Published in Britain from 1880 until 1956, The Girl’s Own Annual, alternatively known as the Girl’s Own Paper, was a story paper catering to girls and young women. It includes serialized fiction, advice columns, current events, life and fashion tips for its readers. The issues published during World War I were titled The Girls Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine.
As Katherine previously mentioned here, our latest project in the Special Collections & Archives Division has been digitizing issues from “The Girl’s Own Annual.” A British serial intended for girls, young women and their mothers, “The Girl’s Own Annual” offers unique historical insight into the contemporary perceptions (and propaganda!) of World War I.
Overall, the tone of “The Girl’s Own Annual” is a mixture of edification and entertainment. There are articles on domestic projects (knitting patterns, sewing patterns) and serial fiction (the romances of the day!) These types of articles appear consistently in each issue. For this project, Katherine and I have focused our digitization efforts on volumes 38 and 39, which cover the period 1916-1918. Scattered between serial fiction and instructional pieces are articles that directly and obliquely reference the Great War. These articles give scholars a glimpse into the domestic attitudes toward the ongoing war–its portrayal and the propaganda.
Perceptions of the War
Articles such as, “The Women of the Army: Work that is being done in France by the capable, adaptable, cheerful contingents of our newest military service,” (vol. 39, no. 5) praises the efforts of women directly contributing to the war effort in France. Women are portrayed as supporting the war effort by performing necessary and sometimes complicated tasks. They performed the traditional secretarial and domestic duties, but the article also highlights some of the mechanical work the women perform on “aeroplanes” in need of repair.
Even the life of the Queen is touched by the war, and she actively supports the efforts of the soldiers fighting abroad. The article “The Queen’s Working Year: An unique account of Her Majesty’s activities, some of which have not hitherto been recorded,” (vol. 39 no. 7) gives an almost daily accounting of the Queen’s activities January through June 1917. These activities include paying “a visit to one of the cottagers near to condole with her on the death of a son who had laid down his life on the Front” and raising funds for “totally disabled soldiers.”
The accounts of the work of the Queen walks a fine line between inspiration and propaganda. Other articles in “The Girl’s Own Annual” are more blatant in their attempt to shape public opinion. In Vol. 39, issue 9 from 1918–after hostilities with Germany have stopped–Germany is presented as a continued threat. Writing on the “On the German Menace After the War,” the editor calls for a boycott of German goods, among other things. Through text and image, the continued threat from Germany is hammered home.
The layout of the article is striking–placed at the bottom of the page is a sketch of a sleeping baby, under which the caption reads: “We are fighting now to save the children of today from wholesale butchery at the hands of the Huns in the future.” The distrust and continued suspicion of Germany is blatant: “No matter how many treaties Germany may sign undertaking that hostilities shall end, how can we be certain that she will not continue to murder humanity wherever it is possible to do it without being actually caught in the act?” the editor rails.
It has been a pleasure to make “The Girl’s Own Annual” more accessible. It is my hope that both scholars and students will be able to gain fresh insight into the perceptions of World War I on the British homefront through this project.
Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division. She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.
In our latest adventures as graduate assistants, Rebecca Bramlett and I have been learning how to digitize serials for the FSU Digital Library. This process involves scanning materials in the Digital Library Center, editing them, uploading them, and creating metadata for each issue. Using metadata to describe important features of the serials – such as date issued, subjects, and summary of contents – will make them easier to locate through database searches.
For this project, we are digitizing Volume 39 (12 issues) of The Girl’s Own Annual, a British serial for girls and young women that was published from 1880 until the 1950s. Volume 39 was published in 1917-1918, during World War I, when the girls’ and women’s publications were combined into The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine. Each issue of The Girl’s Own Annual contains a mixture of serial fiction, recipes, knitting and sewing patterns, housekeeping advice, and articles on topics of interest, such as the royal family, women’s education, and women’s contributions to the war effort. The Girl’s Own Annual is part of the John M. Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection and will be added to the Poetry in the Great War collection in the FSU Digital Library.
Since winter break is almost upon us, this is the perfect time to take a look at the 1917 Christmas issue of The Girl’s Own Annual (Vol. 39, No. 3). For your reading enjoyment, let me present you with:
Five Ways to Have a Girl’s Own Christmas:
Curl up with a stack of serial fiction. It’s the early-twentieth century version of a Netflix binge. The Christmas issue is fourteen pages longer than usual and full of extra stories. There’s the first two chapters of “The White Towers” – the story of a mysterious artist and the young art student who captures his attention – as well as two chapters of the romance story “Cicely Ann,” “The Typewriter’s Story: Which Ends with a Wedding,” and several Christmas-themed morality tales. A cup of tea and a roaring fire are optional but highly recommended.
Then read something a little more substantial. Once you’ve satiated your serial fiction needs, you might want to turn to something more informative, such as a discussion of future inventions by Alexander Graham Bell (predicting a time “when we may be able to talk with a man in any part of the world by telephone and without wires”) or the editor’s article on women working outside the home.
Sketch a snowy landscape. Issue No. 3 contains “When Snow is on the Landscape: The Fifth Article on Sketching in Colour,” with advice for sketching in the snow for those who won’t be spending their Christmas in Florida. Just remember, “If you begin to feel unmistakably chilly, pack up straight away.”
Cook an elaborate Christmas dinner.
If you’re looking for a break from the usual turkey or ham, perhaps you could serve roast goose, venison, or pheasants? They would go well with potatoes baked with meat and mashed Jerusalem artichokes. And of course, no holiday is complete without old-fashioned Christmas pudding and a prune mould!
Give everyone a homemade present. In a sea of mass-produced consumer goods, perhaps nothing says “I love you” better than a hand-crocheted cap or bonnet, a set of d’oillies with embroidery and filet crochet, or a homemade children’s coat (shown right).
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars; a war on a global scale unseen up to that point in human memory. History would change how we would remember World War I but at the time, those who lived it had never experienced anything like it.
Our World War I poetry collection sheds an interesting light into the experience of those who lived through World War I, both on the battlefield and on the home front.
A first edition of Yanks: A Book of A.E.F. Verse collects poetry originally published in the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Compiled and published in 1918, it gives compelling glances into the lives of men stationed at the forefront of the trenches. One corporal lamented the myth of Sunny France in his poem:
More so that the glimpses you get into the trenches, it is the glimpses into the life of those who are left at home that are most fascinating to this author. In our poetry collection are chapbooks from women who lament sending their men off to war and try to hold down the fort at home while also mourning those who would never return.
Hit by The War : Reckless Rhymes by Marie-Rose Gabe is one such chapbook and FSU holds the only copy stateside. These poems lament the woman’s life on the home front. A two poem set in this collection, “Tommy Grumbles” and “A ‘Ministering Angel’ Replies” show the desire of those left behind to honor the soldiers who are returning and the soldiers returning not wanting a fuss.
World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. However, a cease-fire had taken affect seven months earlier on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. So when the United States wanted to set aside a day to honor its heroes of the Great War, November 11th was chosen.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. To mark the occasion, we’re pleased to announce a new collection of books from the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection published during World War I are now available in the FSU Digital Library.
These 32 books were chosen from the larger subject guide to World War I poetry created for the Shaw collection. That bibliography covers 360 poetry books and young adult magazines produced in Great Britain and North America during World War I, many focused on trying to explain to children the conflict and how they could help the war effort in their country.
Today’s reader does not often know most of the poetry collected here but these books offer a unique glimpse into this extraordinary period of history. The Shaw Collection mostly focuses on the experience of childhood through poetry and prose but the books collected surrounding this era by Shaw are wide ranging in their voices. The Child’s ABC of the War explains to British children the words they would be hearing as the conflict escalated and tried to reassure them that Britain would stand tall. Other books included were written on the front by young men like Robert W. Sterling who never returned home. There is poetry written by women left to man the home front and childhood stories turned into propaganda for the war effort.
We hope to add more unique materials from the Shaw Collection to this collection in the coming months as we continue to mark the World War I Centennial.