Tag Archives: Maginel Wright Enright

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.

Clara Judson’s Flower Fairies: An Eco-Critical Analysis

© Copyright 2011, Megan Matsuda, Michelle Christodoulou

Judson, Clara Ingram. Flower Fairies. Illus. Maginel Wright Enright. New York: Rand McNally and Company, 1915. Print. 

“The fairies are as immortal as the human beings who created them.” (Duffy 13)

Clara Ingram Judson (1879-1960) was an American novelist born in Logansport, Indiana. An award-winning American writer during the early 20th century, she wrote a variety of works ranging from cookbooks to children’s stories.  During her professional career, Judson published over seventy non-fiction and fictional books for young children. Her first novel for the child was Flower Fairies, published in 1915. Flower Fairies provides young readers with various interrelated stories about fairies, accompanied with illustrations by Maginel Wright Enright. Enright was greatly influenced by Japanese prints, which inspired her use of watercolour and simple flat shapes as shown in Flower Fairies. Judson’s picture book presents readers with a close insight of fairies’ daily lives, origins, and society.

Megan Matsuda’s chosen context examines the flower fairy connection with Great Britain, as well as how this book connects with the United States’ arising environmentalism in 1915. The category, provided by Michelle Christodoulou, will investigate how fairies were represented in Judson’s picture book Flower Fairies,supported by the text and images. We will attempt to show how both context and category examines the connection between fairies and the eco-criticisms of the early 20th century. The book depicts the beauty of flowers using fairy illustrations, enticing children and acting against the modern technology and warfare of the time. By appealing to children, the work presents a positive attitude towards nature.


The Flower Fairy Connection with Great Britain

During the time when Judson’s Flower Fairies was published in 1915, the concept of fairies presented in stories and artwork continued to be a popular theme. It was still popular after the “Golden Age” of fairy art and children’s literature, which extended from 1840 to 1870 (Susina, “Dealing with Victorian Fairies”). In 1906, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens with illustrator Arthur Rackman had produced its famous fairy artwork, which gave another push of the fairy subject in literature and art. Conversely, the rise of the “flower fairy,” and the notion of using fairies within the realm of nature was not as mainstream in the United States than during the British Victorian era. There, fairies appeared in music, art, literature for both adults and children, and decorative arts for the home. Again, the controversial “Cottingley Fairies” series of photographs taken by two cousins in 1917 in England reinforced the admiration for these small beings.

Previously, fairies had been a part of English and Irish folklore since the 14th century (Susina, “Dealing with Victorian Fairies”), but not as widespread in America. Therefore, Judson’s work proves to be one of major influence in the United States, as it was possibly one of the first children’s literature works that mirrored the fairy fever happening in Great Britain during that era. Interestingly, Judson and Enright’s work acted as almost a prelude to the highly established flower fairy illustrations by Cicely Mary Barker, published in 1923. Following Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies in 1922, Barker’s illustrations acted as an escape from the Great War and the Depression. In many ways, Judson and Enright’s book did the same thing in the United States, acting as a front against the increasing industry and destruction during WWI. Ultimately, there is a flower fairy connection between Judson’s Flower Fairies and that of other flower fairy stories in English literature and artwork. For instance, in the late 19th and early 20th century, there were a variety of recurring symbols and motifs that were seen within flower fairy stories; many of these alluded to older English symbols found in literature. In Judson’s Flower Fairies, some of these are also used, which further shows the connection between the two countries.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I during the 16th century, there was a metamorphosis of her into the Fairy Queen symbol that was seen throughout literature and art during the span of fairy conceptions (Duffy 109). Also, the dress and appearance of fairies that typically wear green and red, with slippers, a cap and golden hair (Briggs 108-109), are also shown in Enright’s illustrations for Flower Fairies. Overall, pictures of sprites among flora have created an industry in memorabilia and stories for many years, (The Daily Telegraph, “Frolicking with the Flower Fairies”) having an impact on Judson’s work.

Spider dressmakers assist the Fairy Queen

Arising Environmentalism in 1915

The publication of Flower Fairies was centred around the time of intensifying world tensions culminated in World War I. With the new forms of industrialization, the new technologies were not only harming the environment through war, but also through advances in factories and agricultural machinery. The dispute over American environmental ideology in the early 20th century soon developed into preserving wild areas, growing from the panic surrounding overdevelopment (Black xv).

In Flower Fairies, Judson chose to use fairies in order to entice children, depicting the beauty and importance of nature. The short stories that Judson has written within the work all aim to explain an aspect of nature. Whether it is to explain the mythology of certain flowers, or why fairies have special names, all the stories use beautiful language to capture the essence of the landscape the fairies live in. There would be a connection many children would feel to these fairies, which are depicted in both writing and illustration as like children themselves. Through this understanding, the audience of Judson’s can adapt a positive attitude towards nature.

There is also a theme of fairies, which symbolize children and the American people, working in harmony with animals and wildlife. This could have been Judson’s intended message or a result of the publication, as the novel was available directly as new eco-criticisms were emerging in the United States. When WWI began, it emerged as a transitional war in which there were new forms of technology mixed with old forms of war (Black 12). This resulted in a brutal warfare system and an immense death rate. Animals were also used to the death, having to be replaced every month throughout the war. This was the context of Judson’s work being published, which in turn acted against the development of mechanized production. Furthermore, child labour was not uncommon at this time. Judson writing a children’s book about flower fairies, before the time of the worldwide popularity of Cicely Mary Barker’s artwork, perhaps speaks to the social setting the United States was situated in. For the work to be successful, the audience needed to be considered. Judson was likely to have known about ideas of environmental appreciation and the desire to revert back to the simple, natural life.

Between 1901 and 1907, Roosevelt reserved land from 50 million acres to 150 million acres in national forests (Rothman 52), which shows a desire to keep land away from industrial takeover. It is evident that there was a social criticism on the increasing technology. Through this, a flower fairies book entirely on the beauty and splendor of nature is more than just that. It represents an encouragement to young children and adults to love the environment around them, just as the fairies do.

Child-like fairies admire the golden flowers


Judson’s Representation of 20th Century Society through Fairies

The late 19th century encouraged the popularity of these magical creatures: fairies. In Flower Fairies,readers are given an idea of a fairy’s daily life, and what it would entail. The text explains how big fairies go to work and little fairies go to school. When they were done, they would go out and play till sundown (Judson 6). The fairies’ daily lives represent the ideal life in the early 20th century society. By romanticizing these fairies as innocent, childlike creatures surrounded by nature, it provides young readers pleasure and protects them from the harsh reality.

The fairies in the book are human in appearance. However, they are significantly smaller and have wings on their back. As well, the fairies value their appearance. One story in the book, “White Violet,” describes a fairy maid who always wore her finest jewels and clothes. A picture is included, with the fairy gazing in the water. The caption says, “they all dressed to look their best” (Judson 16-17). In most of the images, female fairies all wore long flowing dresses. The aesthetic dress was a popular style of dress during the late 19th century and carried well unto the early 20th century. The dress was made of natural materials, consisting of puffed shoulders and long flowing skirts. During this time, “rational and aesthetic dress reformers, long associated with socialism and bohemianism, promoted the “natural” body with only mixed success” (Maltz 398). The use of natural materials and clothing reflects the environmental ideologies through fashion. Fairies all wear different parts of natural materials from their environment upon their head. The fairies’ connection with nature shows the importance of caring for our environment, especially when World War I was destroying the earth through modern technology.

In Flower Fairies, the Fairy Queen governs the fairies. She is a character depicted as beautiful, kind, and wise. All of the fairies hold a great respect towards the queen. For example, when the Fairy Queen summoned all the fairies for a party, they all made sure to dress their best to impress her. In the story “Fairy Names,” the Fairy Queen’s duty is to name all the fairies in order to distinguish them from one another. As she gathered all the fairies in her kingdom to name them she fell asleep. The fairies did not dare wake her up in fear of displeasing her. The connection between the Fairy Queen and nature may reflect environmental ideologies. During the naming ceremony, the Fairy Queen decided all fairies would be named after whatever is on their brow; a twig or leaf. This demonstrates how the Fairy Queen’s integration of nature in the book reflects 20th century environmental ideologies. Furthermore, Susina observes how fairies during the nineteenth century were depicted as governess with wings. Thus, it can be argued that Judson’s Flower Fairies is a fairy tale for children not only to entertain them, but to teach morals to keep them away from the dangers of society, and enjoy nature.

The other aspects demonstrated throughout Flower Fairies are different ages, genders, and ethnicity groups. The book shows different ethnicities supported by Judson’s images. In the book, there is an image of two fairies sleeping. One fairy is a Caucasian fairy with red hair; the other could be a Japanese fairy. In contrast to the other fairy, she has dark hair styled in a Japanese bun and she’s wearing what looks to be a kimono. The illustrator, Maginel Wright Enright, was greatly influenced by Japanese prints, so perhaps she added a Japanese fairy in the book to reflect her interest. As well, there are various age groups and genders. Fairies are represented as adults and children. Although there are children and adults there are no male adult fairies. Judson’s Flower Fairies was published around World War I, where there was a great absence of men due to war. Then, “women began flocking factories, and working in industries in order to support their families while their male relatives were away at war” (Sandman). Judson reflects early 20th century American society. In order to protect children’s harsh reality and absence of male family members, Judson uses nature and beauty.

Enright’s inspiration from Japanese prints

Relations Between Fairies and Nature

The book shows the relationship between fairies and nature. Nature is very important to the fairies’ daily lives. Fairies use flowers as a source of shelter, food, and tools. The front cover has fairies utilizing flowers as trumpets. Also, flowers are used as a bed for the fairies and, “just as the sunrise broke, the flowers would unfold its petals ever so little to wake up the fairy” (Judson 5). The little fairies symbolize children and the need to connect to nature. “There is a large body of literature indicating substantial benefits for health and wellbeing are to be derived from contact with nature and exposure to natural environments generally” (Maller 522). The little fairies symbolize children and the need to connect to nature especially during a stressful time when WWI was happening, Judson uses nature to entice young readers. In the story “fire”, it describes when fairies discovered fire for the first time, and went to the Fairy Queen to tell her their discovery. To show her how the fire looked, they painted flowers the colours of flames. So when you see red geraniums it is to remind people the strength of flames and when roses are crimson it makes people remember the warmth of flames. Overall, all these stories have etiological purposes to explain flowers to the children. Thus, providing stories for the children about the flowers brings children closer to nature, and highlights the environmentalism of the time.

The fairy connection with nature


With influences from Britain’s Victorian era in Judson’s work, the fairies represent both a spiritual creature and the figure of the American child. This means the child is both characterized in the book and are the main readers, ensuring that the readers identify with the fairies. When they read Flower Fairies, a positive attitude towards nature emerges. Generally, the book is made to appeal to children, which furthers the idea that society, especially at a young age, should enjoy and respect nature. In an era of modern technology destroying the earth through warfare, Flower Fairies opposes this idea. The book ultimately gives forth a representation of beauty, presented by the fairies and flowers and through illustration and text. Judson and Enright created a children’s book that was one of the first in the United States to use the flower fairies motif. It was not until a decade afterward that flower fairies, with the artwork and literature surrounding them, started to become popular worldwide. Judson’s work was not just at the forefront of American fairy literature, but gave forth an idealized and utopian perspective of nature. Yet, can this not be said for all children’s books? Judson encourages her readers to help strive for a better world, and be kind to all, no matter if flora or friend.


Works Cited

Black, Brian. Nature and the Environment in 20th-Century American Life. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

Briggs, Katherine M. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976. Print.

Duffy, Maureen. The Erotic World of Faery. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1972. Print

“Frolicking with the Flower Fairies.” The Daily Telegraph2. ProQuest Newsstand (Canada). 16 Jul. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2011.

Judson, Clara Ingram. Flower Fairies. Illus. Maginel Wright Enright. New York: Rand McNally and Company, 1915. Print.

Maller, Cecily Jane. “Promoting children’s mental, emotional, and social health through contact with nature: a model.” Health Education 109.6 (2009): 522-543. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Maltz, Diana. “Dress Culture.”  English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 54.3 (2011): 396. Print.

May, Maggie. “Maggie May’s Historic Clothing: Period Attire for Ladies and their Children.” Maggie May Fashions. Maggie May’s Historical Clothing, 2000. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Pemberton, Marilyn. “Enchanted Ideologies: A Collection of Rediscovered Nineteenth-Century Moral Fairy Tales”. Reviewed by: Jan Susina. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 36.3 (2010): 346-348. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.

Rothman, Hal K. Saving the Planet: The American Response to the Environment in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000. Print

Sandman, Catlin. World War 1. Jarred Joly Tripod, 2006. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Susina, Jan. “Dealing with Victorian Fairies.” Children’s Literature 28.00928208 (2000): 230-7. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 24 Nov. 2011.