Turning the Pages of American Girlhood

The Evolution of Girls’ Series Fiction, 1865–1930


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About the Book

Alternating chapters of historical background and literary analysis, this study argues that postbellum series books inspired young women by illustrating the ways in which girls could participate in social change, whether through church societies, benevolent organizations, educational institutions or political groups. By 1900, however, the socialization of series heroines had shifted to the consumer marketplace, where girls could develop personality and taste through their purchases.
Both models had benefits: Religious faith and political activism gave young women moral power within their communities; consuming gave them opportunities to indulge individual desires and often to socialize in public without adult oversight. This work adds to the existing scholarship on girls’ culture not only by examining the beginnings of series fiction for girls and the models of womanhood it presented but also by tracing the shifting social ideologies of girlhood throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

About the Author(s)

Emily Hamilton-Honey is an associate professor of English and gender studies at SUNY Canton, specializing in series fiction, girlhood studies, and postbellum and Progressive Era American women’s literature and history. She lives in Canton, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Emily Hamilton-Honey
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6322-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0151-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
One. Learning to Be an Angel: Religion and Reading for Nineteenth-Century American Girls 25
Two. Angels in the House: Christian Womanhood and Community Power in Postbellum Girls’ Series 54
Three. A Revolution in Series Production: Edward Stratemeyer and the Commodification of Series Books 84
Four. Communities of Friends: Series Heroines as Consumers, 1901–1930 104
Five. Two Miles Forward, One Mile Back: Gender Battles During the Great War 135
Six. Running the Gamut and the Gauntlet: World War I Series Fiction as a Catalyst for Change in the Cultural Landscape of American Girlhood 169
Seven. Taking Advantage of New Markets: Ruth Fielding as a Motion Picture Screenwriter, Producer, and Executive 201
Conclusion: Nancy Drew and a New Era 223
Appendix: Series Books in Order of Publication 233
Bibliography 237
Index 251

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Hamilton-Honey provides a valuable exploration of the sociohistorical evolution of both the genre of girls’ series fiction and adolescent girlhood itself. Her bibliography will prove invaluable. Highly recommended”—Choice
  • “Provocative and significant…historical analysis of series books enables a more informed reading of contemporary fiction”—Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature