This week’s post looks at pre-WWII American Camp Fire series books for girls, books that could have represented competition for Elsie J. Oxenham, had her books been published in the U.S. Why are we doing this? Partly because it is fun, and partly because by looking at how other authors treated Camp Fire we can gain some insights into Elsie’s approach. The differences are night and day—it’s not just that Oxenham was, generally speaking, a better writer than these series writers (although, of those that I have read, Margaret Vandercook’s works are quite good and very readable), but also that she was a different writer—Camp Fire represented something different to her than it did to many of the series writers. While we don’t know whether other authors were personally familiar with Camp Fire—as we’ll see below, some of them seem to have just cribbed from the Handbook—we know that EJO was Guardian of Camp Watéwin (The Camp of Those Who Conquer) from 1916 to 1922, where she took the name of Wenonah, the Eldest Daughter.
(Above: the image used on this series by Vandercook. When my sisters and I canoed we called the girl in the middle the Beautiful Lady Passenger (still a family term), but we faced forward. It makes more sense to face backward as the BLP’s weight would be more in the center of the canoe. And, yes, that is a swastika on the prow—this was and still is a symbol of prosperity and peace in some cultures, despite its modern connection to Nazism.)
By the way, none of the American titles I have read yet address folk dancing. As I noted in earlier posts, while dancing was an activity for which a girl could earn Honors, it did not make its way into the series books. [Read more…]