College Girl Fiction.

Keely Savoie of Mount Holyoke College reports on a literary genre I was unfamiliar with:

It was once inconceivable: girls and young women pursuing higher education away from home, where they lived in dorms with one another, apart from their families.

But after Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke Seminary in 1837 as the first of the Seven Sisters schools, higher education for women gained a foothold in American culture. Soon after, a new literary genre was spawned: “college girl fiction.”

“In the early twentieth century, it was suddenly possible for more women to go to college, so it became common enough that you could actually write books about it—and young girls would buy them,” explained Leslie Fields, head of Archives and Special Collections at Mount Holyoke.

Four display cases containing the College Girl Fiction exhibit will be in Dwight Hall through February 15. Each case, individually curated by a different student assistant in Archives and Special Collections, depicts an aspect of the popular imaginings of the lives of college women living away from home.

One of the cases focuses on Doris, A Mount Holyoke Girl: “The 1913 book is a first-person narrative of a fictional student who attended Mount Holyoke College from 1846 to 1847.” Another is on college girl pulp fiction. If you’re in the area, check out the exhibit; I always enjoy this sort of thing.

Comments

  1. “There are two kinds of girls, girls who flirt, and girls who go to Vassar College.”

  2. Excellent!

  3. Who knew? Shades of Dink Stover. And Frank Merriwell. Boola boola. (Bonus Link: Author Owen Johnson attacks his critics)

  4. From two pages down:

    “Paris […] is a contraction, only three letters dropped out of Par(ad)is(e)”.

    From elsewhere:

    There are two kinds of people, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don’t.

    There are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who cannot.

    There are 10 kinds of people, those who can read binary numerals and those who can’t.

    There are two kinds of people, those who finish their sentences, and those wh

    There are two kinds of people, those who can extrapolate from incomplete information.

  5. @John Cowan: There are no kinds of people.

  6. Interesting, I wonder how L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island looks in this context.

  7. There are two kinds of people, those who divide people into three kinds, those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don’t divide people into kinds. I always forget which kind I am.

  8. “… those who divide people into one kind”, surely?

  9. Daddy Longlegs 1912 by Jean Webster is in this category. I only read it because I’d seen the weird movie version with Fred Astaire. I loved the book for the descriptions of arcane college celebrations and routines.

  10. The literary genre included non-Seven Sisters alumnae, but arguably covers the Hellman/McCarthy disputes.

    Mary McCarthy (Vassar, 1933, B.A. cum laude) feuded with fellow writer Lillian Hellman (NYU and Columbia, no degree) since the late 1930s over ideological differences, particularly the questions of Hellman’s apparent defense of Stalin’s ‘Moscow Purge Trials’ and of Hellman’s support for the “Popular Front” with Stalin. McCarthy provoked Hellman in 1979 when she famously said on the Dick Cavett Show, “every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

    Hellman responded by filing a $2.5 million libel suit against McCarthy, which ended shortly after Hellman died in 1984. Observers of the trial noted the resulting irony of Hellman’s defamation suit is that it brought significant scrutiny, and decline of Hellman’s reputation, by forcing McCarthy and her supporters to prove that Hellman had lied.

  11. Daddy Longlegs was even translated into German, as Daddy Langbein . I remember reading it as a boy (I read a lot of random books from my parents’ collection; I assume this one originally belonged to my mum) and being puzzled by words like “sophomore”, which the German translation simply loaned, not trying to find a German replacement for them.

  12. the resulting irony of Hellman’s defamation suit

    Oscar Wilde’s defamation suit led to even worse consequences for him.

  13. marie-lucie says:

    I read Daddy Long-Legs in French translation many decades ago. The French title is Papa Faucheux, un faucheux being the long-legged insect (whose name does not include “Papa”). I guess I was too young to pay attention to the details of girls’ college life, or even to understand what type of school the girl was attending (there was nothing similar in France).

  14. I’d always heard it, “There are three kinds of mathematicians: those who can count and those who can’t.” I have been assured, that there are, in fact, brilliant mathematicians who are poor at arithmetic. The joke is partly a sly dig at the popular conflation of “mathematics” and “arithmetic.”

  15. David Marjanović says:

    @John Cowan: There are no kinds of people.

    mu

  16. The French title is Papa Faucheux, un faucheux being the long-legged insect (whose name does not include “Papa”).
    The German translation is a literal rendering of the name (Langbein = “Long-legs”), without any relation to the insect – sorry, arachnid (we don’t want to upset David, don’t we? 😉 ). The standard name of this animal in German is Weberknecht “weaver’s helper / servant”, so the English pun in the Name cannot be translated well.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve seen “daddy longlegs” applied not just to Opiliones (round-bodied arachnids with very long legs indeed), but also to those insects that look exactly like mosquitos except they’re much larger and fortunately harmless. IIRC, it’s also applied to house spiders (Pholcus).

  18. those insects that look exactly like mosquitos except they’re much larger and fortunately harmless
    You mean Schnaken / crane flies ?

  19. @Hans: Growing up, we called those “sand flies” in my family, although I knew from a relatively early age that that wasn’t a standard term. (Real sand flies, which I have never encountered, are apparently much nastier.)

  20. Also “mosquito lions” or “mosquito hawks”. They are reputed to eat mosquitos. I don’t know if that reputation is justified, but it’s probably saved many of them from the fate of other indoor bugs.

  21. They are reputed to eat mosquitos. I don’t know if that reputation is justified

    It isn’t: they are vegetarians (and in fact crop pests in Europe).

  22. David Marjanović says:

    You mean Schnaken / crane flies ?

    Yes!

    Somewhere in northern Germany, mosquitoes are called Schnaken, just to keep everyone confused. 🙂

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