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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Classic Girl's Books--Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Emily of New Moon, and which ones offer more options than marriage?

Every now and then, I reread the great, classic fiction for little girls. Of course now, I'm reading with adult eyes, so, for example, I note how many vivid, creative and capable heroine's adventures and ambitions turn out to be merely grooming grounds for perfect wife and motherhood.

But, the more I read of them and their creators, the more admiration I have for the hardships and loss they endured while giving us their indomitable young heroines, and with fascination for what they teach us about their time and ours. I plan to write several posts about these--each is worth volumes. This post, though, is just an overview, and just about a few--there are many.

The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, by Margaret Sidney (1881). Margaret Sidney is the pen name of Harriett Mulford Stone. The Five Little Peppers became a series (pen name of Harriet Mulford Stone)

Five stalwart and eager children helping their struggling widowed lmother, Mamsie, to keep house, meet and are more or less adopted by wealthy boy, Jasper King and his father. There, the eldest girl, Polly, who loves music, gets to study it and in later books, even becomes a piano teacher until----surprise--she marries Jasper and that's the end of that.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  (Kate Douglas Wiggins, 1903)
Plot: Black-haired Rebecca Rowena Randall, a vivid child in a too-large family, is sent to live with her two maiden aunts, Miranda and Jane Sawyer on their farm in Maine. (Miranda is the strict one, Jane the one trying to soften all the blows.) Rebecca is more or less courted, even as a child, by Mr. Aladdin--Alan Ladd, a man twice her age. We don't learn what happens to her in the future.

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1908)
This became a series that follows Anne through much of her life.

Red-haired Anne Shirley, a vivid orphan, is accidentally sent to  live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthburt on their farm on Prince Edward Island. (Marilla is the tough one, Matthew is the one trying to soften the blows.) Though Anne begins as a teacher, she marries childhood beau-enemy Gilbert Blythe, and raises his children--one dies in WWI.

Emily of New Moon (Lucy Maud Montgomery) 1923.
This became a series that follows Emily until she marries.
Emily is an orphan, raised by harsh relatives. Emily seems to have been born a brilliant writer, while her dear friends who are, respectively, a natural elocutionist, a gifted politician and an artist of great talent. Each has tremendous obstacles to the fruition of their gifts, often in the form of jealous or neglectful parents. But Emily's main obstacle, and the one who ultimately does her in, is an older man and long-time admirer who consistently undermines her talents so that she will need him--an admirer that she almost marries, after he undermines her so badly that she burns the only manuscript of her first novel, though ultimately, she does find both love and career.

More to come.

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