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Creating an Empire in Children’s Book Publishing, 1919–1939

Jacalyn Eddy

Publication Year: 2006

The most comprehensive account of the women who, as librarians, editors, and founders of the Horn Book, shaped the modern children's book industry between 1919 and 1939. The lives of Anne Carroll Moore, Alice Jordan, Louise Seaman Bechtel, May Massee, Bertha Mahony Miller, and Elinor Whitney Field open up for readers the world of female professionalization. What emerges is a vivid illustration of some of the cultural debates of the time, including concerns about "good reading" for children and about women's negotiations between domesticity and participation in the paid labor force and the costs and payoffs of professional life.

Published in collaboration among the University of Wisconsin Press, the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America (a joint program of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society), and the University of Wisconsin–Madison General Library System Office of Scholarly Communication.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I owe an immense debt of gratitude to several individuals in connection with this project. In its early stages, I had the good fortune to work with a fine dissertation committee whose active engagement and consistent enthusiasm were vital to its success. In particular, Joan Shelley Rubin and Lynn Gordon offered insights that always challenged me to shift the...

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pp. 3-14

In a wide variety of retail settings across the nation, children’s books are so ubiquitous as to be nearly invisible. Perceived by many adults as an important aspect of child culture, they are taken for granted. Some of these books have proved remarkably durable, continuing over the years to delight thousands—probably millions—of children. The books of E. B. White, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Kenneth Grahame, Laura Ingalls...

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1. Troublesome Womanhood and New Childhood

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pp. 15-29

When Anne Carroll Moore and Alice Jordan began their professional lives as librarians in the late 1890s, they became part of a public library system in the process of modernization. The charter members of the American Library Association (ALA), a small group of gentlemen bibliophiles who had met in 1876 to restructure America’s library system, had every reason to envision the revitalized library...

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2. Protecting Books: Anne Carroll Moore, Alice Jordan, and the Public Library

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pp. 30-48

In 1919, frederic melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, and Franklin K. Mathiews, chief librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, hit upon the idea of a Children’s Book Week to encourage juvenile reading. The two men had strong feelings about the subject; Mathiews, in particular, had waged a series of bitter battles against Edward Stratemeyer, author and editor of books Mathiews considered morally unfit for America’s youth. Five...

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3. Selling Books: Bookshops, the WEIU, and Bertha Everett Mahony

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pp. 49-64

While the struggle for female professional identity took place in formal cultural institutions like the library, a similar process was underway in women’s social organizations. The club movement of the late nineteenth century developed a new agenda for dealing with a long-recognized problem: women’s economic and intellectual dependence on men. To engage effectively with these problems, women’s...

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4. Making Books: Children’s Book Publishing and Louise Hunting Seaman [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 65-80

One morning in the spring of 1919, George Platt Brett, president of the Macmillan Company, summoned a young employee named Louise Seaman to his office. He intended to offer her a promotion by appointing her head of the children’s department he had created a few months earlier. The young man originally selected for the position had not lived up to expectations, leaving Brett irritated. Contemplating...

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5. Becoming Experts and Friends

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pp. 87-117

Throughout the 1920s, bookwomen advanced their individual careers by acquiring information necessary to support claims of expertise, improving the output—both in quantity and quality—of the products they supervised, encouraging recognition of achievement, expanding the specialized territory over which they presided, and cultivating relationships that resulted in both professional sustenance and personal...

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6. Building Professional Culture

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pp. 118-137

The prosperity George Brett predicted in 1920 was reflected in book sales, boosted overall by 6 percent throughout the decade. Organizations like the ALA enjoyed taking credit for the new burst of publishing activity for children, but a carefully cultivated foundation of interprofessional relationships fostered by bookwomen was an important component of these gains. During the second half of the 1920s, they continued...

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7. Triumph and Transition

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pp. 138-157

The United States census for 1930 revealed that nearly eleven million women were in the workforce, representing about one quarter of all gainfully employed Americans. Of these, the government recognized slightly over 14 percent, or about a million and a half, as professionals, but during the first half of the decade, nearly one third of them became unemployed.1 Under the catastrophic financial circumstances of...

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pp. 158-166

Disputes about censorship and editorial policy, changes in employment status, and even Bertha Mahony Miller’s dramatic, if temporary, delegation of responsibilities to Beulah Folmsbee did not signal the dissolution of bookwoman culture. From New Hampshire, Elinor Whitney Field continued her collaboration with Miller and remained connected to the Horn Book as an associate editor until 1957. She died on...


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pp. 169-195


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pp. 197-205


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pp. 207-211

E-ISBN-13: 9780299217938
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299217945

Publication Year: 2006