduate with progressive and social reform values. Webster supported the suffrage movement, studied Transcendentalism theorists and most of her novels centered on female voices and female communities, such as the college scene (Stoneley 77-79). Webster’s novels were often viewed and praised as a form of ‘new girl’ fiction or aiding to the ‘New Woman’ fight. This type of literature reinvented females as more than belonging to the domestic spheres. The ‘New Woman’ was a mother, daughter, educated, reformer and wife (“Webster, Jean”).

Dear Enemy is a novel that can be categorized under gender relations, feminine identity and the transformation of women roles out of the domestic sphere. This paper will take a critical approach on the production and reception of the context of Dear Enemy. How this context, is a product of the ever changing cultural ideals that focused on the education of young adult females during World War I and because of this it was so wildly received. The paper will look at the cultural and gender traditions of American that Webster was trying to break down, but also the notions of who an enemy is. The critical approach will be a combination of my own analysis and of the research found.

Dear Enemy022
This is from page six of the novel. Sallie has drawn what she believes her at the John Grier Home would look like.


Dear Enemy is an epistolary novel and the sequel to Daddy Long Legs. The story begins in Worcester, Massachusetts where Sallie McBride, a recent college graduate, is living her life as a frivolous socialite. One day, her dear friend Judy asks of her a monumental task. That is to be the temporary superintendent of the John Grier Home, an orphan asylum. Sallie feels her friends have gone mad, but after several alluring attempts what really pushes her over the edge is when Mr. Hallock, a politician and possible suitor, laughs in her face. McBride becomes determined to prove him wrong. She sets out to study orphanages, visits several and the journey begins. It is through trial and error that McBride comes to admit that this job was perfect for her.

On numerous accounts she struggles with the concept of how she will fill one hundred and thirteen little lives with the right amount of joy, love, and happiness. How will she teach them all to grow up to be respectable people in society? How will she find the right homes for these children? Sallie is constantly asking questions, figuring out how to better become an example to these children and socially reforming the world of the orphan. Obstacles and enemies (who tend to be men) who assert that she is too young, ill-educated, unprepared and unwilling to adopt to the old standard pose no threat.

In the end, McBride finds her own voice and becomes more aware of who she is and what she stands for. The once drifting Sallie is no more, she is now a self-aware women, with a career and proud of her independence. Romance is found in her relationship with Dr. MacRae. The doctor is her first enemy and first to question her authority but in due course, as they work together more closely and as the doctor continues Sallie’s education in the sciences, respect and friendship grows. The novel in all its wit, attacks gender, education and the social reform of dependent children. The illustrations are also an added touch of amusement.

Dear Enemy’s Context Production and Connection to Female Education

A photo of Jean Webster, taken from her alumni page on the Vassar College website.

Jean Webster was a product of her environment and was often known to be the type of writer who drew upon her own experiences and used her writing to advocate for what she believed. It was almost like a religion to her, to support female education, the women’s vote and the women’s right to social reform within society (Phillips A.K. 68). At Vassar, and several other women colleges, the courses were geared towards the social sciences, social work, sociology and economic field. Webster, in particular, was concerned about the social issues of dependent children, and how to best reform orphanages. She made herself an expert on the topic, studied and visited several asylums and knew the John Grier Homes very well (Phillips A 155).  Webster, was also very interested in the Transcendentalism movement, popular in the Civil War and the Great War (Phillips A 16).  It was an intellectual campaign that believed in the infinite goodness of humanity. Webster had studied transcendental theories and writings by Thoreau and Waldon; even using Thoreau’s emphasis on human work and nature dependency. She was one of the many authors to bridge transcendental improvements for children and adults (Phillips A 24).  During her studies at Vassar, Webster read the journal of Marie BashKirtseff, who was a Russian artist, and focused on the importance and interesting aspect a women’s account of daily life would have. When her work was translated into English, in 1889, a type of cult following had emerged in America. American women were now following in her foot prints and paying much more attention to the self (Phillips A.K. 70). Webster’s use of the epistolary novel came at a perfect time and went hand in hand with female education and voice. This style of writing was not uncommon to her, while she was in college she used to write a chatty column for the Poughkeepsie Sunday Courier. (“The Vassar Literary”). This chatty, comedic style of Webster’s carried on throughout much of her career and landed her first book deal.

Webster’s era was a time of great question, one in particular was the effects of college on women. Since the opening of women colleges in the 1860s-1870s, great tension arose and could still be felt even into the early 1900s (Phillips A.K. 67).  Many had written articles on the negative impacts of college on women, stating such things that women would no longer be in touch with their housewife nature, the tradition of domestication would be lost, women would become unfit to bear children and too much women in once place was never a good thing. The extreme arguments were that by women going to college, America was committing ‘race suicide’ (qtd. in Phillips A.K. 67). Webster, being a suffragist at heart, never missing an opportunity to advocate for women’s rights to education and the vote, it would make sense that she would answer such ridiculous accusations the best way possible. That way would be to create a novel, with a female protagonist, who is educated, concerned about social reform and could handle men, the so called “enemies” in the novel which Sallie must face. Grosset and Dunlap were also known to sell Dear Enemy for a reasonable price, usually advertised for $1.30. (Century Co.)

How Dear Enemy is received in Reviews and Scholarly Articles

During the Great War it was known that reading had become an escape from the devastation and hard times (Butler 100). Readers were looking for something fun, uplifting and comedic. Dear Enemy offered this to many readers. With her wit and charm, newspapers and critics alike noted that Jean Webster’s characters and illustrations were hilarious and refreshing in such times.[2] Besides being a distraction, others recognized the female empowerment and self-identity that Webster has encouraged and portrayed. Book reviews written in Vogue Magazine, conclude that Dear Enemy is a great book, not only humorous but what is really interesting and guaranteed to hold a reader, is the self-development of Sallie. Watching Sallie become her own woman is a great thing for women to read about and support.

Academically Dear Enemy has been seen as a heavy text, loaded with educational purposes. Incorporating domestic transcendentalism; which encouraged women to resist the government but also to confront, challenge, and call for social reform (Phillips A 25). Webster’s character, like most popular fiction of the time, encouraged the protagonist to leave home, in order to become the self-sufficient and self-identifying heroine (Berke 189). This is important because girls going off to college, to be educated and earn a professional career left home as well.

The article “Yours most loquaciously’: Voice in Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs”  written by Anne K Phillips, recognizes the power of the epistolary novel for expressing the feminine voiceThe epistolary genre, which was highly popular at the turn of the century (Phillips A.K. 65) has two categories; one erotic and the other educational.  This novel fits into the educational because it is focused on the further education of McBride but also of the orphans. The educational epistolary novel also tackled various settings and experiences, not commonly known, so that the larger public could be educated. Dear Enemy addresses the after college experience and even takes the reader into the politics of running an orphanage asylum. The epistolary genre is very important because when one character functions as the speaker, priority is given to that speaker’s perspective on experiences (qtd. in Phillips A 69). Sallie is given all the control, and in the end it is her voice that is reigns supreme.


Jean Webster was a writer who drew on the experiences of her environment and used that as a muse to publish a novel. This novel, Dear Enemy, has a rich context, containing, social, cultural and history aspects of American society in 1915. This novel was popular due not only to the comedic nature, illustrations and use of an escape; this novel touched on important movements and ideals, particularly concerning female education, which was an important in American society during the year 1915. This type of novel spoke volumes to what women, especially educated college women were capable of. Sallie came, once a giddy young thing and grew into a women. She runs an asylum, has a voice to be heard and defeated the male enemies who tried to inhibit her powers. Lastly, after a career is found, love is found with a man who respected her and her vocation. A novel that does all this, in the questionable years of 1915, is worth recognition.

Dear Enemy023
An example of the novels comedy. Sallie hopes that each child will be able to take a daily bath.


Works Cited

“Advertisement: Dear Enemy (Dear Enemy).” Vogue 46.2 (1915): 80. ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

“Advertisement: Century Co.” Vogue 47. 3 (1916): ProQuest. Web. 26. Feb. 2014

Butler, Pierce. Books and Libraries in Wartime. 1st ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945. Print.

Berke, Jacqueline. “‘Mother I Can Do It Myself!’: The Self-Sufficient Heroine in Popular Girls’ Fiction.” Women’s Studies 6.2 (1979): Print.

Haire-Sargeant, Lin. “American Girl to New Woman: Themes of Transformation in Books for Girls, 1850 1925.” Ph.D. Tufts University, 2004. ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Phillips, Anne K. “‘Yours most loquaciously’: Voice in Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs.” Children’s Literature 27 (1999): 64-86. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Stoneley, Peter. “PART 2: Fulfillment.” Consumerism and American Girls’ Literature, 1860-1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Online.

“What They Read: What They Read.” Vogue 47.6 (1916): 84, 86, 88, 90. ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Webster, Jean. Dear Enemy. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1915. Print.

“Webster, Jean – Oxford Reference.” N. p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Webster, Jean. “The Vassar Literary.” The New York Times. N.p., 21, Mar. 1915. Web. 26 Feb. 2014


[1] For a sampling of materials that touch on cultural movements, see Phillips A 12-17; Haire-Sargeant 5-6; Seller 108-111.

[2] For samples of newspapers and critics see Century Co.; Vogue Magazine; Phillips A 152.

Native Nostalgia in Cyrus Macmillan’s Canadian Wonder Tales (1974)

©Copyright 2014 Jamie Lee Morin, Ryerson University.

<em> Canadian Wonder Tales </em> cover page
Cover page of Canadian Wonder Tales 1974


In times of happiness and sadness, children always turn to stories of various genres to cope with the situations that they may be going through. 1974’s Canadian Wonder Tales: Being the Two Collections Canadian Wonder Tales and Canadian Fairy Tales Collected from Oral Sources, by Cyrus Macmillan and illustrated by Elizabeth Cleaver, continued the tradition of telling folk and fairy tales that did not necessarily originate in Europe. At the time of Canadian Wonder Tales’ initial publication in 1918, Cyrus Macmillan (1882-1953) went from teaching at McGill University to joining the 7th Canadian Siege Battery and edited it while serving on the front lines of Vimy Ridge in World War I (Macmillan xi). During such a period of traditional heroism, “… a generation [where] potentially brilliant writers, thinkers, and scientists was grievously decimated” along with many other able-bodied, brave people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country (Emberley 139). Thus, Macmillan was highly fortunate to have survived what must have been four years of turmoil overseas. Post-war, he was an editor and writer, with 24 works in 103 publications in four languages (Worldcat). Elizabeth Cleaver (1939-1985) is an illustrator who specialized in illustrating children’s books and was specifically attracted to fairy tales, myths and legends. She has collaborated with other writers for 38 works in 80 publications in two languages (Worldcat). She experienced her first rise to fame in 1971 for her illustrations in The New Wind has Wings before the publication of the 1974 edition of Canadian Wonder Tales (Jones and Strott 82).

Both Macmillan and Cleaver had a deep intrinsic interest towards Native culture and present Native culture respectfully. However, Macmillan does refer to these Aboriginal stories incorrectly in several instances by calling them “tales.” In Western culture that may be the case, however these are authentic stories in Aboriginal cultures. Despite that slight slip of appropriation on Macmillan’s behalf, both Macmillan and Cleaver demonstrate a cultural exchange between European and Aboriginal cultures with their works combined. The reasoning behind the collecting of these stories was to ensure that these stories did not die, but rather lived in a book for ensuring that these tales “from Canada’s romantic past” were not lost in “Canada’s practical present” (Macmillan 140). What is so interesting about this book is that it has been patiently waiting for perusal in the Children’s Literature Archive at Ryerson University, in Toronto, which are the traditional lands of the New Credit of the Mississaugas (Black, personal communication).

Summary of Canadian Wonder Tales

Illustration for "Glooskap's Country"
Illustration: “Glooskap’s Country”

This anthology of Canadian Wonder Tales (1918) and Canadian Fairy Tales (1922), published by The Bodley Head in London, and subsequently Toronto, are mainly comprised of Native folklore and legends that were given to Macmillan from Aboriginal tribes and settlers. His editing process gave each of these folktales a slightly European romanticist spin, or demonstrates slight assimilation of the tales to incorporate European fairytale motifs such as wands and ogres (Macmillan iv). For the sake of brevity I will only be discussing Aboriginal folk and fairy tales at length, such as Glooskap and the creation of certain traditions and insects. Glooskap’s tales in Macmillan’s anthology outlines a Mi’kmaq creation story (“Glooskap’s Country”), as well as many other tales where he changes the environment surrounding him. There are also other forms of the creation story with Glooskap being uninvolved, such as the creation of black flies and mosquitoes.


Both Canadian Wonder Tales and Canadian Fairy Tales were originally published separately in 1918 and 1922, and then republished as an anthology in 1974. The 1974 anthology of Canadian Wonder Tales contains the original copies from the original editions, with the only changes being the illustrator and publisher. In the previous editions, Canadian Wonder Tales was illustrated by George Sheringham and published by John Gundy. Canadian Fairy Tales was “illustrated by Marcia Lane Foster and published by John Lane The Bodley Head” (Macmillan iv). Both copies, like the 1974 edition, were initially published in London, England. The 1974 edition is the first time that the two books have been combined into an abridged copy. There is only one illustration by Cleaver per story.

Illustration to "Glooskap and the Fairy"
Illustration: “Glooskap and the Fairy”

Cultural Exchange in Production

In the foreword for Canadian Wonder Tales, William Peterson, his London liaison, markets Macmillan’s compilation as an enjoyable Christmas gift for the pleasure of children while still appealing to an adult audience (Macmillan ix-x). It is also interesting to note that both books were originally published and illustrated by non-Canadians, yet held a great following both in Canada and abroad (Edwards and Saltman 37). In the preface, Macmillan himself states the method that he has received the tales that were published in the 1918 edition, and thanks “the nameless Indians and ‘habitants’, the fishermen and sailors, ‘the spinners and the knitters in the sun,’” for sharing their tales with him (Macmillan xi). He also says in both prefaces that the basic skeleton of the story remains but there are slight changes (xi & 140). Macmillan also sensed an elegiac tone to the telling of these tales and worried about the future of what was then perceived as a “dying race” as a form of salvage anthropology (Jones and Strott 38). Of course, it is now known to not be the case, but rather quite the opposite – Aboriginal populations still thrives to this day.

In the case of Elizabeth Cleaver, her illustration style is basic beauty, through pressing image technique. In the 1974 edition she uses black ink on white paper in a way that is essential in style but not essentialist in presentation when it comes to the depiction of Aboriginal figures in the text. The method of illustration that she preferred was that of the collage. “The foundation of her illustrations was monoprints pulled wet from a glass plate to create … textually rich papers. She then transformed the papers through tearing, cutting, layering, and pasting [using many natural sources such as food skins, tree branches, barks and needles]” (Saltman and Edwards 36). Her normally rich-coloured illustration techniques were instead presented with black ink in the 1974 edition of Canadian Wonder Tales. She not only collaborated with this republication, but also collaborated with William Toye and the Oxford University Press Canada between 1969-1979 for introducing Aboriginal stories with texts, especially those that focused on Glooscap (Saltman and Edwards 42). Her usage of raw, organic materials seeks to pay homage to the elements of nature, which is a common practice in Native culture.

Reception, from 1918 to 1974

Illustration from "Rabbit and the Grain Buyers"
Illustration: “Rabbit and the Grain Buyers”

The two books were generally well-received at the time, coinciding with the end of the Great War in 1918. His works had continued popularity, even remaining in the 1940 edition of Books for Boys and Girls: Prepared at Boys and Girls House by the Toronto Public Library, nearly 20 years after the initial publication for Canadian Fairy Tales (1922). In the decade before this specific edition was re-released, there was a rise of interest in Aboriginal literatures. It was specifically marked with multiple changes in children’s literature in the world; specifically in Canada there was a rise in interest in Aboriginal traditions (Toye 120).

In the 1960s, the re-tellers of Aboriginal tales “were a group of non-Natives who in various books, and within a specific Indian group, undertook to give meaning, brevity and coherence to what appeared to be (in the non-native population) a large, unwieldy, fragmented, rough-hewn body of anecdotal material”; however, this did make the essential Indigenous legends be able to be interpreted by a wider audience, especially with the Natives beginning to recall and compile their own tales (Toye 121). Upon being republished as an anthology in late 1974, it received very good reviews and even made it into a “best Canadian books of 1974” review in The Globe and Mail. It was recommended to readers who “liked the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen and want something closer to home they’ll love this Bodley Head reduplication” (Montagnes). It was also popular enough to have selections be read out on the radio, with the tales being read at key times when children would be at home, such as bedtime or in the afternoons (Other 35 – No Title; Other 48 – No Title). This dictates a high popularity because selections from the book seeing as they were being read on the radio.

Native Stories, Children, and War

As mentioned in the introduction, Macmillan edited Canadian Wonder Tales on the front lines of Vimy Ridge. Initially, I was surprised that any soldier would have any time to do something unrelated to the conduct of war; however, I later discovered that it was not at all impossible. Besides war related duties, there extended periods of time with no action while you waiting for the enemy to make their move (Simonyi, personal communication). According to Bercuson’s book called The Fighting Canadians: Our Regimental History from New France to Afghanistan, any Canadian Forces member at war must keep a war diary, or an official record of the goings-on of the unit (159). Soldiers were also eager when it came to time off from fighting and off-scene duties (Granfield 13). This helps to draw the conclusion that Macmillan was indeed editing his compilation of the 1918 edition while serving at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. A final point is that seeing villages become eradicated by a war which was still being fought long after the Christmas of 1914 may have been the final action which made Macmillan start compiling these tales. He saw that Native culture was on the decline at that point and wished to preserve at least some of its folk and fairy tales merely out of a sense of nostalgia for pre-war times (Granfield 4).

Illustration for "The Bad Indian's Ashes"
Illustration: “The Bad Indian’s Ashes”

Despite some of his changes to certain aspects of the Aboriginal folk tales, he still remains highly faithful to the spirit of the presentation of these stories themselves (Egoff and Saltman 190). Folk and fairy tales tend to demonstrate a utopian period of time in which it was always “projected as a better time” (Haase 361). For instance, if we take Glooskap’s many tales that mention in the 1974 anthology, such as “Glooskap’s Country”, “Glooskap and the Fairy”, “The Passing of Glooskap” and “How Glooskap Made the Birds”, they all discuss elements of creation and recreation of the environment surrounding him. In “Glooskap’s Country”, Glooskap sails to Eastern Canada and his canoe becomes Newfoundland and the Acadian region. His twin brother, Wolf, was his enemies who had three allies. By the end of the story, Wolf and his allies are defeated by Glooskap. This cycle is repeated in every other tale with different circumstances, and it always ends with his triumph. This leads me to conclude that many of these tales selected from Macmillan’s total compilation were originally intended for Aboriginal warriors, especially pre-contact.

Haase suggests that beginning the tales with “once upon a time” or other variants such as time stamping the tale to a pre-contact era, creates an indifference to space and therefore gives an ambiguity of time to create an escape from wartime nightmares (363). As well, with such a massive and traumatic loss of life associated with the Great War, there was a great need for distraction though being filled with a significant “Other”, like Aboriginals in Canada, to fill the empty emotional hole left by this traumatic loss in European history (Emberley 108). The collection and publishing of these books not only coincide with wars, but also with the rise of interest in Aboriginal literatures, specifically folk tales. The initial publishing and republishing of the books occur with post World War I for the previous editions, and with the Vietnam War for this edition. Both the release and re-release can be considered a psychological coping strategy for those who were immediately affected by the trauma of war (Haase 366).

For instance, the tale “The Bad Indian’s Ashes” tells the story of a murderous Aboriginal man who had to be killed by his uncle in order to save many more lives; while this story is also the genesis of the black flies, it is also alludes to war, as like this antagonist, war continues to live on and be re-born long after we believe it to be over with. In this case, everyone would want to be like Glooskap or his allies, who demonstrate heroism and receive glory from defeating Wolf and his allies. Rather than demonstrating the destructive power of war, Macmillan demonstrates heroism and glory through his adaptations and selections in these two books. Native nostalgia also returns in waves with these publications; this edition, rather than be culturally insensitive, instead demonstrates a culture exchange between two different cultures, as they both have connections with war (Hearne 523).


Hearne says that “every story … is a memory swap” and Macmillan, as well as Cleaver through her masterful illustrations, ultimately respected Native tradition and left vital pieces of folklore as they stood (525). These stories, passed down through generations, were teachings for Aboriginal children who became warriors. They always evoke a sense of pride in culture for Aboriginals. For non-Aboriginal children, it is a collection of tales that they can relate to and employ as a distraction from the effects of war. Something of similar caliber can also be said for Macmillan’s compilation of tales; much like the Great Chiefs of times past (and present), the printed work engages children to encourage them to be heroic like the soldiers who just came home from War. In essence, while this text uses Aboriginal culture as a means of a distraction from the losses incurred by war to attempt to answer the reason why war happens. The premise of the stories also demonstrates that fighting happens and that you must triumph for the benefit of others.

Further Reading and Download Options

1. Canadian Wonder Tales , with illustrations by George Sheringham (1918)

2. Canadian Fairy Tales with illustrations by Marcia Lane Foster (1922)

Note: If you wish to download a pdf version of these texts, simply doubleclick on the hyperlinked book title and it will bring you to the page, with download options on the left-hand side.

Videos – A Mi’kmaq Creation Story © by Migmawei

“Tan-Wet-Abeg-Sol-Teagw: Where We Come From” Presented by the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Part 1

Part 2

These videos cover the World and Glooskap’s Creation story, which is a small but slightly expanded version of what is present in Cyrus Macmillan’s compilation.

Works Cited

Bercuson, David J. The Fighting Canadians: Our Regimental History from New France to Afghanistan. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2008. Print.

Black, T. Personal Communication. 20 March 2014.

“Cleaver, Elizabeth 1939-1985.” WorldCat Identities. N. pag., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Edwards, Gail, and Saltman, Judith. Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Print.

Egoff, Sheila A, and Saltman, Judith. The New Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Canadian Children’s Literature in English. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.

Emberley, Julia. Defamiliarizing the Aboriginal: Cultural Practices and Decolonization in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Print.

Granfield, Linda. Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2001. Print.

Haase, Donald. “Children, War, and the Imaginative Space of Fairy Tales.” The John Hopkins University Press. 2000. pp. 360-377. ProQuest. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Hearne, Betsy. “Swapping Tales and Stealing Stories: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Folklore in Children’s Literature.” Library Trends, 47(3). 1999. pp. 509-528. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

“MacMillan, Cyrus 1880-1953.” WorldCat Identities. N. pag, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

MacMillan, Cyrus. Canadian Wonder Tales: Being the Two Collections Canadian Wonder Tales and Canadian Fairy Tales Collected from Oral Sources. London: Bodley Head, 1974. Print. Children’s Literature Archive: Ryerson University.

Montagnes, Anne. “Behold the Ultimate Virtue.” The Globe and Mail (1936-Current). 7 Dec. 1974. ProQuest. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

“Other 35 — No Title.” The Globe and Mail (1936-Current) 24 Jan. 1975. ProQuest. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

“Other 48 — No Title.” The Globe and Mail (1936-Current) 17 Jan. 1975. ProQuest. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Saltman, Judith, and Gail Edwards. “Elizabeth Cleaver, William Toye, and Oxford University Press: Creating the Canadian Picturebook.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 42(1), 2004. pp. 31-64. Google Scholar. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Simonyi, S. Personal Communication – Email. 27 March 2014.

Smith, Lillian H. Books for Boys and Girls: prepared at Boys and Girls House. 2nd edition. Toronto: Toronto Public Libraries. 1940. Print.

Strott, Jon C, and Raymond E Jones. Canadian Children’s Books. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

Toye, William, ed. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print.  

An Emphasis on Ideals in About Harriet

© Copyright 2014 Alyssa Whitmell, Ryerson University

Introduction and Approach
The First World War, although centralized in Europe, was nonetheless a global war. America declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917 on the side of the Allied Powers. Before this declaration, there was an emphasis on neutrality towards the war as American’s were told to be “neutral in thought as well as in action” (Zeiger 7). Contrary to Clara Whitehill Hunt’s support of neutrality and positivity in children’s literature there is evidence of an emphasis on gender roles, racism, and social class in her book About Harriet. Therefore, the intent of this exhibit will be to analyze this book in relation to Hunt’s perspective on war and children’s literature in order to gain an understanding of the ideals that are emphasized in About Harriet. 

Cover page of Clara Whitehill Hunt’s  About Harriet Illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright

 About Harriet is a children’s book that was published in Boston, Massachusetts during 1916 by the Houghton Mifflin Company. It is not specified where the book is situated, however, it does mention that the main character lives in a big city. Harriet, a three year-old girl, is the main character of this book. It is composed of seven short stories making up this 152-page book. These seven short stories follow how Harriet spends each day of the week as well as the different activities she does and people she sees. Through Hunt’s writing and story telling she emphasizes the role of women in the house hold and portrays the care free life style of the upper class which creates high social status as an ideal for her readers. She also attempts to portray slavery as comedic and portrays Italians as lower class citizens causing her text to appear racist.  Additionally, this is not only shown through Hunt’s writing, but through Maginel Wright Enright’s illustrations as well. Through these illustrations Enright illustrates Harriet’s day-to-day life, which in turn, portrays certain ideals that are also emphasized in this book.

Clara Whitehill Hunt (Left) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Brownsville Children’s Branch at the Brooklyn Public library along side the Chief Librarian Milton J. Ferguson (Centre) and branch librarian Mrs. DeGogorza

About the Author
Hunt was born in 1871 in Utica, New York, and is best known for her work in establishing children’s rooms in libraries (Miller 106). She is considered to be a pioneer of library services to children through her training of children librarians and her passion for quality and positive literature (Miller 106). Although Hunt is known for her library services, she actually started out as a principle at a small primary and kindergarten school where she became passionate about the role libraries could play in a child’s education. It is with this enthusiasm she decided to become a librarian (Miller 106). She went on to graduate from the New York State Library School at Albany in 1898, later becoming the Superintendent of work with children at the Brooklyn Public Library in 1903 (Miller 106). In this position her main objective was to make libraries accessible and engaging for children, resulting in the opening of the world’s first children’s library in 1914 (Shope). Hunt retired in 1939 and moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts where she passed away on January 11, 1958 (Miller 106).

Hunt wanted a positive environment where children could receive knowledge that was free from propaganda and negativity. She published few children’s books but many articles on the topic of children’s literature and the war. Specifically, her article The Child and the Book in Wartimes focuses on the topic of children’s books and the war in relation to the influence that positive literature has on children over negative literature. Due to the fact that children are extremely observant and retentive, Hunt explains, the best way to remove the bad in children is to fill them with good (Hunt 495).  In this context Hunt is referring to the negative thoughts that children retained during the war, such as hatred towards other countries, which she believes can only be fixed if libraries are filled with positive literature to properly educate children on the war (Hunt 494). If this does not happen, she states, there will indefinitely be future wars. Ultimately, it is evident that Hunt was aware of the influence literature has on children and the important role it plays in society as well.

As well as being passionate about writing, Hunt was also interested in the influence that illustrations have on children. In her book What Shall We Read to the Children? Hunt suggests that illustrations contribute to a child’s growth. She also mentions that some parents are guilty of stunting their children’s mental growth through only showing them illustrations that they find amusing rather than educational and interesting (Hunt 43). Due to the fact that at a young age children begin to imitate what they see, it is crucial for children’s books to contain images that are not only educational, but positive as well (Hunt 43). Therefore, it is evident that Hunt shares a similar view in regards to the illustrations in children’s books as she does to the writing, and the commonality between these two mediums is positivity.

About the Illustrator and Illustrations
Illustrator Maginel Wright Enright created all of the images in About Harriet. Enright is also known as Maginel Wright Barney and was born on June 19, 1881 in Massachusetts, U.S.A (Calvin and Deacon 77). Along with illustrating children’s books she also painted landscapes and wrote multiple books.

Harriet shopping with her Mother in  About Harriet -Illustration by Maginel Wright Enright

Enright’s images in About Harriet are mainly coloured, however there are also black and white images as well. In relation to Hunt’s opinion on illustrations in children’s literature, none of the images are offensive or degrading, and are relatively positive for the reader. However, they do emphasize social class, whether intentional or not. For instance, there are multiple images that portray Harriet wearing fancy dresses, playing with her doll Florella May, going to church, running errands and completing chores with her mother. This signifies that the intended audience was likely children in the middle or upper class as all of the characters are dressed well and Harriet is shown owning nice toys which could not be afforded by those in the lower class.

There is also an emphasis on gender roles that can be seen in Enright’s illustrations. During the release of this book there began a shift towards women doing men’s work, which is not evident in About Harriet (Padavic and Reskin 62). Instead, the images enforce the role of the female as being nurturing and motherly. Harriet’s mother is shown wearing an apron cooking and taking care of children while Harriet herself is shown dressing and caring for her doll. This emphasis on gender roles in Enright’s images ignore this shift in gender roles evident at the time of this books release.

Racism, Gender Roles, and Social Class in About Harriet
Contrary to Hunt’s belief in positivity and lack of discrimination in children’s literature, there is evidence of racism in About Harriet. For starters, every character in the book is Caucasian, and there is also reference to slave owning in the text. Harriet’s father calls the apartment where her Aunt Douglas lives “the plantation” because when she lived in the South she used to live on a cotton plantation with her Black Servant, Linda (Hunt 74). Harriet laughs at this, giving the topic of slavery a comedic tone in the book. Additionally, there is reference made to Italians as being uncleanly. When describing the Sarrachino family who own a shoe store, the narrator describes them as being, “… the cleanest Italians in the whole school” (Hunt 98). This implies that Italians are generally dirty, and are therefore are represented as being of a lower class than Harriet and her family. Evidently this contradicts Hunt’s belief in good literature for children as both of these examples create a division between races and causes one to be idealized over others.

Harriet’s mother taking care of children in  About Harriet -Illustration by Maginel Wright Enright

There is an emphasis on gender roles in the book, especially the role of women in the household. Harriet takes care of a doll, cooks, cleans, and spends the day with her mother while her father works to financially support the family. When her father gets home from work, dinner is prepared and ready for him to eat. When America entered the war there was a switch in gender roles as women took on many of the roles of men (Padavic and Reskin 62). This emphasis on gender roles could be a way to prevent this from happening and keeping the structure of society the same as it was before the war. It also could simply be a way to get children to forget the war by giving them a purpose or getting them to remember how life was like before the war. Regardless, this emphasis on gender roles is clearly evident in About Harriet and when compared to Hunt’s desire for positive literature it can be assumed that this emphasis was positive and to benefit society.

Social Class is emphasized in About Harriet through the leisurely lifestyle represented in the text. Harriet spends most of her day with her mother doing chores around the house, running errands, or playing. Her mother is a stay at home mother and there is no sense of social struggle in the book. Nothing negative ever happens, except for in the final chapter when Harriet wakes up in a bad mood and angers her mother and father. However, when this happens Harriet remembers how she is supposed to behave and although she still feels upset, she behaves the way she is supposed too. This emphasizes the perfect appearance and behaviour that is associated with the upper class. Therefore, it is evident that this book was made for children who belong to either the middle or upper class.

The Houghton Mifflin Company published About Harriet in 1916. Centralized in New York City, Houghton Mifflin Company largely published textbooks, instructional books, assessments, and other educational material for schools and colleges (Houghton Mifflin Company).  However, this changed during the war to publishing fictional works, specifically literature that was considered non-credible (Houghton Mifflin Company).  This is due to the leadership of its Anglophilic editor-in- chief who avidly supported the Allied war effort (Houghton Mifflin Company). Their credibility was further questioned when the company began working with Wellington House which was the propaganda division of the British Foreign Office (Houghton Mifflin Company). This gained the company a negative reputation among scholars. Additionally, the company was largely conservative and shared their beliefs in the literature they published (Houghton Mifflin Company). Ultimately, Hunt’s book About Harriet met the standards and ideals held by Houghton Mifflin Company which gave them a negative reputation, making it clear that Hunt did not create a book to the standards she was looking for in children’s literature.

Concluding Thoughts
It is no doubt that children are easily influenced. This is what makes literature a powerful resource in teaching children what is right and wrong. Hunt is aware of the power of literature, claiming in her article The Child and the Book in Wartimes that the only way to end future wars is to give children positive literature free of propaganda (Hunt 495). However, this contracts the image that the Houghton Mifflin Company carried during the time of their publication of About Harriet. These two contradicting beliefs are nonetheless irrelevant as through an analysis of Hunt’s book it becomes clear that it does not follow the same standards that she desired in a children’s book. Whether this was intentional or not, it is clear that Hunt’s emphasis on gender roles, race, and social class play a major role in About Harriet.

Link to About Harriet
Link to About Harriet in CLA

Works Cited

“Houghton Mifflin Company.” International Directory of Company Histories. N.p.: n.p., 2001. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <>.

Hunt, Clara Whitehill. About Harriet. Illus. Maginel Wright Enright. New York: Houghton, 1916. Print

– – -. “The Child and the Book in War Times.” English Journal 7.8 (1918): 487-96. JSTOR. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

– – -. What Shall We Read to the Children? New York: Houghton, 1915. Print.

Miller, Marilyn Lea. “Clara Whitehill Hunt.” Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth: A Biographical Dictionary. Ed. Miller. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2003. 106-07. Print. Padavic, Irene, and Barbara F. Reskin. Women and Men at Work. 2nd ed. London: Sage, 2002. Print.

Shope, Leslie. “Pioneering Children’s Services.” Brooklyn Public Library. Brooklyn Public Library, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <>.

Zieger, Robert H. Americas Great War: World War I and the American Experience. Lanham: Roman and Littlefield, 2000. Print.

Children At the Homefront in Edith Lelean Groves’ Saluting the Canadian Flag and The Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmerettes

(A Dramatic Drill)
Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmettes by Edith Lelean Groves
(A Patriotic Exercise)
Saluting the Canadian Flag by Edith Lelean Groves












© Copyright 2014, Matteo Cianfrone


The First World War was a time of sacrifice and distress.  Families across the globe faced the ever-increasing anxiety of never seeing their loved ones again.  In Canada, however, the aim to suppress these daunting thoughts were subdued through the use of literature.  In 1917 and 1918 the All Canadian Entertainment Series presents Edith Lelean Groves’ dramatic drills, Saluting the Canadian Flag and The Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmerettes.  The two paper-back plays were both published in Toronto by McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart Limited.  The books are held in the Children’s Literature Archive at Ryerson University and are in incredible shape considering the books are almost one hundred years old to date.

Who is Edith L. Groves?

Edith Lelean Grove
Edith Lelean Grove

Born in Cheltenham, England on January 22, 1870, Edith Sarah Lelean moved to Canada at a very young age.  Educated in Toronto, Edith Lelean was very involved in the school system and eventually became a teacher herself.  She taught at Ryerson School where she met her future husband, the school principal, William Edward Groves.  After their marriage, she took her husband’s name and became Edith L. Groves.  After being actively involved for a decade on the board, as a trustee, her admirable dedication to education led to an eventual Toronto District School Board chairmanship in 1929 (The Globe).  This was the first time a woman had ever received this position.  She was well respected by her peers and when Edith passed away on October 17, 1931 she received a great number of accolades for her accomplishments. In a Globe article, the chairman at the time spoke highly of Groves stating, “Canada has lost one of its greatest friends of childhood.”

During her days as a teacher, Edith L. Groves was also a writer.  Before World War I, Groves authored a five-volume series of school drills for children to partake in at school (Gerson).  However, she was again inspired in the late World War I years to revisit her writing ways.  Why?  As stated before, World War One was a time of anxiety and great sacrifice; this was no different for Edith L. Groves.  By 1916, she had already lost one stepson at Passchendaele and the other was badly injured in the Battle of the Somme.  However, her greatest heartbreak was in 1917 when she lost her husband (Gerson).  To deal with the pain, she turned to writing.  She continued to write drills and exercises for Canadian schools to perform.  Somewhat inspired by sorrow, Groves wrote sixteen drills during the war years; four in 1916 and seven in 1917 alone (Gerson).  Two of sixteen drills are the ones I will be visiting in this paper.

Intentions/Receptions of Edith Groves’ Drills

 The first patriotic drill in Canada was presented in 1899, during Canada’s first Empire Day in Toronto.  Empire Day was an annual in-school event that promoted loyalty to Canada through a series of presentations, speeches, or (in this case) drills.  The exercise proved to be a success and caught on like wildfire.  It became a tradition in every Empire Day celebration.  The patriotic exercises “required the child to operate not as an individual but as part of a group – good preparation for becoming a loyal citizen and a reliable soldier” (Fisher 13).  Thus, these drills did not only put pride in Canadian hearts, but prepared the children for battle.  The drills would cultivate the habit of following the word of command and foster military preparedness.  The drills became so important within schools, that it became mandatory for all teachers, across the nation, to acquire a certificate in drills as a prerequisite, before getting their license (Fisher 14).  The patriotic maneuvers collectively united a group of children in the hope of one day unifying a battalion in the army.

Boys and Girls in No Man's Land: English-Canadian Children and the First World War by Susan Fisher pg.17
Young Canadian boys practicing drills

Groves’ publications were directed exclusively towards teachers and students.  Both Saluting the Canadian Flag and Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmettes are advertised in publications like the Western School Journal.  This was a book handed out to students and teachers within the School Board of Winnipeg.  Sold at 15 cents per book, the Western School Journal includes each grades curriculum, a schedule for classes the next year, as well as the name of graduates.  Therefore, Groves’ drills were advertised so both students and teachers alike would purchase them.  In addition to advertisements for school drills and exercises, the publication includes advertisements for “Loose Leaf Notebooks” and “Books for Teachers” (Western School Journal).  This would suggest that Groves’ drills were exclusively written to be performed in schools.  The lack of reviews on the play would prove that these plays did not make it outside of the school walls.  Unfortunately, Groves’ drills stayed out of theatres and resided within the classrooms to boost school patriotism amongst the children (as opposed to an older, grander audience).

Groves understood that children, during the depressing years of World War One, had very little to be happy about.  Fathers, mothers, siblings, and friends were going overseas to never be heard from again.  Groves understood this, she experienced it herself.  One of the most admirable traits possessed by Groves was, although she experienced the worst of the war’s grievances, you would never see it in her writing.  Her bitterness towards war, along with her experience of death, was never reflected in her books.

Groves, instead, used her drills in an effort to lift the spirits of these depressed Canadian children.  In Edith L. Groves’ Soldier of the Soil and the Farmerettes, she explicitly states, “This little Exercise, or Playlet, or Drill … is arranged to deal with the present situation in Canada” (Groves 1).  Groves goes on to indicate the clear intentions of this drill.  Groves states:

In giving this number at your Sunday School, or Young People’s Entertainment, bring all the fun out of it that is possible, for we all know that just at present this world has troubles enough of its own, and any one who can make an audience laugh with genuine, wholesome fun is doing the world a service. (Groves 1)

Groves shows her clear objective in the opening statements so that teachers are well aware that this is to be an uplifting exercise for the students.

Edith L. Groves’ in her other exercise, Saluting the Canadian Flag, focuses on another aspect of the war, patriotism.  Groves assures the teachers that the students must not be lifelessly going through the motions.  Instead, the students are expected to take on the responsibility their role entails.  They are expected to mean the words they speak, they are expected to relate to their part in the drill.  If they truly mean what they are acting out, the expectation is that this will feed their national pride.  Groves states that “As Canadians we have done far too little of this” (Groves 3).

Duties at the Homefront

“Canada entered the war quite unprepared militarily and economically” (“The Homefront”).  Not only was Canada lacking soldiers, but they were also lacking workers when their men travelled overseas.  In order for Canadians to compensate, volunteers were essential towards the Allies success in World War I.  Many organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., and a variety of Woman institutions made it possible for Canada to recover for their lack of preparation.  The volunteers were able to offer their time and energy to raise money, provide food, or produce any necessities the troops needed overseas. (“The Homefront”)

On July 1915, Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, increased the Canadian Expeditionary Force to 150,000 men.  Noticing the military commitment was increasing, Borden raised it again to 500,000 men by July 1916.  (“The Homefront”)  As the conscription numbers increased, the age of those being conscripted decreased.  By the year 1917, workers began to debate against conscription.  Workers pleaded that Borden exempt their sons from conscription due to the high demand for supplies during wartime.  Borden, who was desperate for worker’s (more specifically farmers) votes in the next election, obliged to their request (“Life at Home During the War”).

Soldiers of the Soil Badge
Soldiers of the Soil Badge

With the success of the conscription debate, the young sons were able to assist with the labour shortages.  The most deprived were farmers.  “Soldiers of the Soil” (SOS) was a national initiative run by the Canadian Food Board.  This project compelled children to become involved in the food production that was sent to the Canadian troops overseas.  As oppose to “soldiers” who would fight in the trenches, the SOS would contribute to the war effort through their manual labour in the fields.  Edith Groves perfectly portrays this in Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmerettes by having the children sing:

We cannot fight in a trench.  Canadian children can’t handle Bayonet, musket, or gun.  What can we do in this struggle to help to conquer the Hun? … we can do our best to keep up the food supplies for the Allied armies and our own dear boys overseas.  And we are doing it by planting our gardens and helping our farms. (Groves 15)

These “soldiers” were typically young adults, aged thirteen to eighteen, who were now assigned greater responsibilities in their household.  Just fewer than 22,400 young men across Canada accepted the responsibility of “Soldiers of the Soil”.  Most these boys came from urban schools to live on rural farms for three months or more.  These “soldiers” were rewarded for their efforts.  Rewards included money, exemption from classes, in addition to a “Soldiers of the Soil” badge recognizing their services (Life at Home During the War).

A horse-drawn cart carries Farmerettes during 1918 Victory Loan and Bonds Parade in Montreal

However, the most prominent of these volunteers were women.  By 1917, 30,000 women were involved in factory jobs.  Those in the farm fields were known as the “Farmerettes”.  Similar to the “Soldiers of the Soil” campaign, the Farmerettes were responsible to replace the men lost in military service and assist in farm work.  The Farmerettes were initiated by the Farm Service Corps and created labour never before experienced by women in Canada.  The efforts by the SOS and the “Farmettes” are what led to the overall Canadian success in World War I (“Life at Home During the War”).

Edith L. Groves was obviously inspired by these two initiatives.  Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmettes is a drill meant to recognize the Canadian volunteers, as well as, encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

“Rest no more my laddie, for food we must supply to the boys “over there” who are driving back the Hun Who are ready both to dare and die.” (Groves 15)

Attitudes at Home

As the war years dragged on, Canadians recognized that the nurturing of their children would prove to become important.  The children were growing up in a period of war, and their teachings must be altered to address this.  Canadian exercises at home consisted of day-to-day military driven behaviors.  Children were not only expected to be on their best behavior, but were also expected to view their mother as a ‘commanding officer’.  As the commanding officer, the children were required to follow their mothers command as well as salute her.  These standard military-like references immersed the children in an environment motivated by soldier-like customs.  This nurtured a soldier even though they were far removed from the battlefield. (Fisher 6)
Saluting girl during WWI

The saluting didn’t only stop at home.  Edith L. Groves’ Saluting the Canadian Flag demonstrates patriotic practices weren’t limited to the household.  “I call upon you boys and girls of Canada to step out each in turn and salute the Canada Flag” (Groves 7).  In doing this, students collectively identify Canadians “have good cause to honor and love [Canada]. As you come forward, tell us why this Flag, above all others, is the one you salute” (Groves 7).  After this, the students state their love for the Canada, explicitly spelling out why they love this country.

J.S. Gordon, a school inspector in Vancouver, states that students within the public school system have high spirits and a desire for service.  Gordon assumes that the explanation is superior teaching.  He compliments their desire to encourage patriotism and considers it to be truly heroic.  Susan Fisher, the author of, Boys and Girls in No Man’s Land, adds that during World War I at that time, the children did not find these war efforts as “onerous or burdensome” (Fisher 37).  But, in fact, they “were exciting social occasions” (Fisher 37).  Thus, Gordon and Fisher praise teachers like Edith L. Groves.  Through her drills, Groves was able to properly cultivate patriotism within the school community.  Teachers were able to make patriotism appealingly enough so the children weren’t just ‘going through the motions’.  They actually supported the lessons being taught.  Gordon and Fisher conclude that the children genuinely enjoy the drills and acknowledges the teachers for their efforts. However, there was no teacher more influential and dedicated to this endeavour than Edith L. Groves.

Work Cited

“Cause Of Education Loses Firm Friend As Mrs. Groves Dies: First Woman Chairman of Toronto School Board Passes Known Also For Poetry Trustee Dies.” Globe and Mail [Toronto] 19 Oct 1931, n. pag. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Farming and Food.” Canadian War Museum. Canadian Culture Online of Canadian Heritage. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.

“The Children’s War.” Canadian War Museum. Canadian Culture Online of Canadian Heritage. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.

“The Home Front.” Where Duty Leads: Canada in the First World War (2008): n.p. University of Toronto Library. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.

“The Western School Journal” Western School Journal Co. 13.2 (1918): 52. Web. Feb 20, 2014.

Cherry, Zena. “Publishers celebrate 75 years.” Globe and Mail [Toronto] 10 Jul 1981, n. pag. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

Fisher, Susan. Boys and Girls in No Man’s Land: English-Canadian Children and the First World War . Toronto: University of Toronto Press , 2011. eBook.

Gerson, Dr. Carole. “Canada’s Early Women Writers :: Edith Lelean Groves .” Simon Fraser University Library . N.p.. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. <>.

Groves, Edith Lelean.  Saluting the Canadian Flag (A Patriotic Exercise).  Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1917. The All Canadian Entertainment Series. Print.

Groves, Edith Lelean. The Soldiers of the Soil and the Farmettes.  Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1918. The All Canadian Entertainment Series. Print.

Smyth, Jamie. “Towering Symbols of First World War’s Contribution to National Identity.” Irish Times: 11. May 29 2007. ProQuest. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.

Cautionary Tales for Children : The Return of the Edwardian Child in WWI

© 2014 Christina Ford, Ryerson University

Interior Cover (Original Publication)
Interior cover in 1907 publication of Cautionary Tales for Children.


Cautionary Tales for Children is 79 pages of light verse each decorated with drawings, written by Hilaire Belloc and illustrated by Basil Blackwood (B. T. B.). This book was published in London by Duckworth and Co. This particular publication of Cautionary Tales for Children was published during the final year of WWI in 1918, although it was republished many times both before and after this date. The First World War (1914-1918) is of great significance to Hilaire Belloc’s writing, he produced numerous works both during the war and on the subject of the war.


Cover of CLA Catalogue's copy
Cover of Children’s Literature Archive’s 1918 publication Cautionary Tales for Children‘s ,

The war had an even larger influence in Belloc’s personal life with the loss of many of his loved ones. Blackwood, the illustrator of  Cautionary Tales for Children and long-time friend of Belloc, died in the war in 1917 (De Fontenoy 6). A year later in 1918 Belloc’s son Louis went missing during a bombing and was eventually assumed to be dead, his body having never been found (Speaight 372). It is likely that these two deaths, and the impact of the war in general, had an influence on the decision to republish Cautionary Tales for Children in 1918. The work that Belloc produced during the war were all historically and sociologically focused (Speaight 541) and Cautionary Tales certainly contains a much more lighthearted and humorous tone.



Franklyn Hyde & Uncle
Image from the tale of Franklyn Hyde in Cautionary Tales for Children


Cautionary Tales for Children contains the stories of 11 different children whose actions produce extreme effects, usually of the most undesirable kind. Four of Belloc’s characters perish as a result of their mischievous and nasty behavior. Matilda and Rebecca become ironic victims of their own actions while the other two unfortunate characters come to their respective ends under more peculiar circumstances. Jim abandons his nurse and is dramatically eaten by a lion while Henry King who ingests string dies because it has knotted up inside him. But not all of the characters in Cautionary Tales for Children suffer such random and disproportionate punishments. Godolphin Horne is unhappily employed as a boot black after he is passed over for the position of court page because of his poor manners and lack of respect. Another character, Hildebrand, is similarly less drastically punished when he is frightened by a car and simply brought to reason by his father.


Image of George at the end of his unfortunate tale.

Although a few of the stories include morals they are so nonsensical that they can’t be taken seriously. One of these morals appears at the end of Franklyn Hyde’s story and tells readers that when playing children should avoid mud but sand is okay. The illustration underneath this is of a staunchy looking man in a suit kicking at the rear end of a boy dripping with mud who appears to be either jumping to avoid the man’s foot against his behind or being lifted off the ground by a kick to his rump. The boy’s expression is not one of pain but rather he seems to be scowling and appears more as a guilty trouble-maker than an innocent child. The man looks ridiculous he appears to either be raising one eyebrow in an awkward way or unevenly bug-eyed. The illustrations add to the wit of the humorously absurd events in the stories, George’s story is a particularly good example of this. George’s head looks like a sideways pear at the end of the story after he is disfigured by a dangerous toy that also results in the death of many people, the dangerous toy in question being a balloon he was given for good behavior.



Basil Temple Blackwood (B. T. B.)
Photograph of Blackwood in uniform in 1916.



Hilaire Belloc and Basil Blackwood first met while both attending Oxford and remained life-long friends afterwards (Speaight 80). Cautionary Tales for Children was one of four books collaborated on by Belloc and Blackwood, the first of which was The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts in 1896 (Speaight 112). Belloc’s friendship with Blackwood extended much further than a formal author-illustrator relationship. The two spent time together in Scandinavia (Speaight 91) and Blackwood was also a godfather to Belloc’s daughter Eleanor (Speaight 119).


Newspaper advertisement for the original publication for Cautionary Tales for Children in 1907.

The original publication of Cautionary Tales for Children was in 1907 and was well received, it drew large audiences all over England who came to hear the Cautionary Tales sung by Clara Butt (Speaight 270). There seemed to be a lack of information recorded on the reception of this book’s 1918 publication, presumably because, among others, literary critics, newspapers, and journalists were focused on the coverage and recording of the war in its final year. Reviews of the book from both pre- (original publication date in 1907) and post-war (1936) publications help provide an idea of how the book was received by the public. Both reviews praise Belloc’s wit and his clever satire of stories intended to moralize and properly socialize children.


Hilaire Belloc
Image of Belloc.

The review of the pre-war, original publication of Cautionary Tales for Children expresses particular appreciation for Blackwood’s illustrations and claims they are the best to accompany nonsense verse since Edward Lear (The Academy 249). Blackwood’s illustrations in the book make even the fatal stories laughable, they are quite the opposite of graphic and often picture ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters in an equally ridiculous fashion. The 1936 review of the post-war publication of Cautionary Tales for Children also compares the book to the work of Edward Lear in its parody of traditional English morals (Barnes 303). It is possible that during the war the readership may have interpreted the book more seriously but the reviews suggest that both before and after the war Cautionary Tales for Children was read purely as a satire or parody.




Cautionary Tales Intro
Introductory poem & accompanying image.


Cautionary Tales for Children was written and originally published prior to the First World War during  the Edwardian years in Britain. A great portion of Edwardian writing is focused around childhood and Cautionary Tales‘ original publication date and content are consistent with this trend (Gavin 166). The child in Edwardian fiction challenged the Victorian trend to present childhood as a solitary stage with adulthood as the escape and presented the child as separate and unadulterated by adults, the adult world, and its problems (Gavin 166). This Edwardian attitude toward children and childhood is reflected in the content of Cautionary Tales and is referred to in the Introductory poem to the book. The poem is a response to the question of whether or not the stories it tells are true and lets the reader know that they are not. In this introduction Belloc discredits the kind of moral precepts that British success has been attributed to especially during times of war (Edwards 312). It is important to note that this book was originally released during a period that glorified childhood in its literature and held it sacred and untarnished by the external, adult world rather than during the dark years of the war.

Another important consideration is Belloc’s poetry overall as only a fraction of the work he produced, he also wrote essays, novels, histories, criticisms, and more. Belloc wrote on many heavy subjects, including the war, but his poetry is typically of a much lighter tone (Mendell 4) and this is evident in the verses of Cautionary Tales. Despite the fact that Belloc wrote extensively during the war Cautionary Tales for Children was not written about the war, nor was it written during the war. However Belloc’s light verse is not free from his tendency to reveal his views, not only was Belloc a devout Catholic and at one time in his life a politician he was also known for his strong opinions and stronger inclination to defend them. Belloc’s humorous verse incorporates wit and irony but remains consistent with his values and beliefs in the things they show appreciation for and the things they satirize (Hamilton 45-46). Blackwood`s illustrations increase this effect by complementing Belloc’s ridiculously grotesque satirical tales perfectly (Mendell 12).


Belloc & Company
Belloc (center) photographed with GB Shaw (left) and GK Chesterton (right).

The publishing company that originally published Cautionary Tales for Children in 1907 was not the same publishing company that published this particular book in 1918. Duckworth and Co., known for their publication of several novels from well-known modernist writers, particularly Virginia Woolf (Beare), was responsible for the 1918 publication of Cautionary Tales. Duckworth and Co. also published several other works of Belloc’s, two of which Blackwood also worked on (Hamilton 64). The publisher had at very least an appreciation for, if not a friendship with, the author and illustrator`s work and it is likely that Blackwood’s death would have had some impact on the publisher as it did on the author Belloc.




Image of Matilda from her story in Cautionary Tales.

Cautionary Tales for Children is a brilliantly witty satire which seems to always have been interpreted similarly as such by the receiving public. The book’s contents are humorous and were composed during the childhood-revering Edwardian period during which war was not a concern to children and it had little if any effect at all on their socialization experience. It is also possible that the book’s publication in 1918 was intended to satirize the socialization of a new generation of British youth directly affected by war. In this sense Cautionary Tales for Children`s 1918 publication could have presented a sentimental and nostalgic return to fond memories of a less complicated and brighter version of childhood that was lost forever with the war. Belloc’s poetry has been distinct in its contents from his other work implying in its lighter tone and more playful themes that it is meant to be read for entertainment rather than for a lesson or moral. The book’s release during the final year of the war was likely influenced by the fond remembrance of not only Belloc’s son Louis but also Blackwood who were both tragically lost to the war. With the heavy losses brought by the war and an era that was gone forever Cautionary Tales for Children provided a literary return to earlier, pre-war childhood tales.




Belloc, Hilaire. Cautionary Tales For Children. London: Duckworth, 1918. Print.

*link to Cautionary Tales for Children in Children’s Literature Archive Catalogue.

*link to full text of Cautionary Tales for Children online from Project Gutenberg.

Beare, Geraldine. “Duckworth, Gerald L’Étang (1870-1937), publisher”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. London: Oxford UP, 2004. Web. 27 February 2014. –link to entry.

Barnes, Walter. “Contemporary Poetry for Children.” The Elementary English Review 13.8 (1936): 298–304. Print.

“Cautionary Tails for Children.” The Academy (1907): 249–249. Web. 10 March 2014. –link to review.

Edwards, Owen Dudley. British Children’s Fiction in the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Print.

Fontenoy, Marquise De. “Lord Basil Blackwood Died in Battle, It Seems Certain.” Washington Post 28 July 1917: 6. Web. 10 March 2014. –link to article.

Gavin, Adrienne E. “Unadulterated Childhood: The Child in Edwardian Fiction”. The Child in British Literature: Literary Constructions of Childhood, Medieval to Contemporary. Ed. Gavin, Adrienne E. New York: Palgrave, 2012. 166-181. Print.

Hamilton, Robert. Hilaire Belloc: An Introduction to His Spirit and Work. London: Douglas, 1945. Print.

Mandell, C. Creighton, and Edward Shanks. Hilaire Belloc The Man and His Work. London: Methuen, 1916. Web. 24 February 2014. –link to book.

Speaight, Robert. The Life Of Hilaire Belloc. London: Farrar, 1957. Print.

African Canadian Representation in The Great War

A Brave Soldier
by: Nicolas Debon

A Brave Soldier
Debon, Nicolas. A Brave Soldier. Toronto, Ont.: Groundwood /Douglas & McIntyre, 2002. Print.


War is and always has been a touchy subject. The Great War in particular is apart of Canadian (and world) history that will never be forgotten. It was a world war but more often then not it, is not the world that we see represented in images depicting the war or those who fought in it. The image presented is not one of racial diversity, which is what the world is made of. Due to this many may find it difficult to identify with the history that is being taught, this especially applies to children. Children may not always find a history lesson particularly interesting but if they can picture themselves in what they are learning about it may make their learning experience more interesting. In Nicolas Debons book A Brave Soldier there is an illustration of an African Soldier. Although his role is minimal it raises the important question of representation in the Great War, more specifically the role of African Canadians and their contribution to it.

A Brave Soldier : More than just a picture book

A Brave Soldier was written and illustrated by Nicolas Debon and was published in 2002 by Groundwood books. It is a story about a young man named Frank who enlists to fight in the war with thoughts that it would be over soon and he would be sent home by Christmas.  Frank reluctantly enlists to fight in the war as to not appear as a coward to his peers. When the story begins to unfold we as readers learn that the story is not about how or why the war started but rather, the experiences of the soldiers at the battlefront. What Frank experiences is unlike anything he has ever experienced before. He goes through training and is eventually placed on the battlefront. One of his first encounters with another soldier who has seen and experienced what it is like on the battlefront is of African descent. The soldier describes his experiences as comparable to being in hell. Although Frank is scared he continues on to the battlefront.

Through Debons illustrations he is able to depict scenes of war without being too graphic. Despite not being graphic the story that is told puts in perspective what war life is like for those who choose to fight. Even though Frank is a fictional character what he experiences on the battlefront are the experiences of many. Debons depiction of an African soldier also adds some depth to the story. The war Frank is fighting in is a world war but oftentimes it is not the diversity of the world we see depicted in war or in children’s books. Debons inclusion of an African soldier gives Black children -regardless of cultural background- something to identify with. They can begin to see themselves as part of not just Canadian history but history in general outside of the context of slavery.

Usually when any kind of Black history is taught it almost always about the enslavement of Africans in North America. There are children’s books dedicated to telling the story of plantation life, the civil rights movement and some books that depict Black contributions to American history but it is rare to find any books on Canadian Black history. It is almost as if once slaves escaped to Canada they no longer had a place in history.

Debons African Soldier 

Debons Representation of an African Soldier
Debons Representation of an African Soldier

There is no back-story to Debons African soldier, he appears once and is never seen or heard from again. Despite this, he has an entire page dedicated to his illustration. He is not a random face that appears in the background. He is right front and center. Debon must have wanted him to be noticed and have presence within the story. In the preliminary manuscripts and drafts for A Brave Soldier the African soldier was not included at all. The soldier was unnamed and his ethnicity was not specified. In later revised versions the soldier was said to be French. In the final draft and published copy of the book the soldier was made to be African. There was no given reason as to why this changed it was just by chance that Debon finalized the ethnicity of the character to be from Africa. Another important thing to note is that in the illustration the soldier is depicted as carrying not only supplies crucial to his survival but he is also armed. Historically speaking Black men were not allowed to fight alongside their White counterparts for no reason other than the colour of their skin. The fact that the soldier is armed shows that he must have fought as well, as opposed to just assisting in carrying ammunition or food rations. The inclusion of an African and possibly Canadian soldier helps to illustrate the diversity and multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on. It also helps to depict that World War One was more than just a so called “white mans war”.

Origins and Outbreak of the First World War

According to the British library the outbreak of the First World War happened in three stages. The first stage being, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Stevenson). The second phase of war outbreak took place when the conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary began to spread. The conflict spread to Germany, Russia and France. The third phase took place when Germany invaded Luxembourg and Belgium with an intervention from Great Britain (Stevenson).

War Contributions by African Canadians

When war broke out in 1914, black men were initially rejected from enlisting in the army. “In August 1914 when World War One erupted Black Canadians received a devastating signal that they were considered third class citizens” (Ruck, 11). They were turned away simply because of the colour of their skin. Race is no indicator of someone’s capabilities and yet this was the sole deciding factor in their rejection from enlistment. There were no laws in place banning Black men from enlisting it was left up to the commanding officers that were at recruitment stations. Many of the Black men who made attempts at enlisting were told that it was a “White mans war” or that a checkerboard army was not wanted (Ruck, 12). At this point in war history Black men were thought of being incapable of fighting in the war. There was no evidence to back up the assumption that Black men would not make good fighters but it was the assumption that reverberated throughout many of the recruitment stations.

The fact that Black men were rejected from enlisting shows that they were never really considered full members of Canadian society. Not being a full member of Canadian society also meant that they were not thought of as being able to be patriotic towards their country. Eventually a general order was put in place that said that Black -or Colored- men who were physically fit were not to be discriminated against when trying to enlist (Ruck, 15). Despite an order being put in place Black men still faced large amounts of discrimination and racism once enlisted. It was clear that even though they had been allowed to enlist they were not wanted or accepted by their commanding officers or fellow soldiers. What resulted from the initial rejections and mistreatment of Black recruits was the formation of an all Black construction battalion. Involvement in this battalion was the only way that Black men were able to contribute to the war efforts on behalf of Canada when stationed abroad. At home both Black men and women contributed to the war efforts. They worked in factories making weapons and other supplies as well as made efforts in helping to raise money that would then be put towards the war efforts. In spite of the fact that they were thought of as third class citizens Black members of Canadian society did all that they could in order to contribute to the war efforts. It is almost ironic that although they were met with racism and discrimination Black citizens did all they could in order to show their patriotism to their country.

No. 2 Construction Battalion

No. 2 Construction Battalion
No. 2 Construction Battalion

The No. 2 Construction Battalion was the first and only Black battalion in Canadian military history (Ruck, 21). Unfortunately this battalion was not made up of men who were to fight in the war but rather men who were to dig trenches and build shelters. Despite having their own battalion, the fact that the only work that Black volunteers were given was shelter building and trench digging says a lot about their position in society. Since these men were given the lowest of the low of jobs it is as if they were not deemed worthy enough to put their lives on the line for their country. In spite of their position on the battlefront their contribution to the war effort was something that should not be forgotten. A unique aspect about the construction battalion was that it was able to recruit volunteers from all over the country as long as they passed medical examinations.

Although not physically fighting, the contribution of the No.2 Construction Battalion could be seen as a fight for equality. A fight for Black men to be seen as equal and worthy members of society who are able to show patriotism towards their country. A notable member of the No.2 Construction Battalion was Rev. William White. Rev. White was the second Black man to study at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and he went on to graduate with a degree in Theology in 1903. He also aided in the formation of the battalion itself. During wartime Rev. White would preach messages that promoted racial tolerance and hope. The reason why Rev. William White is an honorable mention in regards to the No.2 Construction Battalion is because he was the first Black man in Canada to receive a Doctorate in Theology. This honor was bestowed upon him before his death in 1936.

Rev. William White (1874 – 1936)

The No. 2 Construction Battalion did more than just break down racial barriers. It gave Black men an opportunity to show their patriotism towards their country. It gave their families and children hope for a better and more equal future. A future that would be accepting of them regardless of the colour of their skin. A future that could recognize their efforts as worthy of acknowledgement in the public eye. A future that gave their children a history that they could be proud of.

Concluding Thoughts

It is possible that the No. 2 Construction acted as inspiration for Debons representation of an African soldier in his picture book. Regardless of what inspired him to include this character it raised the important question of representation that was answered here in this exhibit. Black Canadian history is something that is not often remembered let alone taught. It is important that all members of Canadian society whether they were born here or not are able to see themselves within Canadian history. By depicting an African soldier in his book Debon gives African Canadian children an opportunity to identify with Canadian history.  Oftentimes African Canadian history revolves around the runaway slaves who escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. African Canadian history is more than just escaped slaves. Despite not being as recognizable as African American history, the history of Blacks in Canada is a history that should never be ignored. Canadian children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds should be able to see themselves represented in the pages of history and in the media that surrounds them. It has gotten to a point where “white” has become the default for who and what is represented. The No. 2 Construction Battalion is just one small part of African Canadian history and there is much more that should be explored and acknowledged. Debons illustration sparked an interesting observation about the history of the Great War and hopefully this observation will start to generate some discussion on what it really means to have a “World” war.


Author Unknown. Black Soldiers. Black History Canada. Web. 21 March 2014

Black Canadians In Uniform. Veterans Affairs Canada. Web. 27 Feb 2014.

Ruck, Calvin W. “Chapter 1: The Rejection of Black Volunteers and Chapter 2: No. 2 Construction Battalion.” Canada’s Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920. Halifax, N.S.: Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in N.S., 1986. 11-30. Print.

Stevenson, David. Origins and Outbreak. The British Library. Web. 21 March 2014