Jacob Abbott's Books for Girls
Jacob Abbott was an ordained minister, professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Amherst, founder of a girl's school, and author of a long list of children's books. He treated children's books as a means of educating children gently, and of raising them to hold Christian values. He authored two of the earliest girl's literature series, the Lucy Books and the Franconia series. The Lucy books are a spin-off of his first series, the Rollo books (for boys). The Franconia series deals with the lives of numerous children. Many books by Abbott can be found in Duke Library's online catalog.
In the words of one reader of Abbott's Lucy series:
"I was discovered one Sunday afternoon reading Godey's Lady's Book which, although extremely mild and harmless, was thought in those days a little grown-up for a person of four and a half. The next day I was taken into town and made the proud owner of a copy of Jacob Abbott's Lucy's Conversations, my first bound book? Was there ever a more delightful journey than that which Lucy was invited to make to the seashore ?How grand it was for the little girls to travel in a carriage, to have tea by themselves in Lady Jane's sister's library, waited on by a black serving man, and to look at drawers of curiosities, shells and minerals, and a picture in mosaic of a burning mountain, by way of entertainment!" Caroline M. Hewins, A Mid-Century Child and Her Books, Macmillan, 1926.
Little Prudy and Friends; or Books by Sophie May
Rebecca Clarke (Sophie May) was born in 1833. Her earliest literary successes came from the Little Prudy series and subsequent spin-offs (Flaxie Frizzle, Dotty Dimple, Little Prudy's Children, and Little Prudy's Flyaways). Targeted at younger readers, these series relate the adventures of several young children. Title characters are generally connected across series. Each series is limited to six volumes. Books are listed under both "Sophie May" and "Rebecca Clarke" within the Duke Libraries Online Catalog. Little Prudy, Dotty Dimple and Flaxie Frizzle series are all available, in addition to other non-series titles.
Little Rosie Stories
Much like Sophie May and Julia Mathews, Margaret Hosmer (1830-1897) wrote episodic fiction targeted at young girls. Other, non-serial titles by the same author include Under the Holly: A Book for Girls, written under the pseudonym " a pair of hands." Several Little Rosie titles are available at the Rubenstein Library, all published in Philadelphia by Porter & Coates around 1869.
The Golden Ladder Series
The Golden Ladder Series deals with the lives of impoverished girls, their family relationships, and their connections to Christianity. The Rubenstein Library currently has three of the six volumes in this series, all written by Julia A. Mathews.
Elsie and Mildred
Martha Finley penned one of the most popular 19th century girls' series, in which her young heroine Elsie Dinsmore grew up, had children, and passed on the role of protagonist to her daughter. Elsie's faith plays a large role in her life, giving the author an opportunity to express Christian values and ethics. Perkins Library has additional titles in these series.
- Armstrong, Annie E. A Very Odd Girl; a Story of Life at the Gabled Farm. New York: Burt, [18--].
Older girls confront peer pressure and struggle to conform to the expectations of Victorian society. The relationship between female characters emphasizes the penalties faced by an "odd girl". Family life, friendship and courtship provide the social background for the story.
- Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Boston: Roberts Bros., 1869.
This famous and oft-dramatized novel of girlhood and womanhood focuses in on a family of four sisters, each an individual, raised outside of the constricting norms of the society. The March sisters grow up during the Civil War, experiencing love, marriage, sickness and death.
- Sommers, Jane R. Heavenward Led: or the Two Bequests. Porter and Coates, 1870.
Ellen Ashton is the "sweet young daughter" of Captain Richard Ashton. When her mother dies, she must take up the management of the household, keeping accounts and cheering her father. As the two come to terms with loss and their new life, they re-enter Society, and travel through Europe.
- Marshall, Emma Martin. Primrose: or the Bells of Old Effingham. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1871.
Narrated by a music teacher who encounters a fetching child named Primrose. This charming girl has lost her mother, but takes joy in the bells of Old Effingham Church. Their love of music forges a friendship.
- Parr, Louise Taylor. Dorothy Fox. Philadelphia: H. B. Lippincott & Co., 1871.
This large-print book for very young girls tells the story of Dorothy, a middle-class English girl whose father, Nathaniel, is a cloth and woolens draper.
- Whitney, A. D. T. The Other Girls. Boston: J. R. Osgood and Co., 1873.
Sylvie Argenter, a wealthy girl, discovers how the "other girls" live. "Sylvie sat silent? thinking 'how many girls there were in the world! All sorts-everywhere! What did they all do and find to care for?' These were not the 'other' girls of whom her mother had blandly said that she could show kindnesses by taking them to drive."
- Howard, Blanche Willis. One Summer. Boston: James R. Osgood & Company, 1876.
In a single summer, girlhood flourishes and ends: the joys of country life and the excitement of courtship have faded into maturity with the onset of autumn in this coming-of-age novel.
- Meade, L. T. Dot and her Treasures. London: J. F. Shaw, 188?
Dot is nearly 8 years old, the youngest member of an orphaned family of children. She and her siblings live in a squalid London loft. This petite ragamuffin still manages a life of play and fantasy with her tattered dolls and other treasured toys. L. T. Meade wrote several such novels, portraying the social ills of poverty and city life. Check the online catalog for other titles by this prolific author.
- Swan, Annie S. Maitland of Laurieston. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1891?.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, the children of Mrs. Maitland's good friend come to visit. Young Effie is quite excited to meet poor little Agnes, one of the visiting children. As the girls become acquainted and grow up, they learn important lessons about life and morality.
- Swan, Annie S. A Lost Ideal. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1891?
In the opening chapters of this book, Helen is about to be married. In her innocence, she is caught up in the romantic beauty of the situation, but soon after the wedding ceremony she discovers that marriage is more difficult than she had imagined. The narrative deals with accepting the end of childhood, and the many difficulties of a grown-up marriage.
- Newberry, Fannie E. Bubbles: A Girl's Story. New York: A. L. Burt, 1892.
This novel illustrates the details and difficulties of life for the newly-married woman.
- Robbins, Sarah Stuart. Miss Ashton's New Pupil: A School Girl's Story. New York: A. L. Burt, 1892.
Mariah, daughter of missionaries, is sent back to America to further her education. When Mrs. Ashton, head of a fine girls' school, learns of this, she is very concerned-Mariah's background and upbringing mean that she will not fit in with her classmates. Mariah overcomes class and background differences, eventually finding friends amongst both teachers and students.
- Raymond, Evelyn Hunt. Jessica Trent: Her Life on a Ranch. New York: Street and Smith,1902.
Description of ranch-living: typical girl-hood events, including courtship, adventure and friendship, take place in the rustic world of the American West.
- Molesworth, Mary. Robin Redbreast: a Story for Girls. Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., 1903?
There is talk of establishing a public High School for girls in the town of Thetford. Currently, the town boasts two private girls schools, headed by Misses Scarlet and Green. The girls of the town attend school, encounter a crotchety old widow, and embody hope and innocence. This fiction dramatizes the contemporary debate about female education.
- Paine, Dorothy. A Little Florida Lady. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Company, 1903.
A young girl grows up wealthy, experiencing every luxury and privilege. An illustrated tale of the "old-time" South. "Mrs. Davenport explained that cleanliness had nothing to do with the man's blackness. 'Is he black inside?' Beth questioned in great awe. 'No. All people are alike at heart. Clean thinking makes even the black man white within, dear.'"
- Rouse, Adelaide Louise. The Deane Girls: A Home Story. New York: A. L. Burt, c. 1903.
Eight sisters, living in poverty, struggle to support themselves, all the while dreaming of finding romance. This novel deals with family dynamics, sisterhood, economic issues and romance - both real and imagined.