Serial Girl Books Discussion (April 1996)

Serial Girl Books Discussion April 1996


>From Nancy Marie Robertson 20 April 1996

I am researching the popularity of minstrel shows, "coon songs," and blackface among middle-class white women in the early twentieth century. I have come across some mentions (unfootnoted) that there are examples of college "girls" singing "coon songs" and/or performing in blackface in the serial novels that were precursors to Nancy Drew, etc. These include books like the Betty Warde series or Ruth Fielding. These were published from the late 1890s on. I have skimmed several of these series and have not yet found examples. Does anyone have examples--I would prefer one where you actually know "coon songs" or blackface occur, rather than "try books by Alice Emerson, she might have something."

Alternately, if you know people writing about these books, that would be helpful. I am aware of the essay by Jane S. Smith in _Prospects_ v.3. Many thanks.


>From Valija Evalds 22 April 1996

The person to talk to is Sherrie Inness who teaches at Miami University in Ohio: (make sure you get the three Ss).

>From Peter C Halloran 22 April 1996

Minstrel shows were common as fund raising events in Catholic parishes in the 10th century(as recently as 19602). Archdiocesan archives, which are usually open to researchers, may contain programs and other records of women's parish organizations presenting these annual shows. In general, I find Archdiocese archivists extremely helpful professionals who get few visits from scholars.

>From Karla Walters(fwd) 22 April 1996

Karla, I have a number of the series mentioned, but haven't had a chance to go through them to see whether/where scenes like those described would occur. There are three works on girls' college series that I know of--Nancy Romalov's U of IA dissertation, Marchalonis's College Girls(Rutgers), and Sherrie Inness' Intimate Communities (Bowling Green). Another researcher, Kathleen Chamberlain, is probably the most knowledgeable academic specializing in girls' school series. Kathleen is on-line at I'm cc'ing your note to her, so you may hear from her. Sherrie Inness is also online at Sorry I'm not more help, though I will keep thinking about this and let you know if I find any references.

Deidre Johnson