Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

Native Americans & Colonial Racist Stereotypes in 1940’s WOW Comics no. 10


Native Americans are now known for being spiritual, environmental, and nomads and unfortunately, colonizers have used stereotypes to create an alternate assumed identity with this knowledge. Previous to now the stereotypes of the Native identity was wrong, but as time has progressed it has slowly corrected itself. Thanks to the education high school now offers on the basics of native heritage and history stereotypical aspects have faded slightly and the presumed slights have become less prominent. This is a step in the right direction to reconciliation for the atrocities Indigenous North American communities have faced, from residential schools to cultural assimilation to the numerous issues surrounding reserves and broken treaties.

The “right step forward” to reconciliation mentality in North American society has not always prevalent in history. Throughout the 1800 and the 1900s, First Nations fought and defended Canada in both World Wars but were not given the right to vote. Indigenous people were consistently depicted as the enemy in mass consumed media even in medias geared towards children. In the collection of comics called the “Canadian Whites,” it was common to find this villainous depiction. Even more so it was common to see the reliability these comics had on racist, propagandistic stereotypes of the Indigenous community. In order to understand this racism, analyzing how Canada has treated Native Americans in the past will explain how these people and society interacted. Researching into the specific comic “WOW, no. 10” (published in January of 1942) and the origins of the racism found in this specific comic created numerous questions.

Why is the native populace depicted in mass consumed media negatively and in a severely racist way without the care for separate tribal identities? Even with Native Americans aiding the war effort greatly through enlistment the government refused to acknowledge the help until much later. Instead, deciding to show off propagandistic comics that portrayed “true” Canadians to be solely white Canadians who are superior and used this belief to fuel what the government of past and present 1940s wanted for Canada’s imagined future. Examining the Native influence on Canada prior, during, and after the war, the understanding of how this racism and altered depiction of Natives will become more clear and highlight that the imagined identity was a predominantly white, European, Christian population. All those who were not these characteristics, be it those who were First Nations or otherwise, were to be expunged or assimilated.


In the short story found in WOW no. 10 called “The Iroquois are Back,” by Kathleen Williams, the time period revolves around the mid 1600s. The features three young men; Henri, Jaques, and Louis, all who venture out of the community against previous discretion due to “red devils,” the Iroquois being seen in the surrounding area. First Nations people have survived on this land for thousands of years, promoting spirituality and prosperity. As colonization became the dominant identity to cultivate the land for its resources, Native Americans became closed off on reserves, far off from society all while colonizers lived on the ground that the tribes once claimed. The use of ‘red devil’ is used as a depictor of the red undertone skin (a racist stereotype of First Nations people) and disassociates any good inherent reason for the Iroquois to be in the area or attack. It makes Indigenous people the enemy before they had really caused any issues, an enemy who is weaker and less formidable than other white people.

Colonization created a bias against Natives and that is shown when Henri, Jaques, and Louis single-handedly kill Natives for over two hours, a feat that is then congratulated when they are rescued by others from their community. They slaughtered many Native Americans to represent that they are protecting themselves from the “red deviled savage.” The murder of people was celebrated because they were the antagonist of the story for existing in an area that was once theirs solely. They were villainous for existing as Indigenous tribes and people were viewed as “primitive, strange and alien” (Sangster. 191-200) and were shamed for acting like “the behavior of the Eskimo.”(Sangster. 1991 200) The actions and values of the First Nations were shamed as the “cultural hierarchy that cast white, Euro-Canadian modernity as preferable and superior” (Sangster. 191-200) was always considered better.

This “savagery” is seen again in the story “Jeff Waring” by Murray Karn when the Native chief and his soldiers arrive on a Native war canoe and automatically it’s assumed that the natives torture and kill them. It then progresses to Jeff Waring, and his friends being tied to be burnt at the stake and are only saved when the chief’s son is cured by the “white man’s” medicine. Savagery is assumed in the comic just as common nature for the  Indigenous creating only negative, primitive depictions of the supposed tribe. The need to immediately resort to burning them on the fire as an act of savagery and then only transitioning from an evil portrayal when the white man’s medicine is used to help save the chief’s son paints all tribes as primitive. It all relies on the dependence for progress that the colonizer can bring to the Indigenous community.


The war changed many aspects of society, altering acceptance and economic prosperity. The decriminalization of Japanese Canadians who were put into internment camps and Italian immigrants were no longer viewed as “enemy alien” after 1947. 

Enemy aliens “referred to people from countries, or with roots in countries, that were at war with Canada…. during the Second World War, people with Japanese, German and Italian ancestry.” (Patricia Roy, Canadian Encyclopedia) This was not something that transferred to Native Americans, who by this point still were not given the right to vote federally (July 1, 1960 legislation passed to federally vote) and were viewed in disregard as during the war. This lack of acceptance was shown best in the depiction of two separate tribes; the Iroquois and a tribe from the Amazon. They have no relation to one another in any way be it physical, environmental, time period, nor are in the same story of the comic book yet look identical to each other in both the “Jeff Waring” and “The Iroquois Are Back.” These outfits are identical in the comics, both using similar furs and feathers.

Traditionally the Iroquois used “furs obtained from the woodland animals, hides of elk and deer.” (Kanatiyosh. 1999) whereas Amazonian tribes wear woven plant-based clothing or body paint. This was common especially during the time period of “Jeff Waring” as the cloth used by westerners was harder to make and obtain. This is due to the temperature difference and the cultural significance of clothing. Traditionally in the Amazon the fewer clothes one would wear the higher the rank in the tribe similar to the more body paint worn the higher the rank as well. Whereas clothing in the Iroquois tribe is beaded, has bells, and sewn on designs to show rank as the weather in Canada is much more frigid, especially in the 1600s when the comic “the Iroquois are back” takes place.

This link of identicality is seen in the way the faces are constructed in the illustrations. Both drawings have shown Natives with high cheekbones, dark eyes, large foreheads. These identities, that are very different, look identical for the purpose to show that all Natives are the same in appearance, culture and savagery. This represents ideas of assimilation into colonization as the Native community was not even worth an actual identity and instead is just clumped together as one. This ideology of missing individuality was the “ultimate goal of eliminating the “Indian” as an entity apart from the mainstream of Canadian society.” (Sheffield. 17) The lack of identity also shows that they are less superior to those who have actual defining features and differences, specifically that they are less important, in both the comic and real life than the white westerners.


In the comic book as a whole, there is not a single mention of positive actions that the Native Americans had done. During “The Iroquois are Back” it depicts violence as if that is all the Natives are capable of with statements such as “the Indians closed in for the kill, hatchets raised, tomahawks waving.” (Williams. 29) War heroes are the pride of a nation and meant to hold their heads up with glory. They receive medals, are put on the local news at six, and written about in the paper. All acts of heroism during these wars are assumed to have already been discussed except there is never any mention of the aid the Indigenous tribes provided to the war effort.

Violence is promoted in the comic as second nature to the Natives but highlights nothing of the violence that some Natives were told to do while enlisted. It promotes a figurative “one-sided” coin alluding to this being only true depiction with accuracy as to how Indigenous tribes act. This ideology is further emphasized during “Jeff Waring” where the first interaction with the Indigenous tribe in the Amazon was a war canoe approaching the heroes boat. Instantly, the Natives are a threat once again. This portrayal has created conflict as there was, during its publication, Natives fighting for Canada in Europe. With no mention as to Indigenous men and women in the military, it has “resulted in narratives that are selective, partial, biased and distorted” (Harvey et al. 257) Natives were known in the armed forces for “voluntary enlistment and conscription of thousands of First Nations men.” (Sheffield. 43) The Society of American Indians, a group that helped the fight for Native rights to citizenship, even went as far as to put in their Journal that “Already we hear the tread of feet that once wore moccasins; already the red men are enlisting.” (Sabol. 268) Yet the history books have erased their participation as until later in the search for the Canadian identity was it acceptable to be native. The narrative stayed consistently negative until the tropes and stereotypes that are found in the comics became less politically correct closer to the beginning of the 2000s and were filtered out.


Reconciling on past governmental and societal mistakes is an everyday goal in Canada as the acknowledgment of Native cultural genocide becomes more well known across the country. In doing this, images and tales such as those found in “the Iroquois are Back” and “Jeff Waring” become slowly more obsolete. There have been recent steps backward such as Johnny Depp in the movie “The Lone Ranger” but as the populace began to understand the sacrifices that Native Americans have suffered at the hands of colonization and it has become a topic more serious and more informed. Reconciliation started in Canada and the United States when the US granted citizenship to Native Americans as “Congress passed the law to reward Indians for their service and commitment to the country at a time of great need.” (Steven. 268) Unfortunately, all efforts were put on pause during the 1930s as it was the Great Depression. Tensions were rising in Europe which forced reconciliation to be pushed back until the 1960s, when voting in Canada federally was granted to all Native Americans. After that historical event that came into effect July 1, 1960, reconciliation has tardily progressed into slow positive change.


In the creation of Canada, Native American people have been treated as second-class citizens and have been the public enemy for an extended amount of time. From the fight to conserve their traditions and values to the consistent work towards continued reconciliation. As society progressed to be more inclusive, once again Natives were left in the dust and forced to continue the fight for equality. The images, text and subliminal messages in the comic book WOW comics no. 10 are present due to consistent colonial influence and racist stereotypes that emerged from that time period, continuing even to this day. The results of reconciliation have slowly chipped away at these stereotypes but these remarks still leave a lasting mark on the Native community in Canada.


Sheffield, R. Scott. The Red Man’s on the Warpath. UBC Press, 2004. pp 43 https://books-scholarsportal-info.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/en/read?id=/ebooks/ebooks0/gibson_crkn/2009-12-01/3/404358 Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.

Karn, Murray. “Jeff Waring.” Wow Comics, no.10. pp 15-25, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166673.pdfaccessed 10 Oct. 2018.

Williams, Kathleen. “The Iroquois are Back.” Wow Comics, no.10. pp 27-29, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166673.pdfaccessed 10 Oct. 2018.

Sabol, Steven. “In search of citizenship: the society of American Indians and the First World War.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, 22 June 2017, p. 268+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/apps/doc/A499696071/AONE?u=rpu_main&sid=AONE&xid=0c276e89. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.

Raynald, Harvey L., et al. “Conflicts, Battlefields, Indigenous Peoples and Tourism: Addressing Dissonant Heritage in Warfare Tourism in Australia and North America in the Twenty-First Century.” International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, vol. 7, no. 3, 2013, pp. 257-271. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1412780619?accountid=13631. Accessed October 16/2018.

Sangster, Joan. “The Beaver as Ideology: Constructing Images of Inuit and Native Life in Post-World War II Canada.” Anthropologica, vol. 49, no. 2, 2007, pp. 191-209. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/214174078?accountid=13631. Accessed October 16, 2018.

Sheffield, R. Scott. “Veterans’ Benefits and Indigenous Veterans of the Second World War in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.” Wicazo Sa Review, vol. 32 no. 1, 2017, pp. 63-79. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/674309 Accessed October 16, 2018.

Kanatiyosh. “Iroquois Regalia.” Haudenosaunee Children’s Page. 1999. http://tuscaroras.com/graydeer/pages/childrenspage.htm Accessed November 20, 2018.



Brazilian Natives in Traditional Clothing. *Royalty free* Released free of copyrights under creative commons CC0. https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1254856 Accessed November 12, 2018.

Fair use expired copyright- “The Iroquois are Back.” Wow Comics, no.10. pp 29, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.chttp://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166673.pdfa/e/e447/e011166673.pdfaccessed 10 Oct. 2018.

Fair use expired copyright- Goody, Edmond. WOW Comics, no.10 Front Cover page. January. 1942. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166673.pdfAccessed November 12, 2018.

The Benefits of Images in “Orlando, The Marmalade Cat, A Seaside Holiday”

© Copyright 2017 Nabil Najibzada, Ryerson University


Orlando, The Marmalade Cat, A Seaside Holiday by Kathleen Hale is a very appealing children’s book originally introduced in the 1900s. To give a quick overview of the book, it is about an orange cat, Orlando (Marmalade since he is orange) who goes on a family trip

Orlando, The Marmalade Cat, A Seaside Holiday by Kathleen Hale cover. Published by Country Life & Puffin Picture Books between 1938-1972.

to a beach. During their trip things get very interesting and adventurous as they begin to swim underwater and find a lost shipwreck as well as a queen who had been there for a long time. The book has several colorful images alongside the text giving younger readers more engagement when reading the book. These images are present in different sizes, some being small to half a page large, where at one point we have an image

covering a full 2 pages. The goal of this digital exhibit is to further analyze the examine the use of images in this book and how they appeal to a child’s development and understanding through reading. It will be looked through both the images and detail used, as well as how and where these images are used within the text. Pictures not only play a role in engaging an audience into the story, but it also serves as a funnel of extra meaning and clarification beside text.

The role of images



An image itself is a very important aspect to a book. It may bring life to a book, it sets a setting in a reader’s head of what the story “looks” like. Especially when it comes to a child who’s imagination can run wild and any moment, it has a significant impact on how they view the story and what they are able to extract from it. Images do not solely act as an extension for entertainment and imaginary thoughts for children, there is an educational factor to it as well. Children are able to view an image, relate it to the text that is related to it, and then extract information from that. For example if there is a picture book about animals and the text speaks about camouflage, there is then an image of a chameleon camouflaging on a tree. When a child views this image, they get that final understand of that camouflage is and what it looks like. From that image and text, they then are able to extract that knowledge into the real world. A study conducted by Patricia A. Ganea, Judy S. DeLoache, and Lili Ma consisted of showing children images of animals with camouflage in picture books. Afterwards they are then shown pictures of animals and asked which animals were most likely to fall prey in which case the animals that did not have camouflage traits were chosen (Ganea, DeLoache, and Ma, 1). This study importantly concludes that images in a children’s picture book have much more purpose than a simple “fun” factor. Children are able to learn through their reading experience and transfer that knowledge into the real world.

How spacing is used

Space is something that usually lies subconsciously within one’s mind while reading a book with pictures. When you read a picture book you are not actively trying to figure out how the images take up a certain space and what that means. Well let me extract the importance of space in text. The use of space does not technically have a direct meaning to it, but rather it is to be examined through the whole text. Space can give clues about a story, it can foreshadow events, it can highlight important moments in a story, and it can be progressive. In the article “The Journey Through the ‘Space in the Text’ to Where the Wild Things Are” by Ann Moseley it is described that the way images use space in a text may

A 2 page image from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, [New York]: Harper & Row,1963, SlideShare LinkedIn Corporation, 27 Feb. 2012, www.slideshare.net/samsmith_12345/maurice-sendakwherethewildthingsare.
give off clues and provide further analysis of a story. For example in Where the Wild Things Are, the images of the story begin small and grow in size as the plot progresses until we have a full 2 page image. Afterwards, the images then begin to shrink in size during the denouement of the story until the final image is shown which is larger in size than the first. When analyzed, the images are in fact tied directly to the protagonist’s development. He starts off with a small image, meaning a clean slate. When the story finishes, he ends up with a bit of knowledge gained through his experience which is shown by the slightly larger final image (Moseley, 86-87). Although this progression cannot be understood at first, when the images are analyzed further taking the text into context, we can see how important that images use up space in specific ways.

Orlando’s adaptations to images and space

In Orlando, The Marmalade Cat, A Seaside Holiday, the images that are used feature animals using very soft colors which are appealing to the eyes. There are not any super sharp edges or lines, overall the images used are very soft which gives a very smooth sort of feel to it for a reader. What’s important about the use of the colors and image style here is how a child would feel when reading the book. An article titled “Children Reading Pictures: Interpreting Visual Texts, Taylor and Francis, 2002.” by Arizpe, Evelyn, and Morag

An almost full page of an image taken from Orlando, The Marmalade Cat, A Seaside Adventure, featuring a ship in the form of a cat, taken from Babyccinokids.com.

gives some insight in how children extract information from images. They conducted a study using children of different ages and backgrounds where they were assessed on their ability to draw meaning from images. Results showed that they were able to extract not only meaning while relating it to the text, but also get a sense of the mood and realism involved (Arizpe, Evelyn, & Morag, 2002). The use of these smooth images and colors in Orlando will definitely allowed children viewers to grasp mood from it and therefore getting more sensation from an image as opposed to simply understanding it’s contents. Moreover; children tend to enjoy picture books that feature dominant animal characters as it may be more imaginative and adventurous as opposed to books about only human characters (Ganea, Patricia A., et al, 1425-1428). Although Orlando does not follow a specific progression of images such that Where the Wild Things Are does, space definitely is considered when images are placed. The images used perfectly relate to the text supporting it which make it very easy for a reader to understand, however some parts of the story are given more importance for instance where we have almost 2 full pages of images sometimes. These images stand out and have more meaning and importance than the rest due to its largeness.


In conclusion, I believe we can all agree that images play a very important role in a children’s book. These images being colorful and detailed in nature bring out the imagination of a child. Moreover; children are able to extract further information and detail from images where they can bring it with them into the real world. Besides the image itself, how the image is placed can be analyzed for clues and hidden information about a story. It may not be obvious at first, but as further analysis is done we can conclude that images play a key role in the development of a story.


Works Cited

  • Arizpe, Evelyn, and Morag Styles. Children Reading Pictures: Interpreting Visual Texts, Taylor and Francis, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=201196.
  • Ganea, Patricia A., et al. “Young Children’s Learning and Transfer of Biological Information From Picture Books to Real Animals.” Child Development, vol. 82, no. 5, 2011, pp. 1421–1433. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41289855.
  • Hale, Kathleen. Orlando (the Marmalade Cat): a Seaside Holiday. Frederick Warne, 1991.
  • Moseley, Ann. “The Journey through the ‘Space in the Text’ to Where the Wild Things are.” Children’s Literature in Education: An International Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 2, 1988, pp. 86-87.
  • Serafini, Frank. “Expanding Perspectives for Comprehending Visual Images in Multimodal Texts: To Expand Students’ Interpretive Repertoires, Teachers Need to Extend their Understanding of Perspectives, Theories, and Practices used to Comprehend Visual Images, Graphic Design, and Multimodal Texts.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 54, no. 5, 2011, pp. 342.


Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Sexual Exploitation in Sandy Posner’s “The Sleeping Princess”

© Copyright 2017 Juvian Gonzales, Ryerson University

Since When Did Dreaming of Becoming a Princess be so Scary?

When I was a kid, I dreamt of becoming a princess like the ones I read from fairy tale books. I imagined getting rescued from a locked tower by a knight in shining armor who goes by the name Prince Charming. The prince would ride on a horse with his wavy and suave hair, wearing perfectly aligned, white teeth. In my head, it was very magical and romantic.

Therefore, it did not even occur in my mind that something so small like a pocket book of Sandy Posner’s The Sleeping Princess (The Story of the Ballet) would present to be a bombshell due to its rather problematic content as a feminist text…!

Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. Front Cover. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. Back Cover. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.

This is the second edition of the picture book published in 1949 by Adam and Charles Black; its first publication date being 1945 established by Newman Wolsey Ltd.

It consists of images illustrated by Joyce Millen. This book was considered to be popular because of the rapid interest in ballet dance throughout the European countries during its publication period (Posner 7). It is based off of “La Belle au bois Dormant” (Posner 20), the French version of Sleeping Beauty: a known classical tale that portrays an enchanting love-story about a prince who wakes up a sleeping princess with a kiss.

Seemingly harmless at this point; a kiss is no threat. However, beyond this book’s manifestation is a latent encouragement for sexual exploitation imposed on young dreamers of females.

In The Sleeping Princess, we will look at how the prince comes to kiss the princess, what role the princess initially has, and how the readers are supposed to perceive their characterizations.

“Of all fairy tales Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the most cinematic in its fashioning of a primal scene for visual pleasure” (Maria Tartar 143)

Formatting the Story Book

Posner tells the story of The Sleeping Princess in the format of a descriptive ballet play. Staying true to its form as a ballet book, Posner incorporates ballet terms like “arabesque” (80), a ballet posture, and “mazurka” (96), a group ballet dance. Instead of saying “they lived happily ever after” which is often how fairy-tales end their story, Posner ends the story with “the curtain falls” (96).

These traits depict The Sleeping Princess as a creative and sensual revision of the classical tale that should appeal to readers who are fans of ballet based on the book’s particularly unique references. It is using a “cinematic” design from how the story is told in motion of ballet dances, while the illustrations act as support with their “visual” effects. 

Figure 1. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Figure 3. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Figure 2. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.

“Curiosity and the desire to look mingle with a display that is both aesthetically and erotically charged” (Tartar 143)

The Female Gender Role

Note how Princess Aurora is illustrated elegantly with a very slim figure, focusing on her long bare legs (seen in Figure 2). Her bed chamber is also emphasized with royal drapes of crowns but at the same time induces a very inviting look (Figure 1 & 3). Princess Aurora is presented as a sexual object.

In appearance, this book may seem modest but it’s actually an “erotic” depiction of the female lead’s character that subjects her to a case of vulnerability. Based on Leslee Farish Kuykendal and Brian W. Sturm’s outline on role reversal, there is reference to Princess Elizabeth by Robert Munsch from The Paperbag Princess released on 1980, as an example of a female character that crosses literary borders in comparison to Aurora’s conventional character. Princess Elizabeth is the one doing the rescuing in the story by marching to the tower to face the presumed antagonist, a dragon, demanding for the release of Prince Ronald. Thus, she is portraying a strong and valiant female character in “reversal” to how children usually read the depiction of womanly roles (Kuykendal & Sturm 40).

In contrast, Aurora represents the conventional female character due to her docile behaviour. She lacks the agency to choose her own destiny by sleeping throughout the tale. Unaware of the things happening in time, she only has one duty which is to wait for the right prince who would save her from the sleeping curse and marry that said man. Looking at the publication year of both texts, it is important to note that The Sleeping Princess was released before The Paper Bag Princess. This is relevant because Posner’s picture book becomes proof to how women were portrayed as idle and useless figures in the past.


The Art of Mocking Women’s Social Class

W. E. F. Britten. Illustration to Tennyson’s “Sleeping Beauty”. Methuen & Co. 36 Essex Street W. C. London, 1901.Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Posner’s book mocks the social status of women by displaying Aurora to be just like any other “trophy wives” whose purpose is to make the prince look and feel good by rewarding his “tough” journey in the form of marriage (Elizabeth Aura McClintock 1101). In the book, Prince Florimond (Prince Charming) is “restless and disgust[ed] at his aimless existence” so he takes it his duty to wake up the princess to achieve something that should claim him as a hero (Posner 69 & 87). There is a sense of disguise from the prince to do something not out of kindness but to doing it for the sake of his own gratification.

Pertaining to the three illustrations above by Millen, in Figure 1, the image displayed is of the prince leaning down to kiss Aurora who is notably wearing a crown on her head. It means that Aurora had to have been from a royal bloodline if the prince were to save her in order for his efforts to be remarkably acknowledged by the town’s people. If Aurora were any ordinary girl, saving her would not have been an option.

Therefore, Posner not only shows support for the conventional female behavior, but also proposes that men regards  the value of women to a bare minimum in terms of their social background. 


A Closer Read on the Story’s Content!

David Nash Ford. “The Rose Bower.” From the “Legend of Briar Rose” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, 1890. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

 In order to take a closer look on the content of The Sleeping Princess, I chose two other secondary scholarly sources to showcase the indecencies of how Aurora was depicted in the picture book that are offensive to feminist readers.

According to Maria Tartar’s article, by disregarding Aurora’s female agency, The Sleeping Princess is criticized for suggesting the concept of “necrophiliac charms” (153). In the picture book, the prince finds Princess Aurora fast asleep on a “dais” and is surrounded by the sleeping court as he makes his way to give her a kiss (Posner 88-89). This entails the vulnerability of the princess for sexual exploitation where anyone can touch her if they wish. Tartar states that princesses are “swaddled in white serenity, radiating innocence and purity even as they invite desire in the quiet beauty of their features and the soft curves of their bodies (153-4). Princess Aurora as a sixteen year old girl is described to be “radiantly beautiful withal”  and therefore is a perfect representation of Tartar’s princess definition (Posner 78).

Without personally knowing her, Prince Florimond has access to touching Aurora with the way the chamber is opened and the alluring feel the room appears to produce (seen in Millen, Figure 3). Aurora is literally being handed to the prince without fuss that continues to show the princess’ little to no influence on her destiny. The consent on Aurora’s part is given by her parents, the King and Queen, who gives their child away in marriage without talking it over first with the princess (Posner 89). Aurora’s responsibility as a princess and as bride is ultimately not up to her own decision but by the people who take control of her.

Tartar refers to Briar Rose by Burne Jones (1885-1890) that illustrates Sleeping Beauty with “roses and thorns encircling the castle and who incarnates in her stillness the seductive pull of beauty and death” (152) shown in the above image. This presents that beyond literature, artists also sees Aurora’s character as a “seductive” woman because of her “stillness” in the unconscious state.  An art representation like this correlates to the artist’s interpretation of the story. Therefore, as one views Sleeping Beauty as a sexual text, it may provide as a reason for parents not to read this kind of book to their children due to the inappropriate connotations reflected upon it.

Further, There is no dialogue written in the picture book. Everyone is described through a third person’s narration and by actions. The “stillness” not only comes from how Aurora is illustrated by Millen (Figure 3), but is also accompanied by muteness. The combination of these two themes signify a presentation of a bound, voiceless female and a sexual predator male in sight. Thus, it is unsuitable for writers to deem Aurora’s and the prince’s relationship as something happy and appealing to children.

Similarly, Martine Hennard de la Rochère discusses about the production of “La Belle au bois Dormant” and the depiction of this play in theater as being erotic while also trying to maintain an innocent image regarding marriage for young children to believe in. De la Rochère states that marital happiness is associated both in Perrault’s text and Carter’s translation “with the intimacy and privacy of the bedchamber (143). When Prince Florimond wakes Princess Aurora up in The Sleeping Princess, the members of the castle are put to sleep so no one may interrupt (Posner 88). This shows the community’s involvement to repressing the agency of the princess by providing a space where the prince can do anything he wants to the unguarded princess. This is scarring for children since the story is possibly promoting the act of marriage through means of rape since the wedding was prompted only after the prince had kissed Aurora who was in an unconscious state (Posner 89).

Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An opened up page from the pocket book. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.


Its Shape of Disguise

Based on the class visit to the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Book, the librarian discussed about Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and its pocket-sized shape which is deliberate to fit the hands of small children who may choose to read alone sufficiently. Lambert notes the same claim where one important feature of picture books is that “they are sized to comfortably accommodate a shared reading audience, as opposed to a solitary one” (4). This pocket-sized book, however, opposes this preconceived idea due to the high level of vocabularies printed on the pages that does not accommodate for the intellectuals of very young readers.

The Sleeping Princess requires the intellectuals of adults to be the set story-teller in order for a child to know about its story. So it is important to note that for a child to perceive this picture book, the adults have the agency to tell it in a way that could or could not be harmful to the,. However, since the content still strongly implies the “stillness” in Aurora’s position in bed that gives access for the prince to sexually explore her body, and how marriage is taken lightly that disregards its sacredness in nature, it is not recommended for parents and children to pick up this particular book.

Overall, my exhibit focused on the misconceptions of a romantic and heterosexual love, and the theme of feminism in The Sleeping Princess that presents the suitability of child readership as being problematic. Princesses are to be depicted as docile figures under vulnerable conditions. So the main question remains. Is it still a great dream to want a knight in shining armor like Prince Charming? Even when it means that your existence is to be downgraded as a mere tool for sexual exhibitions?

Works Cited

  • De la Rochère, Martine,Hennard Dutheil. “‘But Marriage itself is no Party’: Angela Carter’s Translation of Charles Perrault’s “La Belle Au Bois Dormant”; Or, Pitting the Politics of Experience Against the Sleeping Beauty Myth.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 24, no. 1, 2010, pp. 131-151,185, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS); Research Library, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/503524442?accountid=13631.
  • Kuykendal, L.F & Sturm, B.W. “We Said Feminist Tales, Not Fractured Fairy Tales!: The Construction of the Feminist Fairy Tale: Female Agency over Role Reversal.” Children and Libraries, 2007, pp. 38-41.
  • Lambert, Megan D. “That’s About the Size of It: Trim Size and Orientation.” Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See. Charlesbridge, 2015 Nov.3, pp.3-14.
  • McClintock, Elizabeth A. “Support for Beauty-Status Exchange Remains Illusory. ” American Sociological Review, vol. 82, issue 5, 2017,  pp. 1100 – 1110, doi:10.1177/0003122417725175.
  • Munsch, Robert. The Paper Bag Princess. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Annick Press, 1980, pp.1-32. Print.
  • Posner, Sandy. The Sleeping Princess. Illustrated by Joyce Millen. Newman Wolsey Ltd, 1945, second edition by Adam and Charles Black Ltd, 1949, pp.1-97. Print.
  • Tatar, Maria. “Show and Tell: Sleeping Beauty as Verbal Icon and Seductive Story.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 28 no. 1, 2014, pp. 142-156. Project MUSE, http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/article/546501.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Post-Victorian Literature and The Importance of Animal Representation in The Peter Rabbit Story Book

© Kristen Zaino 2017, Ryerson University


The Peter Rabbit Story Book is a collection of tales revolving around Beatrix Potter’s original Peter Rabbit short children’s novel. Other authors within the Peter Rabbit Story Book are Linda S. Almond and May Wynne, who contribute four out of the five short stories within the Peter Rabbit Story Book. The 5 short stories are titled: “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, “When Peter Rabbit went A-Fishing”, “Peter Rabbit’s Holiday”, “Peter Rabbit and the Little Girl” By Linda S. Almond, and lastly “Peter Rabbit’s Wedding Day” by May Wynne. 

“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” from The Peter Rabbit Story Book


The Tale of Peter Rabbit is described as a “conventional canon of children’s literature” ever since its release in 1902 (Mackey, xvi), which is why I have specifically chosen to study Beatrix’s Potter’s ever-changing tale of Peter Rabbit, which has launched a great deal of children’s literature. 

Context: What Exactly Does Animal Representation Mean? 

This digital exhibit will explore literature and the representations animals had within specific contexts, specifically on the Peter Rabbit Story Book. Another novel this digital exhibit will discuss is Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne, where I will compare and describe the similarities and differences that the animals in each novel represents. The illustrations themselves matter as well, as they were a new way of showing children the tale they are reading. Animals took part in representing things that were unable to be captured by humans. It made the animals more loving, and made children understand the true beauty of nature at such young ages. Growing up reading books on animals or with animals as the main character would entail that individual to have a fondness for these animals.

Children “implicitly and explicitly identify with animals” as they read these novels, positioning themselves “as distinctly human through the mode of their interactions with both lived animals and those depicted in literature” (Ratelle, 1). In other words, children identify themselves with the animals in these books, which is an important way for children to learn things that are not directly caused by humans, such as learning how to respect your parents as Peter Rabbit respects his mother.

Introduction of Analysis

Peter Rabbit is a mischievous baby bunny, who is still naive, adventurous, and very appealing to children. This is evident when Peter Rabbit’s mother tells him not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden or else he could end up dead like his father, but Peter does not listen to her, and goes on his own adventure, eating all the food in Mr. McGregor’s garden, but then learning his lesson as he is then chased out by Mr. McGregor himself. Beatrix Potter created Peter Rabbit in 1902, and it became clear to children’s book authors that having animals as the main characters representing the children through a relatable animal, such as troublesome Peter Rabbit, was an important feat for other books. 

Importance of Animals in Place of Humans

Literature is a powerful tool. It can ignite emotions in all individuals, helping people to make sense of the world in different ways with different perspectives (Burke and Copenhaver, 2). Children are new to mostly everything in the world, and a good way to get children to understand things are through literature, and through picture books that help set up their perspective of the world. “During the nineteenth century, animal suffering was an appalling constant of both rural and urban landscapes” (Ratelle, 13), so the idea of writing children’s books about animals instead of humans, and showing the new generations why animals are important, was a crucial action to take. These books changed the way generations grew up to view animals, and made other people understand that animals are special as well as humans. 

First Artwork in The Peter Rabbit Story Book

“Children’s books are a more open and obvious mix of artistic, educational, and commercial ideologies” (Mackey, xiv), which is why it is important that children’s literature contains animals for children to learn the important of animals. The illustrations also make up a big part of Peter Rabbit’s popular tale, because of how beautiful they are and how enticing that makes them to the child. Children are very impressionable, and as they grow up reading books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, it is certain they will grow up loving animals. Both The Peter Rabbit Story Book and Winnie the Pooh give great insight to how animals exist and survive in the world they live in. Though these novels are obviously fiction, as animals cannot talk, it is great for children to see rabbits and other animals befriending one another without hesitance, showing that no matter who you are or what you are, you are valid and will find happiness. This is important for children to understand as they will hopefully grow up accepting people of all genders, race, and social classes. “Animal characters as people can add a degree of emotional distance for the reader/writer/speaker when the story message is very powerful” (Burke et. al 9), but it can also be a great way for children to relate to the stories, and learn crucial lessons for the future.

How Peter Rabbit Changed the Future of Children’s Literature

Peter Rabbit was one of the first anthropomorphized characters in a children’s novel, and since the initial release of Beatrix Potter’s tale, many more books have been written, highlighting the importance of anthropomorphism. One of these books that have been incredibly popular as well, is A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, a tale revolving around a sweet, honey-loving bear, and his animal friends in the fictional Hundred Acre Wood Forest. Interestingly, each of the characters all have separate personalities, very distinct from one another, and their personalities match the animal that they are. For example, Owls are independent creatures who are seemingly wise, and that is exactly how Owl in Winnie the Pooh is written. He is seen as a mentor to all the other animals, and as someone who’s advice is most-likely very trustworthy (Eichner, 1).

Winnie the Pooh and friends. Real Caption: Winnie the Pooh turns 90, Blogspot.ca

It is important for children to see the representation of different personalities, and be able to relate to these animals and find themselves within them. Animal representation is often not as discussed as cultural representation is, such as the gender, race, and class issues a lot of these novels wrote about in the 20th century. “We need to stop thinking about children’s books as child’s play and acknowledge that the body of children’s literature reflects contentious issues that reside in the core of our culture”  (Burke et. al, 6), but at the same time, we have to also realize that the animal represent more than just cultural issues. They represent personal issues, and address mental health issues, such as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, who is a character that usually isolated himself because he does not think anyone understands him (Eichner, 1). It is important to see this representation in children’s literature because it is common now in the 21st century for children to feel this isolation as well. Without this representation, children may feel even more isolated, and having an animal represent these traits gives a safe but close enough distance between real life issues and fictional issues.


The Peter Rabbit Story Book and the original tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter revolutionized the way authors write children’s literature. Anthropomorphism helps to create a safe distance between the fictional story and the children, but also helps children to relate to these animals and therefore understand the importance of them. In our modern society, anthropomorphism plays a large role in most children literature and other medias, such as TV or movies, where the main protagonists are animals, and the target audience for these movies are children.

Overall, Beatrix Potter revolutionized children’s literature with Peter Rabbit and the illustrations along with the text. She will continue future generations of children, students, and authors to come.

Works Cited

  • Burke, Carolyn L., Joby G. Copenhaver, and Marilyn Carpenter. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature.” Language Arts, vol. 81, no. 3, 2004, pp. 205-213, Research Library

  • Ratelle, Amy. The Anthropomorphized Animal in Children’s Culture, Ryerson University (Canada), Ann Arbor, 2012, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

  • Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander), 1882-1956 and Shepard, Ernest H. (Ernest Howard), 1879-1976 (Illustrator), Winnie-the-Pooh, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Ltd., 1926 (Copyright), Children’s Literature Archive

  • Potter, Beatrix, 1866-1943 and Willis, Bess Goe (Illustrator), The Peter Rabbit Story Book, New York: The Platt & Munk Co. Inc., 1931 (Copyright), Children’s Literature Archive

  • Mackey, Margaret. The Case of Peter Rabbit: Changing Conditions of Literature for Children. Garland Publishing Inc. , 1998.

  • Eichner, Bernadette. “Understanding Your Team: Who’s Who in Your Hundred Acre Wood.” Do Better Hiring – The RecruitLoop Blog, Recruit Loop, 1 Dec. 2016

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purpose of research, private study, or education.

Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Future: Children and Propaganda in Active Comics #9

©Copyright 2017 Alexandrea Fiorante, Ryerson University.

Active Comics Issue #9 

Writing for Canadian children and adolescence aged 7-18 during World War II, Active Comics issue nine (January 1943) relays wartime propaganda that promoted Canadian patriotism and war inclusion to youth who were too young to participate on the war front. This exhibit will study how Issue #9 involved children into wartime activities and groomed adolescents approaching wartime age through the comic “Active Jim” and his club membership “Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Active Comics issue #9 is an important tool for recruiting the youth and creating ideal Canadian citizens from progression towards a better nation.

Canada and the Second World War

The War Exchange Act prohibited American non-essential goods, including comic books, from entering Canada during World War II. As a result, Canada emerged with comic books that promoted their own nationalistic views: The Canadian Whites. A Toronto publisher, Bell Features, created Active Comics.

Adrien Dingle. Active Comics: No. 9, January 1943, Dixon of the Mounted: Cover. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1943.

Created for, and by Canadians, Active Comics issue #9 encompass patriotic heroes, wartime news and incentives for children’s involvement. It was used as propaganda to groom youth for war. Fredrik Stromberg argues that propaganda was a necessary form of communication because of wartime ideas that viewed militarization as rational for teaching values (ch 2). Comic books influenced child readers’ opinions on political, social and moral values during the 1940s, in which patriotism was expected. It created ideal Canadian citizens to enlist in the war.

The importance of comic books stemmed from the educational standards of World War II. The 1880’s education system focused on teaching youth about politics and war events at government-run institutions. Ross Collins writes that children existed as messengers to relay information to their parents, among others (ch 2). Authorities encouraged youth to partake in clubs, such as boy scouts, to learn proper values, be groomed for war, and prevent delinquency (ch 2).

The drafting age for youth on the war front was nineteen. Comic books provided information that prepared young people, aged seventeen and eighteen, who were soon eligible to participate. Many children had siblings and parents active in the war efforts. Comic book imagery and content spawned children’s desire to be like their elders.
Bell Feature’s Active Comics issue #9 works similarly. It includes Canadian morals and militarization that groomed youth for future duties. Not only is reading an educational act, but it also kept children from delinquency by including clubs to join and activities to do. Issue #9 harnesses war values and interests by providing participatory opportunities and Canadian heroes to follow (Kockmarek 150).

Analysis of the “Active Jim” Comic

“Active Jim” is a comic book hero created by Edmond Good that presented an attainable image of the ideal Canadian citizen. “Active Jim” follows the young Canadian hero Active Jim and his lady friend Joan Brian during their car ride home after a hockey game. A boy of good values, he picks up a hitch hiker who turns out to be a Nazi trying to reach the United States border. Active Jim outsmarts the Nazi, ties him up, and brings him to police. The next day, Joan acknowledges Jim’s success. He replies that “any real Canadian boy would have done the same” (Good 37).

Fig. 1. Edmond Good. Frame from “Active Jim.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 37. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Important to note is Active Jim’s backstory. Active Jim is a teenage boy who is not old enough to be on the war front. He is a young, average boy who, in-between his studies and watching hockey games, tries to do ‘his bit’ in support of Canada. Active Jim presents to youth a Canadian hero that is relatable in lifestyle and age. His comic pushes desires to be active in war efforts by showing an easily identifiable character and his successful attempts to fight crime. When he says that “any real Canadian boy would have done the same,” the idea of using role models is evident (fig. 1). Active Jim is an older brother figure used to groom, and persuade, young boys into being active in war efforts while showcasing Canadian values as important.

Fig. 2. Ross Saakel. Splash page from “The Noodle.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 30. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Active Comics issue #9 also uses the young, amiable hero character in “The Noodle,”created by Ross Saakel, to inspire youth to do their part. The character is a baby wearing a diaper who combats enemy threat to save himself and his girlfriend, Henrietta (fig. 2). Like Active Jim, The Noodle is too young to be involved in the war. Likewise, the The Noodle’s backstory involves that his father is battling on the war front. The comic uses the father figure to identify with children who have parents in the war.  These fictional, young heroes show that anyone can aid in the war effort.

(Fig. 3)“Fund-Raising Poster, Hey Gang! Keep on Licking War Savings Stamps- They’re full of Vitamin ‘V’”. Broadside. Circa 1942, Canadian War Museum. Public Domain.

The Canadian War Museum poster “Hey Gang” uses a youth character to promote buying war saving stamps (fig 3). As done with “The Noodle” and “Active Jim,” the use of another young role model character creates a collective drive and a sense of unity that inspires other youth to participate. This poster also coincides with the idea of doing one’s part and reinforces the idea that all “Canadian’s must contribute to the end the war” (Stevenson). Considering children are too young to be on the war front,  buying war saving stamps-like the poster- and victory bonds, they are able to aid in the funding of the war. The red “V” on the poster stands for victory, providing an incentive to do their part and emerge successful in their efforts and the efforts of Canada.


Analysis of “Active Jim’s Monthly Message” 

Active Jim is the leader of his own membership club for wartime efforts. Created by Adrien Dingle, “Active Jim’s Monthly Message” uses the idealistic Canadian hero as propaganda for involving youth into war. His name, “Active Jim,” insinuates activeness from the use of the adjective in conjunction with the issue’s title “Active Comics.” This is evidence of blatant militarization and implementation of wartime values.

Fig. 4. Edmond Good. Frame from “Active Jim.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 35. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Noted in his comic “Active Jim,” the comic’s backstory tells the reader that he and Joan are in the car chatting over the “Active Team’s sensational victory” (fig. 4). This acts as propaganda within within propaganda to advertise the club in Active Jim’s own realities. By pairing the club, the comic’s themes of activism and his notion that “any real Canadian boy would have done the same,” the club is a grooming method for making war efforts desirable by penning every child as a war hero. Active Jim’s club exists as a controlled environment that militarizes children and keeps them out of trouble as Collins had suggested (ch 2).

Active Jim’s club membership is an opportunity for youth’s active participation. Providing an elitist group run by a figure like Active Jim, working with the Canadian hero and receiving a special group certificate is a huge incentive to be war hero. Similarly to figure 3, it is effective in using a heroic character to relay information and ask the youth to fulfill roles. Children can relate to the mundane character and will listen and strive to be like them because they are relatable in lifestyle and age but still make evident change in Canadian society.

Active Jim’s Monthly Message: Casablanca Conference Analysis  

Fig. 5. Adrien Dingle. Splash page from “Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 18. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Active Jim’s Monthly Message in issue #9 asks for members to decode a message about the Casablanca conference. The use of a secret message not only creates excitement around an elitist group task, but relays political information to children. The Casablanca conference of January 1943, the same month and year of Active Comics issue #9, is about Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s next phase of World War II (Fleming 2). Cleverly nicknamed “SYMBOL” which coincides with Active Jim’s ‘symbol message,’ the mention of the political event is used to inform children about the current events. As children learn, they will pass the information on to their parents through Collin’s suggestion that youth are used as messengers (ch 2). Likewise, “Active Jim’s Monthly Message” also acknowledges that children “are doing their part in so many ways… buying war saving stamps… but there’s still plenty of growth,” insinuating that there is always work to do, and that involvement in the war is crucial (Dingle 18) (fig. 5).

In connection to the historical outcome of the next phase, the Casablanca Conference was for “unconditional surrender,” meaning they would fight until their ultimate defeat, as peace could only come from the elimination of the German and the Japanese (Fleming 3). This mention resonates with readers and the act of continuing to do their part. However, the message remains unsolved because of the inability to retrieve the code wheel.
Active Comics issue #9 includes propaganda around teaching readers feelings of racism and hatred towards enemy powers. Active Jim’s comic includes Nazi hatred propaganda, and another comic “Thunderfist” showcases negative Japanese representation. Stromberg’s notion of ‘war rage’ as seen in various comics dealing with enemy powers was evident in popular entertainment to promote patriotism (ch 2).

Fig. 6. “Keep these hands off.” Broadside. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain.

The World War II poster “Keep your hands off!” is an example of racial hatred towards enemies to promote patriotism (fig 6). The woman in the poster is holding a child that symbolizes innocence. The dark hands that have the emblems of the enemy powers on them are suggestively devious because of their shape in conjunction with the headline “keep your hands off!” The poster stresses the protection of youth from the enemy powers by fighting against them and posing them as a threat. The collective hatred of their enemies spawned patriotism and a desire for young people to fight against them to protect Canada and future generations.

By linking the ideas of the Casablanca Conference, mystery message from “Active Jim’s Monthly Message” and Jim’s statement to “work three times as hard to make this message a reality” Active Comics issue #9 uses the information to groom children for war by immersing them in politics and ideas essential to fighting enemies.

Fig. 7. Advertisement for Victory Model’s “Command Repeating Play Gun.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 66. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Likewise to the ideas of grooming youth through information, the “Command Repeating Play Gun” by Victory Models aids in this process by selling replica weapons used on the war front (fig. 7). Through purchasing the items, the youth who are close to their enlistment age are able to be familiar, and practice with, the gun. Children further away from the legal age of enlistment are able to be groomed along with the elders to find desire in being on the war front through engagement with the toy.

The club and the toy exist, as Collins suggested, for keeping children out of trouble by giving them war related groups and items to engage with and gain interest in the war (ch 2). By partaking in activities, they are gaining Canadian values and learning how to be successful on the war front.


Active Comic’s issue #9 (January 1943) targeted children aged 7-18 during World War II to relay wartime information and ensure the participation of children regardless of their age. Likewise, issue #9 is a method for grooming youth in preparation for the warfront. Through this issue, the form is used an important tool for harnessing youth interests and involvement through the “Active Jim” comic and “Active Jim’s Monthly Message” to create ideal Canadian citizens for wartime recruitment.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Works Cited

Adrien Dingle. Active Comics: No. 9, January 1943, Dixon of the Mounted: Cover. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1943

Collins, Ross F. “How War Can Make Children Better.” Children, War & Propaganda. New York, Peter Lang, 2011.

“Command Repeating Play Gun.” no. 9, January 1943, p. 66. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166795.pdf 

Fleming, Thomas. “The Most Ruinous Allied Policy of the Second World War.” History Today, vol. 51, no. 12, 2001, pp. 2-3. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/202814892?accountid=13631

Dingle, Adrien. “Active Jim’s Monthly Message.” no. 9, January 1943, p. 18. Bell Features Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166795.pdf

Good, Edmond. “Active Jim.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 35-37. Bell Features Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166795.pdf

Kocmarek, Ivan. “Truth, Justice and the Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, vol. 43, no. 1, 2016, pp. 148-165.  Project Muse, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/611725/pdf.

Saakel, Ross. “The Noodle.” Active Comics, no. 9, January 1943, p. 30-31. Bell Features Collection, Ryerson University Library and Archives. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166795.pdf 

Stevenson, Robert. “Canadian Wartime Propaganda: Second World War Propaganda Poster.” Canadian War Museum, Canadian War Museum, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/propaganda/poster20_e.shtml. Accessed 9 March 2017.

Stromberg, Fredrik. Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History. Lewes, Ilex, 2010.

Content & Context of World War I: Ideology, Gender, and Ruth Fielding

© Copyright 2014 Kira Metcalfe, Ryerson University

(Fig. 1) Hardcover printed illustration of Ruth Fielding at College found in Ryerson University’s Children’s Literature Archive.                           Source: Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at College, or, The Missing Examination Papers. New York: Cupples & Leon, 1917. Children’s Literature Archive, Ryerson University Library and Archives.


By 1917 America dissolved any illusions of neutrality, and joined World War One (1914-1917) (Knock). Alice B. Emerson’s Ruth Fielding At College (1917) was published in the United States that same year. The subject matter and plot have no relation to the war. However, the ways in which the early 20th century was shaped by the Great War are mirrored in the text. The novel entertains many ideological parallels between its narrative content and its historical context. Ruth Fielding at College‘s production history displays this well.  As the product of the Edward Stratemeyer syndicate, the text shows  that relationships such as author/ reader, institution/ student, and even nation/ soldier were shifting at an increasing rate.

Throughout the text one sees gender, ideology, and power come together in the socio-economic structures experienced by the characters. This is notable considering that the Ruth Fielding series as a whole is marketed for young girls. Confoundingly, the concepts present in both content, and the history, all appear to not only be in transition, but rest upon a threshold. With this in mind the text could be easily seen as a potential response to the war efforts. However, if one is speaking of the actual impact of Ruth Fielding at College current gleanings need to be set aside.

Ruth Fielding At College

The 11th volume in the Ruth Fielding series, Ruth Fielding At College, or, The Missing Examination Papers continues the tale of orphaned filmmaker Ruth Fielding. Before arriving at Ardmore college for her freshman year, a lost girl named “Maggie” washes ashore at Ruth’s home. Little does Ruth know this is the same girl, Margaret Altoff, who went missing from Ardmore the year before—along with an Egyptian vase containing examination papers. After a hazing ritual “Maggie” had run away, causing the school’s sorority to close its doors.

The copy of the text located in Ryerson University’s Children’s Literature Archive is presented in Hardcover with a printed illustration on its front (fig. 1). Preceding the narrative is an illustrated page by R. Emmett Owen (Johnson “Alice B. Emerson” 119) (fig. 2). The illustration depicts a poignant moment in the text, where Ruth is caught in a storm. This eventually leads to the revelation of Maggie’s identity and discovery of the missing exam papers. Although the next page states that the novel is illustrated it is otherwise not; nor is the artist credited other than his signature on the illustration itself. A list of the Ruth Fielding volumes to date follows the title page. Several pages at the end of the book are dedicated to various advertisements for series books published by the publisher responsible for most of the Ruth Fielding series, Cupples & Leon.

 The Literary Syndicate and The Single Author

A literary syndicate produces books through a group of writers, usually under a pseudonym. Those writers are paid a flat rate for each series/ book they write (Herbert 189-190). The establishment of the literary syndicate coincides with other “efficiency” seekers of the early 20th century, such as Henry T. Ford and his factory assembly line (Stoneley 91). The Edward Stratemeyer literary syndicate produced the Ruth Fielding series under the pseudonym Alice B. Emerson. Between 1913 and 1934 a total of thirty volumes were commissioned for the series (Johnson “Alice B. Emerson” 119).

Edward Stratemeyer has become synonymous with children’s series literature (Johnson “Introduction: The People Behind the Books” xiii). He operated under at least eight pseudonyms at a time, quickly producing staggering amounts of written work (xvi). After ghostwriting for the late Horatio Alger, Stratemeyer officially established his Literary Syndicate in 1905 (xviii, xx). For Stratemeyer’s syndicate he would develop the concept of a series, along with chapter outlines for the syndicate writers to complete (xxviii). The completed chapters would be reviewed to see if they were up to Stratemeyer’s high standards (xxviii). Once a writer became part of the syndicate they would usually go on to write many Stratemeyer series books (xxi, xxviii). However, contracts signed by authors forced them to not only use pseudonyms, but also remain completely anonymous (xxviii).

(fig. 2)
(fig. 2) The frontispiece and the title page of Ryerson University’s Children’s Literature Archive copy of Ruth Fielding at College. Source: Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at College, or, The Missing Examination Papers. New York: Cupples & Leon, 1917. Children’s Literature Archive, Ryerson University Library and Archives

The presumption of a single author remains largely unquestioned in spite of producers like the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate. It is obvious that, simply from the system of the syndicate, many more “authors” are involved. Also, the person most responsible for the content is often left unacknowledged. Fan mail was addressed to “Alice B. Emerson,” while the “real” author W.B. Foster is only attributed to the series as a result of Stratemeyer’s records (Stratemeyer Syndicate; Johnson “Appendix D – Series Contributors” 307). Little to no other information is available about Foster himself.

Series Books and Advertising Literature

Throughout his long career Stratemeyer did not go without his detractors. Notably the Chief Scout Librarian of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Franklin K. Mathiews expressed caution. There was great concern about what was produced by the syndicate. Primarily the works were not in line with what children should be reading (Johnson “Introduction: The People Behind the Books” xxiv). In other words, series books were essentially frivolous and fruitless (xxiv-xxv). Other adults, and parents alike, questioned the effect of series fiction on adolescents. This barely dented the influence Stratemeyer, and other series fiction producers, had already established (Baxter Introduction 10).

The acknowledgement of series fiction’s apparent place in literature could be seen in its marketing. In 1917 Ruth Fielding At College, the newest volume in the Ruth Fielding series, is announced in a New York Tribune Article (“Choice Gleanings From the Publisher’s Spring Catalogues” 9). On the same page of the article is an advertisement for an arguably different “type” of book. My Unknown Chum’s advertisement (fig. 3) mimics what Mathiews would prefer to any Stratemeyer series book (Johnson “Introduction: The People Behind the Books” xxiv). The advertisement even references soldiers, stating that the book “Should be the Chum of Every Soldier—Officer or Private” (My Unknown Chum by Henry Garrity). This reference points to the purveyance of war at the time, and how service was the measure of society. Another smaller advertisement is for a book titled Woman (fig. 4). Although the book appears to be progressive, its exampled reception maintains a downgrading of women’s abilities. The advertisement states, “No woman could have written such a book ” (Woman by Vance Thomas). This thinking falls in line with the use of female pseudonyms for series fiction, as it was a lesser form of fiction. In the process, women are solidified in their respective place; that is, until effects of  World War I.

American Women during WWI

My Unknown Chum
(fig. 3) An advertisement for a book called The Unknown Chum that appeared on the same page as an announcement for the release of Ruth Fielding at College.                                                   Source: “Choice Gleanings From the Publisher’s Spring Catalogues.” New York Tribune 14 April 1917: 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress.

American women made themselves a part of the war effort, even during the years leading up to 1914. The demographics consisted of high school educated, lower middle class women. (Hamilton-Honey “Two Miles Forward, One Mile Back” 135-139). From the Red Cross to car factories, women made their mark (159, 150). Ruth herself went on to work for the Red Cross in subsequent volumes of the series (167). The war had women enter many other areas of the otherwise male-dominated workforce (166). The opportunities of contention from their male counterparts made women increasingly aware of their position in the world (137). A symptom of these “gender wars,” the Great War became just as politically charged on the home front as the actual battlefield (145). At the time government authority figures both helped and hindered the progress of women’s involvement in the war (144, 150). Positions of power were held both by male detractors as well as champions of women’s active role (150). The tug-of-war that ensued results in a transitional mentality within women’s rights. Women found themselves in a peculiar place; a place where there was an opportunity to hold a potential position of potential power. On the other hand, even this potential meant that women were viewed as attempting to take the place of men. Literally, “their presence became an open threat” (162).

Power Plays

The character Ruth Fielding shows that the early 20th century heroine is just as much in transition as the girl reading their exploits (167). Ruth and her friends have access to a level of education that was still scarce for women at the time (139). Simultaneously the same pressures, stresses, and taboos remained. Like the women of her time Ruth never attempts to take on the male role (Hamilton-Honey “Running the Gamut and the Gauntlet” 181-182). Ruth maintains a primarily passive personality. It begs the question, whether or not these attributes make Ruth simply another cog in the wheel, or a liberator. After all, despite Ruth’s passivity she is referred to as a “dynamic figure of command” (Stoneley 94). More importantly Ruth exemplifies an ability to adapt. She was not always well off and successful; rather she always rose to the occasion (Baxter “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century” 140). As Hamilton-Honey states, “Women were not always simply ‘placeholders,’ nor did they always see their work that way” (“Two Miles Forward, One Mile Back” 162). Women were essentially forced to “pick their battles.” Therefore, through the text much of the framework of many conditional freedoms experienced by young women is constructed. Women’s roles and “place” become increasingly apparent once shifted by the war.

Gender and Authority

(fig. 4) A book titled Woman was advertised alongside one for The Unknown Chum, as well as an announcement for the release of Ruth Fielding at College.                   Source: “Choice Gleanings From the Publisher’s Spring Catalogues.” New York Tribune 14 April 1917: 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress.

Much of what occurs around Ruth and her friends is a result of being stuck in this sort of transitional state. The different sides of the transition are illustrated in a variety of ways. First, in how Rebecca Franye, one of Ruth’s classmates, is positioned through Ardmore’s social and academic circles. Both girls’ assumptions or evaluations of college and college life are problematic. Ruth was enchanted by the concept of college and Ardmore prior to attending. Ardmore becomes elevated as a sort of exotic wish fulfilment for Ruth—almost a “touristic experience” (Stoneley 94). In this case Rebecca, who is more worried about how she is perceived by classmates than her studies, contrasts Ruth’s personality. Rebecca’s expectations of school as only being for the wealthy are not the case. Rather than being ostracized for being poor, her fear, she is shunned for not following the rules (95-97).

According to Ruth Fielding at College, there is no good outcome from pretending to be part of a class you are not (97). The novel perpetuates the “knowing of one’s place,” which is one side of the threshold experienced by women in the early 20th century. Ruth herself is quite aware of both the freedoms and downfalls of being a girl, a woman, in early 20th century America. She expresses disdain for those who perform to be someone other than who they are. In this respect Ruth Fielding could be the ideal transitional female adolescent (Baxter “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century” 140). She achieves this in relation to Rebecca and Maggie; both contrastingly, but also conditionally. The relationship is conditional because, without the contrast, Ruth’s idealilty would not necessarily be as apparent (Baxter Introduction 19).

Institution and Power Structures

How the characters of this text are treated, and seen as transitional characters, is a result of the systems they are placed into. Therefore, apart from gender role’s, the text aligns itself with these other transitional sentiments of the early 20th century. This is accomplished through the framework of power plays, consequences, and the submission to a higher authority. Ruth Fielding At College employs power and authority in two ways, and displays the transition between the two. Instantly the reader is shown how power structures can operate through the consequences of corruption and displaying the extremes of authority. In the text a failed sorority hazing leads to missed opportunities. Now both new and old students are not able to become part of a sorority due to its consequential dismantling. Misunderstandings and hardships surrounding this situation, and one sees it carry over into the next school year.

However, a second exercise of authority takes its place, that was arguably always present: the senior class. The removal of the sorority makes the presence more apparent. Throughout the remainder of the text the “regular” politics and dynamics of the college are framed as appropriate and justified. Initially one sees rejection and hostility on part of the “freshies” forced to wear specified coloured hats by the seniors (Emerson 39). Despite this initial rebellion the freshmen eventually obey the rule. The exercise of power is justified as a means of unifying each student-body class. These overarching sentiments of class distinctions can be seen as an affect of World War I, and the adjacent acceleration of industry (Hamilton-Honey “Running the Gamut and the Gauntlet” 181; Baxter Introduction 16). Ardmore, in this respect, represents a “social-industrial matrix” through the tension that arises within its hierarchy; made increasingly visible by the transition from the old “regime” (Stoneley 93). Transitional roles in Ruth Fielding at College, which consist of the positioned individual, positions the reader to make the most of their given situation (Baxter Introduction 13). It is through transitional states that the narrative of Ruth Fielding At College presents its contemporary and future readers with the ideology that became apparent with the advent of World War I.

Categories and the Growth of Industrialization

The relationship between exercises of power, agency and authority in the real world were experiencing a transition–Ruth Fielding is a product of that. These are notions that mirror themselves not only from the text itself, but through the producer, and the consumer. For one, the novel was increasingly seen as a commodity (Stoneley 104). Syndicate writing shows these changes in the book market throughout the 20th century (Baxter Introduction 13, “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century” 142). It was “not uncommon” to work in movies at the time (Hamilton-Honey “Taking Advantage of New Markets” 205). Movies, and technology subsequently provided a “pull” for series fiction’s younger audiences (Stoneley 90). The content of material being published reflects an ever-changing world. Notions of consumerism, and nationalism meet artistic freedom, and escapism. Whether pertaining to the production of a book or the receiving of education, the goal becomes more about enabling a student body—a force—a body of work as a whole, than the work of one student or one writer. The individual soldier makes way for the nation, and the individual student does so for the institution’s hierarchy. Triumphantly the literary syndicate takes over for the single author.

Conclusion: Submission or Omission?

Another well-known girls’ series fiction brand, the American Girl series, was eventually styled into dolls that reflected different battles or moments in American history (Silvey 408). Along with Ruth Fielding one sees the establishment of series books as playing a prominent historic role in the formation of patriotism and ideology in America. The reader is not only positioned in the shift of a book’s production, but through it. The system and the person, the creator and the reader, the soldier and the country are in the process of converging–an affect exacerbated by Ruth Fielding At College in the climate of War.

In considering the power structures presented in the text, their subversive nature comes into question. When situated with the rest of the series, Ruth Fielding At College is a subversive text insofar as it represents another step closer, a transition, to gender equality (Hamilton-Honey “Taking Advantage of New Markets” 221). However, as a stand-alone novel the volume provides a snapshot for how women were still greatly operating “within patriarchal boundaries” at the turn of the 20th century (182). Therefore, the text will never become completely subversive. Series fiction was used as a means to define a problem and then provide the “possible solution” (Baxter Introduction 11). Instead it leaves readers and characters caught in a liminal space.

Works Cited

Baxter, Kent. Introduction. The Modern Age: Turn-of-the-Century American Culture and the Invention of Adolescence. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008. 1-20. Print.

—. “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century (Part II): Edward Stratemeyer.” The Modern Age: Turn-of-the-Century American Culture and the Invention of Adolescence. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008. 136-154. Print.

“Choice Gleanings From the Publisher’s Spring Catalogues.” New York Tribune 14 April 1917: 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at College, or, The Missing Examination Papers. New York: Cupples & Leon, 1917. Children’s Literature Archive, Ryerson University Library and Archives.

Hamilton-Honey, Emily. “Two Miles Forward, One Mile Back: Gender Battles During the Great War.” Turning the Pages of American Girlhood : The Evolution of Girls’ Series Fiction, 1865-1930. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2013. 135-168. ebrary eBooks. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

—. “Running the Gamut and the Gauntlet: World War I Series Fiction as a Catalyst for Change in the Cultural Landscape of American Girlhood.” Turning the Pages of American Girlhood : The Evolution of Girls’ Series Fiction, 1865-1930. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2013. 168-200. ebrary eBooks. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

—. “Taking Advantage of New Markets: Ruth Fielding as a Motion Picture Screenwriter, Producer, and Executive.” Turning the Pages of American Girlhood : The Evolution of Girls’ Series Fiction, 1865-1930. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2013. 201-222. ebrary eBooks. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Herbert, Rosemary. “Syndicate Authors.” Whodunit?: A Who’s Who in Crime and Mystery Writing. Cary: Oxford University Press, 2003. 189-190. ebrary eBooks. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.

Johnson, Deidre. “Introduction: The People Behind the Books.” Stratemeyer Pseudonyms and Series Books: An Annotated Checklist of  Stratemeyer and Stratemeyer Syndicate Publications. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982. xiii-xxxvi. Print.

—. “Alice B. Emerson.” Stratemeyer Pseudonyms and Series Books: An Annotated Checklist of  Stratemeyer and Stratemeyer Syndicate Publications. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982. 117-122. Print.

—. “Appendix D – Series Contributors.” Stratemeyer Pseudonyms and Series Books: An Annotated Checklist of  Stratemeyer and Stratemeyer Syndicate Publications. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982. 307. Print.

Knock, Thomas J. “World War I.” The Oxford Companion to United States History. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference. 2004. Date Accessed 8 Mar. 2014

Silvey, Anita. “Series Books.” The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. 407-8. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Stoneley, Peter. “Serial Pleasures” Consumerism and American Girls’ Literature, 1860-1940. Ed. Ross Posnock. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 90-104. Print. Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture no. 134.

Stratemeyer Syndicate. Fan mail to Alice B. Emerson. 1919-28. Box 31. Stratemeyer Syndicate Records 1832-1984. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

My Unknown Chum by Henry Garrity. Advertisement. New York Tribune 14 April 1917: 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Woman by Vance Thomas. Advertisement. New York Tribune 14 April 1917: 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. Web. 27 Feb. 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

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. Encyclopedia.com. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Houghton_Mifflin_Company.aspx>.

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. <http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/stable/800925>.

– – -. 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. <http://brooklynology.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/post/2009/08/13/Pioneering-Childrens-Services.aspx>.

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

The Power of Fairy Tales And Nationalism

© 2014 Mariama French, Ryerson University

English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham

As a rite of passage in childhood, a decrease in the popularity of the fairy tale genre remains to be seen and thus, its prevalence and importance continues. In 1918, only a month before the official end of World War I, British author Flora Annie Steel asserted her belief in the relevance of the genre with publishing of her book English Fairy Tales which was illustrated by Arthur Rackham. This book in the CLA catalogue, was published in London and New York by Macmillan & Co. and contains 41 fairy tales. Considering the fact that the collection was published just before the end of World War I, this exhibit will examine the genre of fairy tales and discuss the impact that the war had on children, in order to situate the book within the context of the war.

The British Contents

The selection of fairy tales by Steel is diverse as the contents and themes of the tales deal with topics such as etiquette, marriage and the coming of age. In terms of characters, the tales are just as diverse with heroes, heroines and otherworldly figures featuring prominently. The fairy tales present in Steel’s book include “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Mr. Fox”; stories that one could say are still synonymous with the genre even today. What is significant to this collection is the fact that these are not any version of the tales but rather (and specifically) the British version. This is not only reflected in the title of the collection itself but is also asserted from the beginning of its contents with the first tale, “St. George of Merrie England”. The story is about English knight who travels across Egypt, Persia and Morocco performing heroic deeds as one of the Six Champions of Christendom.

“St. George of Merrie England” In Text Illustration by Arthur Rackham

The Six Champions includes knights from France, Spain, Italy and Wales; countries that also banded together in the War to fight against Germany (“Allies”). Tales such as “Tom-Tit-Tot” and “Dick Whittington and His Cat” are included in this collection as they are the Suffolk version of Rumpelstiltskin and a tale of English lore respectively. (Simpson 298; Schacker 726) An important source of the book’s contents was that of Joseph Jacobs’ own collection English Fairy Tales and More English Fairy Tales (published in 1890 and 1894 respectively), evidenced by the fact that 39 of the tales in Steel’s book are also found in those of Jacobs’. (Mistele 155) The tales in Jacobs’ books were taken from both written and oral sources. (Mistele 188) What differentiates Steel’s collection from Jacobs’, is the fact that Steel employed the use of editing in order to add small alterations to her versions of the tales (Mistele 219); hence the “Retold by” feature that is displayed on the book’s title page. The fact that the collection, however, was published with the purpose of having British tales only prior to the end of the war, hints at a theme of nationalism within the book.

Production History and Reception

As indicated by numerous advertisements of the time, including one in London’s The Saturday Review, the main appeal for buyers of the collection was the illustrations drawn by Arthur Rackham. In fact, Macmillan & Co. relied so much on the popularity of Rackham that the initial pressing of the book was done in two editions: an Ordinary Edition and an Edition de Luxe which was not only limited to 500 numbered copies but was also signed by Rackham himself (“Advertisement”; Hudson 170). A copy of the limited edition, which initially sold for £2 12s 6d (“Advertisement”), is currently selling for just over $4,000 in Toronto on the website AbeBooks; making it a collector’s item today. The emphasis on Rackham was not only important to the success of sales, but was also a result of the fact that his drawings are featured heavily throughout the book. In total there are 58

Many’s the beating he had from the broomstick or the ladle. Illustration of “Mr. Fox” by Arthur Rackham

illustrations, 16 of which are full colour plates (with tissue guards) and 42 that are in black and white. The colour plates are particularly interesting as they not only bring the tales to life, but also display the depth of Rackham’s imagination as he depicts their fantastical nature. As per a review in The Bookman, the quality of these illustrations meant that the book was perfect for “all art-loving children”. (“ENGLISH FAIRY TALES”) Another review found that the book would make a great Christmas for an “intelligent child” (“OLD FRIENDS”). The overall reception seemed to be positive, with The Bookman review stating that Steel’s book was one of the more “fascinating” and “artistically produced” out of all the fairy tale books published around Christmas. (“ENGLISH FAIRY TALES”)

A Brief History of The Fairy Tale

The fairy tale genre, as we know it today, had its origins in the oral tradition of storytelling. (Ashliman 2) The only way that these stories could survive is if they were entertaining (Ashliman 50), indicating that people would willingly want to pass them on in order to amuse others. Given the fact that the genre found its origins in the oral tradition, its history can be traced back to a time in which history itself was not recorded. (Jones 1) Additionally, the early written records of almost every culture indicate their pre-existence. (Jones 1) This early presence of tales in every culture reflects the fact that there are different variations of a particular tale and the fact that one tale may be more or less popular in one community than another. (Jones 28) Historically, the prime audience of fairy tales (in their oral form) were adults. (Zipes, Fairy Tales 3) It was only due to writers such as Sarah Fielding and Mme. Leprince de Beaumont that the tales started to be published for children around the mid 18th century. (Zipes, Why Fairy 99) Even then, the written form of the tales was looked down upon by German scholars who found them to be of their utmost purity in the oral form. (Blamires 71) For these German scholars, the act publishing of their beloved tales also became a point of contention with the publishing of one of the most famous collections of fairy tales for children by the Brothers Grimm. (Blamires 71)

She sate down and plaited herself an overall of rushes and a cap to match. Illustration of “Caporushes” by Arthur Rackham

Fairy tales were told with the purpose of entertaining and educating their audiences. (Zipes, Why Fairy 99) In the 1690s, French writer Charles Perrault and the female writers of the salon wrote their tales with the purpose of not only commenting on the youth of their time, but also to guide them on acceptable social behaviors. (Zipes, Fairy Tales 30) As the tales started to be told to an intended audience of children, their tones shifted to that of the cautionary tale. (Davidson and Chaudhri 6) They were also told to children in environments relative to their society such as the court, classroom and even the nursery. (Zipes, Why Fairy 99) What has made the genre popular back then and even today, is the fact that these tales have a wish fulfillment component; that they show how one can achieve happiness, resolve moral conflict and gain a better life. (Zipes, Why Fairy 152) For children specifically, their benefit is not only entertainment but the fact that fairy tales allow them to better understand who they are (as they relate to the main characters) and to ease their anxieties. (Davidson and Chaudhri 5; Zipes, Fairy Tales 1)

Children, Wartime Nationalism & Propaganda

During the First World War, there was a strong sense of British pride and nationalism which resulted from the propaganda that sought to depict the Germans in a negative manner. (Robb 6) This allowed for the breaking down of social barriers relating to gender and class as the focus for citizens was dedicated less to inner conflict and more to that of their German enemy. (Robb 5) The British saw themselves as being the embodiment of values such as peace and democracy, unlike that of their German foe. (Robb 6) As the propaganda against Germany filtered in through newspapers and film (Robb 6), British society sought to invoke nationalism in its young through toys and literature that were war related. (Robb 160) Stories of patriotism were geared to young boys through periodicals such as The Boy’s Own Paper, which featured stories about military training and pictures of military equipment. (Robb 177)

Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar at home. Frontispiece illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar” by Arthur Rackham

These periodicals also hoped to instill national pride in their young male readers by having their magazine covers feature boys standing in front of the British flag (Robb 177); boys that their readers could probably relate to and look up to. There were also numerous novel series set during the war that were being published at the time. (Robb 177) These series probably allowed young boys to gain a better understanding of the events of the war and perhaps, served as a source of fantasy for them. British girls were targeted to by periodicals such as Girl Guides’ Gazette which taught them how to “endure the war’s sorrows silently” and to can food and knit socks in order to support their country. (Robb 178) Such content reflected the social codes/expectations of women at the time; especially given their contrast to the content of the boys’ periodicals.  As women’s independence gained more traction during the progression of the war, however, book series which featured characters going on adventures targeted specifically to girls, started to appear. (Robb 178)

“Odds splutter hur nails!” cried the giant, not to be outdone. “Hur can do that hurself.” Illustration of “Jack The Giant Killer” by Arthur Rackham

Outside of literature, children also had a more direct involvement in the war. They were responsible for collecting the leftover fats from cooking in order to aid in the production of scrap metal and explosives for factories which produced war ammunitions. (Robb 174-75) Not only did they use their allowances to buy war bonds, they also had their own gardens which helped with the national production of food. (Robb 175) At school, they also had drills that were military style and had to endure newly established programs such as calisthenics. (Robb 175) The level of British children’s involvement in the war was so vigorous that H.A.L. Fisher, who was the Education Minister at the time, later confessed to the fact that 600,000 children were “‘prematurely’” used for work in the war from 1914 to 1917. (Robb 175)

Steel’s Book In The Context of War

Title Page of English Fairy Tales

Keeping in mind one of the functions of fairy tales as being that of education, in conjunction with the propaganda through literature that was prominent during the war, it is possible to view Steel’s book as a continuation of the nationalistic theme during the war. With its publishing, the book perhaps acts as a tool for children to be proud of their country through its literary history. On the other hand, given the entertainment value that fairy tales have and the nature of children’s involvement during the war (and even that of the war itself), it is possible to place Steel’s book in the position as that of a tool of escapism for children; one that allows them to escape from the harsh realities they have come to know throughout the war years and into that of the imagination. No matter which view is the most plausible or was intended, there is no denying the fact that Steel’s book was meant to be a celebration of the contribution that England made in the development of the fairy tale genre.

English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel is available to read online (with Arthur Rackham’s illustrations) and download at Project Gutenberg.

Works Cited

“Advertisement.” Saturday review of politics, literature, science and art. 126.3291 (1918):1097. ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

“Advertisement.” The Spectator. Nov 30 1918: 635. ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. Ashliman, D.L. Folk And Fairy Tales: A Handbook. Wesport, C.T. : Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.

“Allies.” Oxford Reference. Philip’s, 2004. Web. 00 Mar. 2014.

Blamires, David. “A Workshop of Editorial Practice: The Grimms’ Kinder-und Hausmärchen.” A Companion To The Fairy Tale. Eds. Hilda E. Davidson and Anna Chaudhri. Woodbridge: Boyder & Brewell, 2006. 71-84. Print.

Davidson, Hilda E., and Anna Chaudhri, eds. A Companion To The Fairy Tale. 2003. Woodbridge: Boyder & Brewell, 2006. Print.

“ENGLISH FAIRY TALES.” The Bookman. 55.327 (1918): 107. ProQuest. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Hudson, Derek. Arthur Rackham: His Life And Work. 1960. London: Heinemann, 1974. Print.

Jones, Steven S. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror Of Imagination. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Mistele, Linda Mae Heddle. “In My Father’s House are Many Rooms: A Study of Father-Daughter Relations in French and English Fairy Tales.” Order No. 9404737 The University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1993. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Nicolson, Juliet. The Great Silence, 1918-1920: Living In The Shadow Of The Great War. London: John Murray, 2009. Print.

“OLD FRIENDS.” Saturday review of politics, literature, science and art 126.3294 (1918): 1160. ProQuest. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Robb, George. British Culture And The First World War. New York: Palgrave, 2002. Print. Schacker, Jennifer.

“Pantomime”. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktale and Fairy Tales. Ed. Donald Haase. Vol. 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.

Simpson, Jacqueline. “English Tales”. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktale and Fairy Tales. Ed. Donald Haase. Vol. 1. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.

Steel, Flora Annie Webster. English Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1918. Print.

Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tales And The Art Of Subversion: The Classical Genre For Children And The Process Of Civilization. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

—. Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution And Relevance Of A Genre. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.