Tag Archives: WWI

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.

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.

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

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












© Copyright 2014, Matteo Cianfrone


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

Who is Edith L. Groves?

Edith Lelean Grove
Edith Lelean Grove

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

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

Intentions/Receptions of Edith Groves’ Drills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duties at the Homefront

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

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

Soldiers of the Soil Badge
Soldiers of the Soil Badge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attitudes at Home

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

Saluting girl during WWI

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

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

Work Cited

“Cause Of Education Loses Firm Friend As Mrs. Groves Dies: First Woman Chairman of Toronto School Board Passes Known Also For Poetry Trustee Dies.” Globe and Mail [Toronto] 19 Oct 1931, n. pag. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. <http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1356431573?accountid=13631>.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerson, Dr. Carole. “Canada’s Early Women Writers :: Edith Lelean Groves .” Simon Fraser University Library . N.p.. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. <http://content.lib.sfu.ca/cdm/ref/collection/ceww/id/213>.

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

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

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

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

© 2014 Christina Ford, Ryerson University

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


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


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

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



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


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


Image of George at the end of his unfortunate tale.

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



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



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


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

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


Hilaire Belloc
Image of Belloc.

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




Cautionary Tales Intro
Introductory poem & accompanying image.


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

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


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

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




Image of Matilda from her story in Cautionary Tales.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad: Anthropomorphism and The Great War

© 2014, Joanne Roitman

A copy of the 1918 reprint of the original 1916 edition of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad is housed in Ryerson University’s Children’s Literature Archive. The book is written by Thornton Waldo Burgess and is illustrated by Harrison Cady. It was published in Boston by Little, Brown, and Company and falls under the genre of nature stories and anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is defined as attributing human characteristics and emotions to non-living things and/or animals.

I wish to connect Old Mr. Toad to the Great War. As America did not get involved until 1917, I will explore the publishing company’s decision to reprint the novel during the final year of the war. Due to the sparse information on the novel’s production and reception, I will be contributing new insights to this topic and will provide future researchers with a thoroughly investigated narrative. As well, my critical approach shall be oriented to the increase in demand for anthropomorphic children’s novels during WWI, in which Old Mr. Toad is an example.

Book Cover of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (1918) by Thornton W. Burgess
Book Cover of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (1918) by Thornton W. Burgess

Summary of the Novel

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad begins with the character, Peter Rabbit, who, after hearing Mr. Toad sing rather beautifully, realizes that perhaps he had misjudged his friend. He relied on the inevitable fact that Mr. Toad was not physically attractive and thus could not sing well. Incidentally, he is proven wrong and attempts to get to know Mr. Toad better. He learns about Mr. Toad’s children, his beautiful eyes, his long tongue, and his ability to camouflage within small, dark spaces.

As the novel progresses, so does the narrative perspective, shifting from Peter Rabbit to Old Mr. Toad. He encounters the terrifying Mr. Blacksnake and Buster Bear, but after dining on ants with Buster Bear, he no longer regards him as scary. Believing himself a very important friend of Buster Bear’s, puffed out with pride, Mr. Toad shuns his old friends. He believes himself better than them. In turn, they play a prank on him in order to teach him that he was behaving rudely.

Thornton W. Burgess and The Great War

For unspecified reasons, Thornton Waldo Burgess was unable to participate in active service during the Great War (Burgess 134). However, he found three alternative methods of contributing to the war efforts on the homefront. This was done through the medium he knew best: storytelling.

The Green Meadow Club

“The Green Meadow Club”, a column in the People’s Home Journal, contained entertaining and instructive stories on nature, written by Burgess, with illustrations by Harrison Cady. The club led a campaign during WWI to get children involved in the war efforts through donations (Meigs 33). The hope of this charity was to establish bird sanctuaries. The creation of these sanctuaries was intended to protect birds, as they were valuable in controlling troubling insects. As a result, this would help increase the production of food for the war.

Burgess capitalized on this in his “Bedtime Stories” column, published separately from “The Green Meadow Club”. He offered a certificate of club membership and a button with Cady’s drawing of Peter Rabbit to those who contributed. Through the efforts of roughly two thousand boys and girls, nearly four thousand sanctuaries were erected. They were situated in various parts of America and encompassed nine thousand acres of land.

In 1919, after the war ended, the New York Zoological Society awarded Burgess with a gold medal of the Wild Life Protection Fund (33-34). His service to the protection of wildlife and the war efforts was recognized. As a writer of children’s fiction, it was a great honor to be acknowledged in the natural science world.

Happy Jack Squirrel

Happy Jack Squirrel

A campaign arose in America during the Great War for the sale of war-savings stamps and thrift stamps among children. This was done for school children who could not afford to purchase Liberty bonds. The American government issued the sale of Liberty bonds in order to finance the war efforts in Europe.

The chairman of the War Savings Committee in Sandwich, Massachusetts approached Thornton Burgess and appealed to him to produce five stories geared towards thrift and patriotism (Burgess 134-135). Consequently, the character of Happy Jack Squirrel was created.

Burgess was able, through the stories of Happy Jack, to increase the sale of stamps. Before, school children did not understand their purpose and were uninterested in their teachers’ constant appeals. Thus, such stories of thrift, as told by an anthropomorphic squirrel, were much more engaging. Happy Jack was able to preach what the children could do to support America during the war, without appearing patronizing (138).

Burgess employed a psychology of human superiority in these stories. Children would listen to Happy Jack only because they felt that they knew better than he did. Unlike their teachers who they looked to as their superiors, the children believed that what Happy Jack dictated was something they already took to be known and true. As a result, young readers were able to grasp the importance of thrift and patriotism as taught to them by an anthropomorphic squirrel (139).

As a consequence, it became apparent to Burgess the power of anthropomorphism in storytelling, especially as to its effect on the efforts of children during WWI (140).

The Adventures of Bob White (1919)

In 1919, Thornton Burgess wrote The Adventures of Bob White as a response to the violence that accompanied the end of WWI. In this Bedtime Story-Book, he used the anthropomorphic quail, Bob White, to illuminate the danger of firearms (Connor 127).

Bob White is wounded by a hunter and pays homage to the persecution of innocents during the Great War. Children can identify with the abjectness of the situation, while simultaneously feeling courageous, as someone is in more need than they are (128).

The character of Bob White was being written as Little, Brown, and Company reprinted The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad. It would appear that the publishing company wished to use Mr. Toad to educate children within wartime with a less heavy hand than in The Adventures of Bob White.

Production and Reception… Or Lack There Of

After conducting a thorough investigation into the production and reception history of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, I unearthed something most curious. Rather, there are no documented sources on such topics as it relates to the 1918 reprint of Old Mr. Toad.

Thus, I have taken it upon myself to make inferences as to why that is. On the basis of research and educated decisions, I shall deduce why a hole exists in relation to production and reception history.

The Bedtime Story-Books and the Mother West Wind series are the best-known collaborative works between Thornton W. Burgess and Harrison Cady. The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad is a part of the Bedtime Story-Books series, but the titular character was not one of Burgess’s most beloved. Rather, the recurring character of Peter Rabbit, inspired by Beatrix Potter’s character of the same name, was prolific. Eventually, this character was renamed Peter Cottontail.

As well, Cady’s rise to fame was through the comic strip, Peter Rabbit, which ran in a weekly Sunday newspaper (Zipes 243). As a result, much of the research on production and reception history, as it relates to the partnership between Burgess and Cady, is on such a character. In fact, it would appear that Mr. Toad is all but forgotten and dismissed by readers of the Bedtime Story-Books. Interestingly, the story within Old Mr. Toad explores this very once-over: Peter Rabbit and the other woodland creatures realize that they had misjudged Mr. Toad, as they previously never paid him much attention.

Analysis and Conclusion

As Old Mr. Toad was not one of Thornton W. Burgess’s most popular characters, it is no wonder that I could not find any details on The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad. However, I can infer that the demand for anthropomorphic characters within children’s novels was on the rise during WWI, which could be reason for its reprint. Such stories contained morals and Burgess used the animals as instructors to teach children how to behave (Cullinan 131-132). Furthermore, the technique of anthropomorphism was used to arouse the imagination.

Peter Rabbit and Old Mr. Toad, illustrated by Harrison Cady
Peter Rabbit and Old Mr. Toad, illustrated by Harrison Cady from The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (1918)

Incidentally, Burgess was criticized for humanizing animals and nature, which seems contradictory to the aim of his animal and nature stories (Watson 116). He wished to provide a friendly face to such wild, untamed beings, realizing their value in the sustainability of the environment. As the 1918 reprint of Old Mr. Toad was released during a time of turmoil, it would appear that American children needed to learn how to behave at this time through Mr. Toad.

Similarly to Happy Jack Squirrel and Bob White, Mr. Toad provided a lesson in morals and behaviour to the young boys and girls, as he encouraged them to be humble. Peter Rabbit also taught readers to not be so quick as to judge a book by its cover. These lessons are valuable for children and were regarded as important during the last year of the Great War.

Anthropomorphism was a storytelling technique employed by Thornton Waldo Burgess in his novel, The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad. The increased demand for novels featuring such genre was on the rise during the final years of WWI. As an American author, Burgess’s original 1916 book of the same name was reprinted a mere two years later, in relation to the involvement of the United States in 1917.

Such novels featuring anthropomorphic creatures were very popular at this time as they taught young readers morals and encouraged good behavior. In addition, they were very imaginative and could be enjoyed by both children and adults.

Consequently, I have concluded that the publishing company, Little, Brown, and Company, chose to reprint Old Mr. Toad in 1918, as the titular character was able to instruct children without sounding as though he was preaching. Children are more likely to listen to the lessons being taught by an animal, in which they view themselves as superior, as opposed to parents, teachers, and other adults. This psychology enabled Burgess to become a beloved children’s novelist and provided the basis for Little, Brown, and Company’s reprint of The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad in the final year of the Great War.

link to CLA Omeka

Works Cited

Burgess, Thornton W. Now I Remember: The Autobiography of Thornton W. Burgess. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1960. 134-140. Print.

Burgess, Thornton W. The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad. Illus. Harrison Cady. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1918. Print.

Connor, Kathleen M. Beyond the Words of a Storyteller: The Cine-Semiotic Play of the Abject, Terror and Community in the Anti-Hunting Trilogy of Thornton W. Burgess. Diss. University of Ottawa, 2007. Ottawa: privately published, 2007. 125-128. Web.

Cullinan, Bernice E., and Diane G. Person. “Burgess, Thornton.” The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. New York: Continuum, 2001. 130-131. Print.

Dowhan, Michael W. Introduction. Thornton W. Burgess, Harrison Cady: A Book, Magazine, and Newspaper Bibliography. By Michael W. Dowhan. New York: Carlton Press, 1990. 1-3. Print.

Meigs, Frances B. My Grandfather, Thornton W. Burgess: An Intimate Portrait. Beverly, Massachusetts: Commonwealth Editions, 1998. Print.

Oehlkers, Peter. “Happy Jack’s Thrift Club.” Thornton W. Burgess Research League. N.p. 4 May 2010. Web. 18 March 2014.

Tindall, George Brown. America: A Narrative History. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007. Print.

“The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad.” Gutenberg. David Newman. 15 June 2004. Web. 18 March 2014.

Watson, Victor. “Burgess, Thornton.” The Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 116. Print.

Wright, Wayne W. “The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad.” Thornton W. Burgess, A Descriptive Book Bibliography. Sandwich, Massachusetts: Thornton W. Burgess Society, 1979. 49. Print.

Zipes, Jack. “Burgess, Thornton W.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. Vol. 1. 4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 232. Print.

Zipes, Jack. “Cady, Harrison.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. Vol. 1. 4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 243. 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.

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.