We are so pleased to announce our newest mini-exhibition, curated by Susan Swicegood, Wolfe Docent in the Harrison Institute. Susan is a fourth year student in the Master of Teaching program at the Curry School of Education. Her joint undergraduate major is in English. So, it was no surprise when, upon beginning to learn about the collections here with curator and supervisor Molly Schwartzburg, she gravitated towards a project involving the marvelous Arthur P. and Christopher P. Young Collection of World War I Juvenile Series Books. We’ll give you a sneak peek at the show below, with selections from the exhibition’s text.
“At the Front: World War I Series Books for Girls”
After the Great War began in 1914, and even more so after the United States became involved in 1917, many children experienced the war through characters in series books. While some girl protagonists “do their bit” on the home front through food drives and benefit concerts, many leave for the front themselves.
These teenage characters—ranging in age from twelve to seventeen—dutifully serve as nurses in the Red Cross, drive ambulances, rescue lost soldiers, and uncover German spies.
The popularity of these books with American youth is undeniable, and with such far-fetched and fantastical adventures, girls could imagine the part they could play in gaining victory. In an almost propagandistic way, these books sold the war to young women as a chance to leave their homes and fight alongside the boys. Yet though the characters show an amazing degree of agency at the front, they return after the war’s end to the docile, domestic spaces they had left behind. Invariably, the heroine manages to find—or rescue—a fiancé along the way.
This exhibition will remain on view until the end of February, 2015.
My co-author, Emily Hamilton-Honey (State University of New York at Canton) and I (State University of New York at New Paltz) are finishing up our manuscript for GIRLS TO THE RESCUE: Mixed Messages from World War I Girls’ Series Fiction. We wondered if you had any further images from the exhibit you announced here, or would be willing to assist us by sharing information on the book jackets in your collection. We have copies of most of the books we are writing about, but not with jackets. We would greatly appreciate hearing from you.
I’ve just sent you an email. Please contact me at schwartzburg @ virginia.edu if you don’t receive it.
Received! thank you Molly.