So ends Little Red Riding Hood as published by McLoughlin Bros. in New York after the Civil War. Red Riding Hood was the best of girls, "so kind and obedient, so cheerful and gay." But she neglected her mother's charge not "to dawdle" on her way to grandmother's. Instead she spent hours among the primroses and other "wild flowers." Next she made the mistake of telling the Old Wolf where she was going. When she arrived he was waiting.
McLoughlin Bros.' choice to go with the earlier Charles Perrault version rather than with the story as retold by the Brothers Grimm (see the Fairy Tale Project), in which a passing woodsman rescues Red Riding Hood (or their alternate ending in which the grandmother saves herself and her granddaughter), placed their edition squarely in the large and flourishing subgenre of cautionary tales for children, and especially for young girls, that McLoughlin Bros. published with great success in the decades following the Civil War. Their version dropped Perrault's famous dialogue between the wolf and the child:
"Grandmother dear!" she exclaimed, "what big arms you have!"
"The better to embrace you, my child!"
"Grandmother dear, what big legs you have!"
"The better to run with, my child!"
"Grandmother dear, what big ears you have!"
"The better to hear with, my child!"
"Grandmother dear, what big eyes you have!"
"The better to see with, my child!"
"Grandmother dear, what big teeth you have!"
"The better to eat you with!"
It retained his sexual moralizing; not in words but in the illustration. Perrault wrote:
From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition - neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!
The unknown artist captured the moral graphically by deviating from the McLoughlin text. Perrault's version has Red Riding Hood climbing into her grandmother's bed. The McLoughlin Bros. edition does not, but instead of showing the wolf flying at the girl, as their text has it, the illustration puts Red Riding on the bed with the wolf holding her down.. Tearng Red Riding Hood to pieces before eating her up means rape, and the illustration depicts the wolf mounting the girl.
Explicit and terrifying imagery was not unusual in children's literature. Nor was the moral that girls could bring such horrors upon themselves with a single false step. Nor are the gruesome endings distinctive. Many folktales that went back for centuries ended in death. These stories — "Hansel and Gretel" and "Sleeping Beauty" are examples — often located the source of evil in stepsisters and stepmothers or in witches. Not cautionary tales written in the nineteenth-century; in these the child herself bears the mark of Cain. This infusion of an essentially new element, a secularized version of the Calvinist doctrine of infant depravity, into the cautionary tale is not an American invention. Instead McLoughlin Bros., which captured the lion's share of the children's literature market in the United States for decades, relied heavily upon the stories of Heinrich Hoffmann for models. He was a German physician whose single children's book, published in 1845 and quickly translated into English and other languages, invented the modern children's illustrated story. Imitators, initially also German, quickly appeared; and some of their works were translated into English. Then British and American publishers commissioned Hoffmannesque stories. McLoughlin Bros. stole the texts of these stories as well as the translations. They made Hoffmann's stories and those of his epigones their own via the distinctive illustrations they published — they did not republish the original pictures. These images were largely responsible for their books' great success, and they reveal much about how nineteenth-century Americans thought about race and gender, and about sexuality. Americans were members of a transAtlantic cultural community. Otherwise the McLoughlins would not have been able to simply appropriate German and British texts so successfully. But common elements of that culture could take on specific American meanings, something the illustrations reinforced. A study of what remained the same and what changed may enable us to amplify our understanding of that much used and abused term, Victorian, particularly as it relates to American culture.
Struwwelpeter and the Origins of the Modern Illustrated Children's Story
McLoughlin Brothers was the leading publisher of children's books in America from the middle of the nineteenth century until the death of John McLoughlin, Jr. in 1907. His obituary in Publishers Weekly noted: "Every child in the land knows the McLoughlin toys and books, and even across the seas their edition of Mother Goose has been printed in many languages." Their Peter Prim's series was one of several the company successfully marketed. It was based upon Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter. Hoffmann's drawings exerted a powerful influence over contemporary and subsequent illustrators. Maurice Sendak, whose Where the Wild Things Are is a present-day classic, cites Hoffmann as one of the best illustrators of all time. "Slovenly Peter," as the title can be rendered, or "Shockheaded Peter" — the name is based upon the title character's uncut hair — was the first children's book to integrate text and pictures and thus set the stage for uncounted works to follow, including the many published by McLoughlin Bros.
What made Struwwelpeter so popular was its content as much as its striking illustrations. Hoffman was a physician who wanted to buy his three-year-old son a picture book for Christmas. A tour of local bookshops convinced him it was a bootless quest. "Towards Christmas in the year 1844," he recalled, "when my eldest son was three years old, I went to town with the intention to buy as a present for him a picture book, which should be adapted to the little fellow's powers of comprehension. But what did I find? Long tales, stupid stories, beginning and ending with admonitions like 'the good child must be truthful' or 'children must keep clean' etc." Hoffman bought a blank notebook and proposed to his wife that they should compose their own book. He was used to making up stories, with an appropriate illustration, as a way of winning the confidence of young patients.
I was then obliged to practice in town where I was often brought into contact with children. Now it certainly is a difficult thing for a Doctor to make their little ones from 3 to 5 years feel at their ease with him, because when they are in good health, the medical man and the chimney-sweep are very often made bug-bears of. 'My dear, if you are naughty the chimney-sweep will carry you off' or 'Child, if you eat too much, the Doctor will come with his nasty medicine'. The consequence is, that the little angel, when ill, begins to cry violently and to struggle as soon as the physician enters the room. On such occasions a slip of paper and a pencil generally came to my assistance. A story, invented on the spur of the moment, illustrated with a few touches of the pencil and humorously related, will calm the little antagonist, dry his tears, and allow the medical man to do his duty.
In this manner most of Struwwelpeter's absurd scenes originated. Some of them were later inventions, sketched in the same impulsive manner, without the least intention on my part of literary fame. The book was bound, put under the Christmas-tree, and the effect on the boy was just what I expected.
The expected effect was laughter mixed with gasps. What Hoffmann had not expected was that others would clamor for copies. Or that his stories would be translated into English, French, and other languages. One of his translators was Mark Twain.
Struwwelpeter, seen here in Hoffmann's original illustration, was a monster such as a small boy might himself become. One can easily imagine an exasperated parent, trying to get a child to sit still so as to trim his nails or wash behind his ears, saying,"If you don't behave, you'll look like Struwwelpeter!" Struwwelpeter combined the comedic with the cautionary. As a result, the eleven stories Dr. Hoffmann came up with are notably dark in content, strikingly light in tone — "humorously related" in his own words.
The first told of "cruel Frederick" who tore the wings off flies and engaged in other acts of juvenile cruelty. One hot day he whipped the family dog as it tried to get a drink of water. This angered the dog who then bit Frederick on the leg.
So Frederick had to go to bed;
His leg was very sore and red!
The Doctor came and shook his head,
And made a very great to-do,
And gave him bitter physic too.
But good dog Tray is happy now;
He has no time to say "bow-wow!"
He seats himself in Frederick's chair,
And laughs to see the nice things there:
The soup he swallows, sup by sup,-
And eats the pies and puddings up.
— anonymous English translation, Hoffmann illustration (both from the Struwwelpeter site at Virginia Commonwealth University. All of the Hoffmann original illustrations, English translations, and his original text are from this site.)
McLoughlin Bros., Shockheaded Peter, and the Hoffmannesque
McLoughlin Bros. set about pirating these tales and those of Hoffmann's imitators. In the process the comedic lost out to the cautionary. The content remained dark but the tone ceased to be light. The 1898 edition of Slovenly Peter: A Picture Book for Little Boys was one of several McLoughlin books to contain the story of "Cruel Frederick." The drawings are naturalistic with all traces of whimsy removed. Frederick's several acts of cruelty are portrayed graphically. One shows him kicking a kitten down a flight of stairs; in another his nurse cowers as he raises a whip. And the poetic justice of Hoffmann's drawing showing Frederick having to drink the bitter physic while the dog "eats the pies and puddings up," is lost.With it goes the humor. Instead one sees an unhappy Frederick in bed in one image and the dog seated at a table, knife and fork at the ready, in another. This same alteration is true of an earlier McLoughlin edition of Cruel Frederick (1872?) with different drawings.
The 1898 edition puts an image for Hoffmann's "The Inky Boys" (Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben) on the cover. McLoughlin Bros. also used this tale in numerous collections. In Hoffmann's story, a "woolly-headed black-a-moor" (Ein kohlpechrabenschwarzer Mohr) goes for a walk and raises his umbrella to shield himself from the sun. Three ill-behaved boys run after him and hoot and sing: "Ohl Blacky, you're as black as ink " (Weil es so schwarz wie Tinte sei!)
Nearby is the giant Nicholas (der große Nikolas) who calls out to the boys to stop insulting the Moor, but the three miscreants pay him no mind and continue to taunt the black. This angers the giant who scoops them up and dunks them in his enormous inkstand. He holds them there until they are blacker than the Moor (Du siehst sie hier, wie schwarz sie sind, Viel schwärzer als das Mohrenkind!).
The Moor continues his walk, again followed by the three boys. Their punishment fits their crime. They had mocked the black and now find themselves even blacker than he. The moral, as with the story of cruel Frederick, is not far to seek. Cruelty toward others brings a swift retribution.
The images in the McLoughlin 1898 edition are much larger as well as naturalistic. In the process, the Moor becomes a stereotypical black with large lips and a sloping forehead. And, instead of simply continuing to walk still followed by the three boys, he stops and makes fun of them. This becomes part of their punishment, a message Hoffmann did not intend, and one that carried special salience for an American audience.
Being turned black is also the punishment of the title character in the McLoughlin Bros. edition of The Girl Who Inked Herself. This is the "dark, dark story" of Miss Mopsa who continually spills ink upon herself, her books, and everything nearby. She even dips her finger into the inkwell and sucks upon her pen. "Daily worse grow all bad habits" is the moral, and one day Miss Mopsa upsets the inkstand and ruins her copybook. "Next appears a thing unthought of." Her complexion turns brown, then slate, then "dusky black." She is soon "blacker than a Guinea negro, blacker than the sootiest sweep, blacker than the shiny beetles." It is a "Dire event!" What are her parents to do with her? She is "far too hideous for a daughter," so they sell her for a "black doll." Story's end finds her "at a rag shop" suspended by a link.
This version changed virtually everything about the story except the form of punishment. Hoffmann's original cautions against insulting people of other racial origins, this against making a mess. In Hoffmann's tale there is a traditional fairy tale character, a giant (usually identified as St. Nicholas in English language versins), who metes out rough justice. In the McLoughlin Bros. story it is unclear by what agency Miss Mopsa becomes "blacker than a Guinea negro." In the German original the boys, after being dipped in the giant's ink well, continue to march after the Moor. But Miss Mopsa is not just taught a lesson by being made black; she is abandoned by her parents, a small child's worst nightmare, and sold as a chattel. Then she is hanged, albeit in a shop window. Again, the resonance of Miss Mopsa's fate for American children was profound.
In this context it is helpful to recall the social setting in which children encountered these stories. Parents typically read them to three, four, or five-year-olds nestled on their laps. For the children there was the comfort of the parent's presence, the familiar voice, contrasted with the "dark, dark story" with its unyielding message: The wages of sin is death. Or a fate worse than death. Among the latter for American children was the loss of racial identity.
Mopsa becomes a pariah, a member of a despised race, too hideous for a daughter, fit only for hanging. The story contained several levels of warning. One was that making messes would meet with sure and horrific punishment. Another was that your privileged position was precarious. You could fall suddenly and irretrievably. Still another was that you must avoid anything associated with African Americans. And, finally, your parents, especially your mother, could protect you from harm but only if you minded her every word. In the process of reading these stories to their children, American parents passed on racial biases along with strictures against bad behavior. How many children asked Mamma or Poppa why Mopsa turned black? How many parents then explained in simple terms how whites regarded African Americans? The McLoughlin Bros. images intensify the racism of the words, especially that of the doll hanging by the neck.
The child being read Hoffmann's story, on the other hand, learned that it was hateful to make fun of other races. American children learned the opposite. Some time between 1871 and 1874 McLoughlin Bros. published The Ten Little Niggers. It teaches pre-schoolers how to count backwards from ten. At the bottom of each page the number in question is formed out of small black bodies. Also as the bottom of the page are the lyrics and music to a song of the same title. The "little niggers" start out proudly marching along but meet a series of violent ends, one by one, until none remain. The book's popularity led to others: The Funny Little Darkies (1875?), Nine Niggers More (1875?), and Simple Addition, By a Little Nigger (1874?). The last included the verse: Two little niggers shook an apple tree, Down fell another nig, that made 3. All of the illustrations stereotyped blacks as gorilla-like. We do not have sales figures for these or other McLoughlin books. But Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians was originally published in 1939 in England under the title Ten Little Niggers. Clearly she and her publisher anticipated that readers would get the reference. Ironically, Christie's American publisher insisted upon a new title. She suggested Ten Little Indians, but that also was rejected as racially insensitive. They finally agreed upon And Then There Were None, the last line of The Ten Little Niggers.
Some further examples of bad girls in McLoughlin Bros. stories and what happened to them
The Girl Who Inked Herself also carried warnings related to gender. Josephine Pollard's Freaks and Frolics of Little Boys, which McLoughlin Bros. published in 1887 (?), contains a variant, "Inky Jake." Like Miss Mopsa, Jake gets ink all over himself and, like her, he is turned black. In his case there is no mysterious "they." Instead, as in the Hoffmann original, there is a giant who dips him in "an enormous jar" with "contents black as tar."
Now the careless boy may go,
Over him the ink may flow,
For the inkspots will not show.
In the illustration, the inkspots do show. His skin tones are lighter than ink; he has no stereotyped features. Jake's parents do not decide he is too hideous for a son. He does not wind up hanging from a hook. His punishment can provide us with a baseline that we can use to compare what happens in these stories to bad little girls. Jake's punishment fits his crime. That is, it fits the sort of parental warning implied in Struwwelpeter. If the child does not sit still and let the parent cut his nails, he will look like Struwwelpeter. Similarly, if he isn't more careful while learning to write, he will turn as black as ink himself. "Inquisitive John" in the same edition suffers this sort of punishment. He is always snooping around. One day he tries to overhear a private conversation between his mother and her sister. The sliding doors catch his nose.
For days Johnny had to wear
A plaster upon his nose,
And he looked very much ashamed,
And sorry, you may suppose;
But a lesson he truly learned . . . .
Meddlesome Mathilda, whose tale appeared in Reason in Rhyme for Little Children (1879?) takes her grandmother's spectacles and snuff box. She breaks the first and inhales all the contents of the second:
She then, while smarting with the pain,
Sneezing, and sick, and sore,
Made many a promise to refrain
From meddling any more.
Reason in Rhyme also told of Talkative Toby. His failure to learn that a good child is to be seen and not heard led to a suitable punishment.
And then, with harsh discordant voice,
A parrot Toby grew:
On to a stand they chained him tight,
And there he sits in view.
In all of these baseline line cases the disobedient child suffers the direct consequence of the misdeed as when a nosey boy hurts his nose or when a meddlesome girl makes herself sick with her grandmother's snuff. Turning Toby into a parrot is the sort of exaggerated threat parents often have recourse to: "If you don't sit still and let me cut your nails, you'll turn into Struwwelpeter!" But, unlike the boy who always spilled his ink, turning black merely begins Miss Mopsa's punishment. The discrepancy between what happens to bad little boys and bad little girls requires exploration.
As we have already seen, in what I am calling "baseline" stories there is little or no difference in the punishments meted out to boys and girls. But some stories, like that of Miss Mopsa, go well beyond baseline retribution. And these usually involve bad little girls. Let us begin by looking at two baseline tales and then at one that goes much further.
Lazy Charlotte tells the tale of a girl whose mother asked her to do some knitting:
"Here, Charlotte," said Mamma one day,
"These stockings knit, while I'm away;
And should you fail be sure you'll find
Mamma is strict, although she's kind."
But Charlotte took a lazy fit,
And did not feel inclined to knit:
And soon upon the ground let fall
Needle, and worsted, hose, and all.
When Mamma returned she found "the work astrewed upon the ground" and determined to punish Charlotte by making her go to school barefoot. "This put poor Charlotte in a fright, . . . though she knew it served her right." Crying, begging, even praying did not weaken her mother's resolve, and so off to school she went without her shoes.
What sort of punishment was this? Mother could have made Charlotte do the knitting and more of it, for example. Instead she chooses public humiliation.
To school, where all were clean and neat,
Poor Charlotte went with naked feet.
Some showed their pity, some their pride,
While Charlotte hid her face and cried.
Untidy Tom (1867?) met with a similar end, although his fault was slovenliness rather than laziness. His father dressed the dog in Tom's clothes and shoes and sent it off to school and made Tom trail behind clad only in his nightshirt.
And Tom most foolish looked, I trow,
As forth he went amid the snow,
While proudly stalked the dog, you see,
As though he'd taken his degree.
Charlotte's and Tom's punishment presumably had the same meaning throughout the Atlantic world. Not so a companion piece. Published in the same volume as Laxy Charlotte (in 1876, as part of the Peter Prim's series) was Envious Minny. Minny was "a pretty girl" with blue eyes and curly hair but she had "many, many faults," the worst of which was jealousy. She begrudged her sisters their birthday presents and, on Christmas, even though "her presents were the best," insisted that her siblings had been favored.
Finally she grabbed her sister's new yellow dress and put it on.
And springing quickly to the glass,
What she saw there? Alas! Alas!
Oh! what a sad, a deep disgrace!
She found she had a yellow face!
At least since medieval times, Europeans and then Americans have associated certain vices with particular colors. It remains common to speak of "turning green with envy" or "black with rage." Yellow was associated with jealousy. Jealousy is frequently used as a synonym for envy, but envy rarely for jealousy. This is because the first meaning of jealousy involves suspiciousness about the feelings or fidelity of another. Minny is not jealous in this primary sense. Instead she desires not just the possessions but the very happiness of others. As a consequence, author and publisher had a choice. Minny did not have to turn yellow. She could have turned green. But there was no "Green Peril" threatening white America in the 1870s. As Minny's reflection makes clear, the change was not just to her complexion but to her race. The illustrator emphasizes this by making the glass too small for Minny to see herself in the dress in it. Showing the mirror on a swivel tilted up makes the same point. All Minny is able to see is her face. This makes no narrative sense of course, but it does make dramatic sense. It brings home the moral. But unlike the moral of "Lazy Charlotte" and "Untidy Tom," this one had a special resonance for Americans, one heightened by the image. In 1898, McLoughlin Bros. brought out another version of the story in Slovenly Kate: A Picture Book for Little Girls, the companion volume to its Slovenly Peter of that year. Envious Minnie still turns yellow, but there is no reflection in the mirror and no reference to the "Yellow Peril."
Americanization: Gender and Race
Miss Mopsa's "dark, dark story" along with those of Charlotte and Minny reinforced gender norms as well as racial hierarchies. Hoffmann's stories do not. They are, with one exception, about bad boys. The simplest explanation for this is that he created them for his son. And his son was only three. So the boys in the stories do things a three-year-old might and suffer accordingly. One bad boy sucks his thumb, despite being warned by his mother that, should he continue, a very tall tailor with enormous sharp scissors will come and snip off his thumbs.
Another becomes a picky eater. He had always wolfed down his soup but suddenly decided he would not eat any. By the fourth day he was as thin as a reed and on the fifth he was dead. Other boys tilt back in their chairs at the dinner table, don't look where they are going as they walk, or insist on going out in storms instead of playing indoors with their toys. The boy who leans back in his chair loses his balance, grabs the tablecloth to steady himself, and pulls all of the dishes down on top of himself. The one whose head in always in the clouds falls into the water; the one who goes out in the rain is carried aloft by the wind and disappears. The stories do not tell boys how to be good boys; they teach them to be good children. McLoughlin Bros. books, in contrast, frequently emphasized gender proprieties.
As a result, punitive metamorphoses could involve gender as well as race. The Tom-Boy Who Was Changed into a Real Boy is a leading case in point. This is a British story of a girl who, despite being "the daughter of an earl," loves all the things boys do. In the winter, when the ponds ice over, she goes sliding with "George and Ralph." She plays football with them too and happily "mounted tree or wall." "But at works of skill and grace/She held the lowest place" and is "far from clever at her stitches." As with Mopsa, every day her bad habits grow worse until even her voice becomes "rough and hoarse." Her "attitudes became so like a boy's" that "they" decide to turn her into a real boy. No boy, needless to say, ever is punished by being turned into a girl. Who the "they" are who resolve the Tom-Boy's fate is left unsaid. Instead the story rushes to its denouement. "So a sailor she was made/And a ship captain paid" to take her "off to sea" where, for all the author professes to know, she still is. "And a caution may it prove to you and me."
"Tomboy Kate," published in Slovenly Kate, is a variant but with a happier ending. Kate learns the moral and is redeemed:
It is nice to romp and run;
Girls should have their share of fun;
But they ought to know enough
Not to be too rude and rough.
The Tom-Boy failed to understand this. In addition, she broke another important gender rule. She did not learn to sew. In the McLoughlin's Reason in Rhyme for Little Children (1879) we learn what happened to "The Girl Who Would Not Learn to Sew." "In spite of all Mamma could say; To make a stitch she would not try." Exasperated Mamma exclaims "'Nelly will be a doll some day!'"
Regardless of this dreadful doom,
Nelly refused to learn to sew;
Her stupid head for nothing good,
Grew more and more like solid wood,
Her limbs more stiff began to grow.
Her brow grew flat, her eyes grew round,
Her arms stuck out like matches straight,
Her flesh grew hard as oak or deal,
A stupid smile her lips reveal —
To be a doll is Nelly's fate.
The Tom-Boy's punishment is far more ambiguous than those meted out to Charlotte, Minny, Mopsa, and Nell. Consider the initial illustrations of Mopsa and the Tom-Boy.
Both girls have gotten their dresses and aprons dirty, but the Tom-Boy is shown enjoying her romp with Ralph and George. Miss Mopsa just stands there, ink dripping from her pen. Now look at how their final states are shown.
Mopsa hangs in the rag shop window. The Tom-Boy climbs the rigging. Is this really a punishment? To have physical freedom? To climb, to skate, to play? Many boys dreamed of going off to sea. If the image had appeared at the end of a story written for them, it would have marked a happy ending. Further, what the earl's daughter lost in social standing, she at least partially regained in becoming a male with all of the rights and privileges that went with being a member of the dominant sex. [Billee Taylor (1881?) explores this, albeit in highly unusual terms.] Nonetheless the punishment is not only real, it is in its own way just as harsh as that of Miss Mopsa or Envious Minny. A cartoon reprinted from Punch in the August 1851 Harper's Monthly shows why.
Adopting any male characteristic or behavior meant a complete loss of femininity; it meant being unsexed. A tomboy might play football on an equal basis with a "real boy," but, once they became adults, she became just a caricature of a man. The Anglo-American agreement on this is captured in the fact that Harper's New Monthly decided to reprint the Punch drawing and its accompanying story. British pieces that made fun of Americans usually did not receive such recognition.
The New Book of Two Hundred Pictures (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1868) presented the way good little girls should play, a message repeated in McLoughlin Bros. stories, and in advice literature aimed at older girls and young women:
Look at what a pretty toy kitchen is on the floor by Sydney's side. The dresser and the grater, the frying pan and the tubs, look so nice that I suppose she spends a good deal of time in cooking for herself and Peggy, who is in a very queer position now, hanging over the roof, with danger of a severe fall. There is some flour in the jar in Sydney's lap, and it is to be made into dough, and then put in some pans and baked for bread, or biscuit, or pies, ready for any one who likes to eat them. Children are very fond of making things out of flour; and it would be well if they were as anxious, when they grow larger, to become good cooks and be useful in the family.
This was one of a series of picture books published by religious societies. Parents and their young children were to look at the pictures together. The text was for the adults, suggestions of what they might say to their children. The moral suggested here was that Sydney was well on the road to domesticity. With some gentle encouragement she would grow up to be "useful in the family." Parents should encourage their little girls to follow Sydney's example.
Sunday-school stories, as Mark Twain characterized them, prized femininity but warned that it carried its own dangers. (Twain mocked the Sunday School portraits of boys in two early stories.) One sin the New Book of Two Hundred Pictures cautioned against was vanity, proverbially a female shortcoming.
Helen De Witt must suffer from the cold this wintry day. Her light clothing and tight kid gloves cannot keep out the piercing blast; but she thinks herself finely dressed, and passes quite scornfully the children who are going to school well wrapped up. There is a very interesting book, called "Kitty Maynard; or, Scenes at School," about a girl who was astonished to find how much more the children in a village school knew than she did, and about the troubles into which she was led by her vanity and self-conceit.
McLoughlin Bros. Miss Vanity painted the same moral. The title character, an eight-year-old whose nurse doubles as her maid, refuses to play with a chum because she is too plainly dressed in wool. Her own clothes are silk. But a sheep dog comes along and snaps at her "flounces" and rips her skirt. Unhappily, Miss Vanity does not learn her lesson. Instead she runs home to have her nurse make the needed repairs and heads back to her erstwhile friend as pleased with herself as before. A series of further misadventures finally persuade her that she should not judge herself or others by clothes but by character.
Miss Vanity is at fault and is punished but mildly. Helen De Witt suffers nothing worse than the "piercing blast" of the wind. Like Lazy Charlotte they share a lack of concern for the well-being of others. This is a sin against the cult of "true womanhood," to use historian Barbara Welter's phrase, which held that women must always think of others after the manner of a somewhat older Sydney who has learned to cook for her family. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly published a cartoon that made the point of the incompatability of love of fashion and genuine goodness by playing off the injunction “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14)
Vanity is a serious flaw in a woman, but not as bad as envy. That cost Minny her "rosy cheeks" and turned her into a Chinese. Envy was so much worse because it signified that Minny lacked any concern for others, one of the core traits of a true woman. The joy of others made her miserable. Snatching her sister's dress and wearing it herself proved her cruelty and validated the punishment. Miss Mopsa's great sin is less apparent. She did not think herself better than others. All she did was make a mess with the ink. But, as an axiom of that day, and this, has it: Cleanliness is next to godliness (a phrase apparently first used in a 1778 sermon of John Wesley, "On Dress"). Women, rulers of the domestic sphere, were responsible for maintaining both the family's cleanliness and the home's neatness.
And Mopsa refused to take up her civilizing mission, and more than once, as emphasized by the story's moral that "Daily worse grow all bad habits." If Minny turns yellow because of the fortuitous linking of that color with jealousy, on the one hand, and the rising fear of the "Yellow Peril" on the other, Mopsa becomes "blacker than a Guinea negro" because she rejects civilization. Her proclivity for making messes marks her as a primitive. The tomboy too turns her back on the very idea of domesticity and, by extension, of womanhood itself. So she is literally "unsexed," a pejorative commonly hurled at woman's rights' advocates. The "they" who decide upon this punishment personify the proper social order. [Catherine Sedgwick provided a standard endorsement of the importance of domesticity in women, a standard theme in the advice literature.]
Some McLoughlin Bros. cautionary tales warned against behavior that was not specific to boys or girls but nonetheless cast it in gendered terms. Tasting is such a story, apparently of British origin. The illustration shows Little Miss Baster using a chair to reach a large jar and sample the contents. The image carries no overt warnings, no signs that she is doing anything wrong. The piece depends upon the child looking at the story with a parent and recognizing that she is not supposed to climb upon the furniture or to eat anything without adult permission, rules that apply equally to boys. Yet Miss Baster looks as though she might be imitating her mother tasting what she was cooking. Her play might be as domestically inspired as Sydney's with her toy kitchen. Further complicating the image is the text. It tells that the poison Miss Baster will taste is "in paper tied," and not in the jar whose unknown but presumably harmless contents she is shown sampling. The actual poison looks like sugar, "but 'tis paste. Rat's-bane, the mixture." In addition, the text reads that the "dangerous practice" that got Miss Baster in trouble involved "Picking and licking, spying and prying/Each bottle and dish with her finger trying," but the illustration shows her using a spoon. These disjunctions between text and illustration might have been the product of simple carelessness. The illustrator might have not paid enough attention to the text; the publisher might not have noticed the discrepancies. The care with which John McLoughlin, Jr. oversaw his firm's books suggests otherwise. In any event, the image conveys a different message, one missing from the text: Some day, when you are bigger, you can do what Mamma does, but not yet.
Miss Baster becomes very ill, "nearly she died." However, the doctor does arrive in time. Here the wages of sin is near death. One reason why Miss Baster is spared may be that she is so young. She can only reach the jar by climbing on a chair. Nonetheless she must suffer the consequences of her misbehavior. She has been warned of the dangers of tasting. Hence "Dreadful her anguish." But she is too young to be fully responsible. Her proclivity for tasting "was known . . . far and wide." Some responsible person, her mother, a nurse, an older sister, should have been watching her. She should not have been left alone where she could get her hands on the rat's-bane. The text suggests a different moral, one addressed to Mamma.
Playing with Matches in Germany, Playing with Fire in America
Pauline and the Matches is another Peter Prim's series book from McLoughlin Bros. It is a translation of one of Hoffmann's stories. Both versions offer a most basic caution: Don't play with matches! Pauline in a good deal older in the American version. Like the McLoughlin Bros.' Red Riding Hood she is on the verge of puberty, as is more than hinted at in the way her dress slips off her shoulder. Hoffmann's Pauline, in contrast, is carrying her doll. Her youth is also accentuated by her size relative to the cats.
"Mamma and Nurse went out one day/And left Pauline alone at play." She claps her hands and sings with joy, so happy is she to be at last on her own. Then she spies a box of matches that "chanced" to be on the table. The two cats, Minz and Maunz, remind her that her parents forbade her to play with the matches.
Das Hölzchen brennt gar lustig hell und licht,
Das flackert lustig, knistert laut,
Grad wie ihr's auf dem Bilde schaut.
Paulinchen aber freut sich sehr
Und sprang im Zimmer hin und her.
But Pauline said, "Oh! What a pity!
For, when they burn, it is so pretty!
They crackle so, and spit, and flame;
And Mamma often burns the same.
I will just light a match or two
As oft I've seen my mother do."
Pauline, having decided to disobey her parents, and do what her mother often does, jumps for joy and runs about, so pretty is the flame. The cats act as her conscience. They stretch their claws and raise their paws and remind her that she is doing something dreadfully wrong. Pauline pays no heed.
Doch weh ! Die Flamme faßt das Kleid,
Die Schürze brennt; es leuchtet weit.
Es brennt die Hand, es brennt das Haar,
Es brennt das ganze Kind sogar.
Und Minz und Maunz, die schreien
Gar jämmerlich zu zweien :
"Herbei ! Herbei ! Wer hilft geschwind ?
Im Feuer steht das ganze Kind !
Miau! Mio! Miau! Mio!
Zu Hilf'! Das Kind brennt lichterloh !"
Verbrannt ist alles ganz und gar,
Das arme Kind mit Haut und Haar;
Ein Häuflein Asche bleibt allein
Und beide Schuh', so hübsch und fein.
Now see! oh! see a dreadful thing!
The fire has caught her apron-string!
Her apron burns, her arms, her hair;
She burns all over, everywhere.
The cats cry out but can do nothing more.
So she was burned with all her clothes,
And arms and hands, and eyes and nose,
Till she had nothing more to lose
Except her little scarlet shoes;
And nothing else but these was found
Among her ashes on the ground
The text in the two versions is very similar; the images differ in significant ways. Hoffmann drew a scary picture. The flames race up the back of Pauline's dress as she raises her arms and cries out. The cats raise their front paws, in a similar gesture, and also cry out. They are outdoors, something Hoffmann suggests with the plant along the right side of the picture (a filigree he used in other illustrations as well). In the American version there are two images. The first shows the fire starting. It begins at the front of her dress. Pauline again raises her arms, but her cry is more frantic, a shriek. And the scene is indoors. The cats do not mime Pauline's gesture. Instead they recoil from the flames. In the second image, Pauline has fallen to the floor. The fire consumes her torso and moves toward her face and hair. The cats move away from the flames.
The changes add to the meaning of the story. In both versions, only Pauline burns. In Hoffmann's telling of it, this makes sense because the story takes place outside. The fire burns itself out. In the McLoughlin Bros.' rendition, only Pauline burns despite the proximity of the tablecloth and wooden table. The fire thereby becomes metaphorical. The change in the location of the fire on Pauline's dress spells out the meaning. Playing with fire, acting the way she has seen her mother act, suggests sexuality. Playing with fire while all alone suggests masturbation.
The final image in both versions shows the cats crying over her ashes and shoes.
Und ihre Tränen fließen
Wie's Bächlein auf den Wiesen
Their tears ran down their cheeks so fast,
They made a little pond at last."
In both Pauline burned "till she had nothing more to lose" except her shoes. Why doesn't the fire consume them as well? In Hoffmann's original Mamma will come home to discover only the weeping cats, the ashes, and the shoes, which will serve to identify the ashes as Pauline's. The shoes are red in Hoffmann's illustrations but simply shoes in his text. he may have chosen the color simply to contrast with the ground and the exaggerated stream of tears. The shoes are scarlet in the American version. Scarlet, as Hawthorne had recently reminded Americans and others, is the color of illicit sexual behavior.
Perrault appended a moral to his version of "Red Riding Hood" that explicitly linked the Wolf in the story to the lecherous but charming men who pose the greatest danger of all to young and pretty girls. The moral in Pauline is announced visually in the flames consuming Pauline's lower torso and verbally in the phrase about Pauline losing all except her scarlet shoes, and in the fact that nothing else in the house catches fire. Had the McLoughlin version of Pauline actually been about the hazards of children playing with matches, the whole house would have been destroyed. Or some passerby, like the woodsman in the Brothers Grimm version of Red Riding Hood, would have rescued Pauline and doused the flames. McLoughlin Bros. did, in fact, publish several such stories. In one, Playing with Fire (published in The Cut Finger and Other Tales sometime between 1858 and 1862), a little girl was badly burned:
For many month, before 'twas cured
Most shocking torments she endured;
And even now in passing by her,
You see what 'tis to play with fire.
Carrie and the Candle was published with Pauline and the Matches in 1867(?). It is directly based upon Pauline. Carrie, like Pauline, ignores warnings against playing with fire. Instead of two cats, a pair of candlesnuffers act as her conscience:
"Naughty girl, Mamma obey,
Else you soon on fire will be.
Then I'll bite you fearfully."
The "I" in the warning is mysterious, and the mystery deepens at the story's end. Carrie pays no heed. Instead she seeks to make the candle's flame leap. She succeeds, but the candle "flashing higher, Set her hair and clothes on fire." As with Hoffmann's illustrations for Pauline, the image shows the fire burning the back of her dress. It does not show her hair burning. There is no illustration for the deeply ambiguous ending:
Loud she screamed with anguish wild,
Mother ran to save her child;
And as Carry gave a shout,
With the Snuffers, snuffed her out.
Had her mother "snuffed her out"? Or the fire? Was the "I" the Snuffers used in warning Carry the fire speaking through them? It bit her fearfully, to be sure. Whether Carry lived, like the girl in Playing with Fire, or died like Pauline, hers was truly and simply a story about the dangers of fire. Pauline was ostensibly about fire. It was also about the dangers of sexuality and of sexual play.
In this context consider the initial illustration showing her dress slipping off Pauline's shoulder. This is anything but common in children's literature. But The Dirty Child, a story published with Pauline in 1867(?) and also separately that same year, uses the same motif and to the same effect. It tells of two sisters who "both enjoyed an equal share Of a kind mother's anxious care." One faithfully washes and brushes her hair; the other "would scream and run away, Soon as she saw her mother stand With water by and sponge in hand." Of course, the first is rewarded: And many a fond admirer gained, And many a little gift obtained. The sloven, in contrast, "viewed with general scorn Was left forsaken and forlorn." The illustrations, differing only in the colors used in the two editions, transform the meaning of the text. The "fond admirer" is drawn as a handsome young man who is clearly courting the "prettty lass," even though she is no more than eight years old. Her sister, in one illustration, sits upon the floor, one stocking off, shift falling off her shoulder, legs spread apart. In another, she lies in bed, apparently without a nightdress. The images sexualize The Dirty Girl, something a much later edition with different illustrations, makes obvious. In this edition, the admirer is a grandfatherly figure; the dirty girl's clothing is not falling off. With these pictures, it is a story about the need to be neat and clean. In the 1867 editions, however, it is about which sister will get a husband. And it leaves little doubt about how the other sister will wind up.
Americanization, Gender, and Infant Depravity
Charlotte, Pauline and their sister stories published by McLoughlin Bros. present secularized versions of the Calvinist doctrine of infant depravity. This suggestion is as audacious as I hope to show it to be obvious. The audacity lies in pointing to the infusion of explicitly Christian, and indeed Calvinist, ideas into a literature in which religion traditionally played little or no role, and in claiming that this happened exactly at the same time that Calvinist doctrines, especially that of infant depravity, were losing their hold over the American and European popular imaginations.
[Note: A full discussion would require an analysis of popular religion in Europe.]
As for the traditional absense of religious ideas from cautionary children's stories, it is a truism that, so-called Sunday School stories excepted, they draw upon pre-Christian or non-Christian sources. Further, they are populated not by angels and devils but by fairy godmothers, ogres, giants, and malevolent goats. And, although the protagonists often have serious flaws, they routinely escape punishment. In Jack and the Beanstalk, for example, Jack is described as lazy and unwilling to help his mother until they reach the point of destitution that leads to the decision to sell their cow. (See the Jack and the Beanstalk Project for several published versions) Jack simply regrets his laziness, and the story continues. Christian morality also has nothing to do with the tale of Puss in Boots, in which the youngest son of a miller receives a cat as his share of the family estate. The cat dissembles and murders, albeit an ogre, but a very polite and well-spoken ogre, all in the name of making his new master an aristocrat. Classic children's stories, in short, do not teach religious morals. Nor do Hoffmann's tales. With very few exceptions, McLoughlin Bros. stories do.
The religious version of infant depravity is stated with characteristic succinctness in the New Book of Two Hundred Pictures.
What can be a prettier sight than a little baby asleep? We forget that it ever cries, or keeps awake at night, or tires our arms with its weight, and only admire the calm sweet face, with sometimes a smile flitting over it, and are almost impatient for the pretty eyes to open. The children in the picture look very lovingly at the occupant of the cradle. Although it looks so innocent now, if it should live, it will certainly show angry temper and want its own way. This is because all children have sinful natures, and they need new hearts and right spirits, so that they may become Christians.
"All children have sinful natures." Only if they receive "new hearts and right spirits" in conversion, an experience inaccessible to the young, can they become Christians and be saved. No doctrine generated more dissent in the nineteenth century. The Rev. Horace Bushnell led the opposition in Christian Nurture, first published in 1843 and republished many times thereafter. Bushnell argued that parents had a duty to inculcate Christian ideals from the outset and that their offspring would in turn develop sound moral principles and practices. Nothing was worse, he wrote, than the view that children who died before they could experience conversion were necessarily damned.
Christian Nurture marked a profound shift in the way Protestant Americans viewed children. In this new dispensation, they did not merely appear innocent, they actually were so. Some, most famously Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin, were angelic. Little Eva was old enough to contemplate the evils of slavery and wish that she might die, Christ-like, so that it might be abolished. Younger children, too tiny to sermonize, nonetheless also embodied sanctity. An example is Little Mary, once the occupant of the now "Vacant Chair," a poem published in Godey's Ladies Book in 1850 that subsequently lent its title to a popular Civil War song.
Richard Coe, Jr., THE VACANT CHAIR, GODEY'S LADY'S BOOK, January 1850
WHEN we gather round our hearth,
Consecrated by the birth
Of our eldest, darling boy,
Only one thing mars our joy:
'Tis the dreary corner, where
Stands, unfilled, the vacant chair!
Little Mary, bright and blest,
Early sought her heavenly rest.
Oft we see her in our dreams _
Then an angel one she seems!
But we oftener see her, where
Stands, unfilled, the vacant chair.
But 'twere sinful to repine;
Much of joy to me and mine
Has the gentle Shepherd given.
Little Mary is in heaven!
Blessed thought! while gazing where
Stands, unfilled, the vacant chair.
Many parents, kind and good,
Lost to them their little brood,
Bless their Maker night and day,
Though He took their all away!
Shall we, therefore, murmur, where
Stands, unfilled, one vacant chair!
Little Mary! angel blest,
From thy blissful place of rest,
Look upon us! angel child,
Fill us with thy spirit mild.
Keep o'er us thy watchful care;
Often fill the vacant chair.
Little Mary in heaven keeps watch over her parents and brother. This “blessed thought” reconciles her family to their loss. Other families have lost even more, a reference to the daunting infant morality rate of the era.
Envious Minny, Lazy Charlotte, Miss Vanity, and Pauline are not at all like Little Eva or Little Mary. They are instead children of Original Sin. Why did children's cautionary tales, particularly those for girls, hew to a new version of the old orthodoxy? Christian Nurture clearly influenced portraits of children in works like Stowe's that were written for adults. But Bushnell's work, and the whole sentimentalizing of childhood it represented, apparently had much less impact upon authors and publishers of children's books. In fact, the opposite process was occuring.
One reason may lie in the different audiences. It was one thing to romanticize childhood and children to adults. It was quite another to suggest to children themselves that they possessed an innate goodness. Children's books remained overwhelmingly didactic in intent. And many of the lessons involved learning not to follow one's natural impulses. All young children put things in their mouths, for example. Taste is one of the basic ways they have of learning. Teaching them not to explore tastes without explicit permission is a challenging task, as every parent can attest. Touch is every bit as basic a way of learning, and touching routinely leads to messes as children smear their food or splash in their baths or spill ink on their dresses. As a result, one of the first words most toddlers learn is "No!" "Mess" is another common early acquisition. In sum, so long as a central purpose of children's literature is teaching little children how to behave, it will tend to portray natural impulses as wrong and dangerous.
But this need not require an adherence to the notion of infant depravity so characteristic of these stories. The bad things that happen to the protagonists are only, as Charlotte is forced to admit, what they have coming. Their punishments fit their crimes. And, because some of the crimes, particularly those of little girls, are acts of depravity, the punishments are the equivalent of hellfire.
True Womanhood: Forebearance as the Key Feminine Virtue
Even as Bushnell, Stowe, and uncounted others actively undermined the view of children as unregenerate sinners, others were rhapsodizing about the "true" woman and the perfect wife. We routinely, and sensibly, see the two developments as complementary. The "true" woman supposedly possessed, as Barbara Welter demonstrated, a natural piety. Indeed the virtues appropriate to her station all were alleged to come naturally. Often writers exalted her virtues in the process of condemning the campaign for woman's rights, as in this passage from an unsigned essay on "Rights and Wrongs of Women" that appeared in Harper's Monthly for June 1854.
. . . the true Woman, for whose ambition a husband's love and her children's adoration are sufficient, who applies her military instincts to the discipline of her household, and whose legislative faculties exercise themselves in making laws for her nursery; whose intellect has field enough in communion with her husband, and whose heart asks no other honors than his love and admiration; a woman who does not think it a weakness to attend to her toilette, and who does not distain to be beautiful; who believes in the virtue of glossy hair and well-fitting gowns, and who eschews rents and raveled edges, slipshod shoes, and audacious make-ups; a woman who speaks low and who does not speak much; who is patient and gentle and intellectual and industrious; who loves more than she reasons, and yet does not love blindly; who never scolds, and rarely argues, but who rebukes with a caress, and adjusts with a smile: a woman who is the wife we all have dreamt of once in our lives, and who is the mother we still worship in the backward distance of the past: such a woman as this does more for human nature, and more for woman's cause, than all the sea-captains, judges, barristers, and members of parliament put together--God-given and God-blessed as she is!
Despite all of the claims that behaving in any other fashion was unnatural, becoming such a woman required heroic self-discipline and self-sacrifice. And, although the rhetorical rewards were great, they constituted almost the whole compensation a true woman could expect. Advice manuals warned young brides to expect a thankless existence once they married. Consider the Young Wife's Book; A Manual of Moral, Religious and Domestic Duties (Philadelphia: 1838) "By a Lady." It explained that:
If in the character of such a husband some shades arise (and be assured in every one some will appear,) it is a wife's hand that must throw over them the graceful veil of concealment, nor may she suffer any one with impunity to raise it.
Her bosom must be the sacred repository of his little imperfections, nor must the slightest breath whisper them to another.
All too often, the author continues, the husband's imperfections will be great rather than little. The young wife may find herself with a small brood of childred and a husband with "wandering eyes." His "frequent and lengthened absences . . . may steal the rose of health from your cheek; and the flower of happiness thus blighted, owns 'no second spring.'" No matter how great his offenses, however, the wife should not permit herself "even a look of reproof; let him see the smile of uncomplaining resignation on your brow, although that of happiness can no longer be traced there; but above all things, let him see you still watchful in the performance of every duty as a Wife, and doubly solicitous for his interest, his welfare, and his honour, although he may himself cruelly desert these sacred posts." Such forbearance "may perhaps recall the wanderer to your bosom." If not, if
your best and gentlest efforts fail to recall him to the forsaken road, and forfeiting at once the dignity and the character of his sex, he throws you upon a cold unfeeling world, in the most desolate, the most agonizing of situations, that of a deserted wife, then daily, nay, hourly implore of Him by whom often-
"In love directed, and in mercy meant,
Are trials suffer'd, and afflictions sent," [Hannah More, The Search After Happiness (1794)]
to assist you with the powerful aids of religion and virtue in this most awful trial. Recollect, if self-reproach be not added to it, terrible as it may appear, it might have been made infinitely more severe. Never supppose, for a moment, that a husband's neglect of his duties, however flagrant and complex, absolves a wife from the performance of her's; nor assume the fatal language, or more fatal ideas, of retaliation.
All flowed from the "duty" of the wife. Another advice manual put it this way:
It is, however, certain, that in whatever situation of life a woman is placed , from her cradle to her grave, a spirit of obedience and submission, pliability of temper, and humility of mind, are required from her; and the most highly-gifted cannot quit the path thus pointed out by habit, nature, and religion, without injury to her own character. — The Young Lady's Book: A Manual of Elegant Recreations, Exercises, and Pursuits. (Boston: 1830)
Many upholders of this view turned to scripture, especially to St. Paul and to those passages in the Letter to the Ephesians that so troubled woman's rights activists. As an American Tract Society pamphlet had it:
Biblical Expectations of a Wife
To the wife the word of God speaks thus: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands, in everything." Eph. 5:22-24. "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." Eph. 5:33
Here we should particularly notice that virtue on which the admonition principally turns, namely, submission. A virtue so prominently commended, certainly merits particular attention.
It need not surely be necessary to observe, that the superiority which the Scriptures give to the man over the woman is not that of a master over a slave. The precepts enforced on the husband are of such a kind, as to show that the superiority with which he is invested is founded in reason and maintained by love. God has not required from the woman the submission of a slave, but a reasonable and advantageous submission; such as a man of good sense knows it becomes him to receive, and an affectionate wife will yield with pleasure. Some women, however, consider every thing of this kind as the relinquishing of all self-defence. Mistaken creatures! It is their best security, as well as one of their loveliest ornaments. 1 Pet. 3:4. Like polished armor, it is both beauty and defense. — James Bean, Advice to a Married Couple (Boston, 1856)
Children's stories for girls taught submission with a consistency that must have cheered those anxious to persuade the next generation of young wives that they must accept their role as helpmate. Charlotte was not merely lazy; she refused to obey. "I shall not knit," said she,"not I; /At least not now, but by and by;" Envious Minny's "tender mother often tried" to reform her daughter, but Minny would not listen. So too with Miss Baster and Pauline. The stories emphasized all the virtues of the true woman, especially those dealing with domesticity. Little Sydney playing with her toy kitchen was a good little girl. The tomboy sliding on the ice with George and Ralph was bad. So was Charlotte who refused to do her knitting. And of course Miss Mopsa was the antithesis of the tidy housekeeper. All came acropper. It is tempting to see a direct relationship between the difficulty of becoming a true woman as well as its intrinsic thanklessness and the awful nature of the punishments meted out to those in children's stories who rebelled against its strictures.
Pauline's punishment is especially harsh and rendered especially graphically, even for a subgenre in which awful outcomes are common. The reason is not far to seek. Like Sydney and Miss Baster she attempts to imitate her mother's behavior. Sydney does so in the approved manner. She sits with her doll and her toy kitchen and pretends she is a grown-up cooking for her family. Miss Baster also tries to act like Mamma but in direct contravention to Mamma's orders. She nearly dies. Pauline does die, and in an agony that is carefully and distrubingly depicted for the young American reader. In seeking to do like Mamma, she violates one of the strictest taboos of the cult of true womanhood.
Masturbation haunted the Victorian imagination. Direct references to it were largely limited to medical journals and reports of directors of prisons and insane asylums. These professionals agreed that it was either the sole cause or a major contributing factor in a wide array of female diseases. A "Review of European Legislation for Control of Prostitution" in the New Orleans Medical Surgical Journal (1854-1855) concluded that:
. . . many of their diseases, as leucorrhoea [vaginal discharge], uterine haemorrhage, falling of the womb, cancer, functional disorders of the heart, spinal irritation, palpitation, hysteria, convulsions, haggard features, emaciation, debility, mania - many symptoms called nervous - un triste tableau, have been referred to masturbation as the cause.
Twenty years later the same journal published “The Influence of Sewing Machines on Female Health.” (1877-78) by J. Down and H. Langdon. The title might suggest a pioneering study in industrial medicine but, in fact, the authors wrote of the many women in clothing factories “forced to quit the establishment[s] on account of the fatigue, lassitude, pains, etc. superinduced by the venereal excitement incident to setting the machine in motion.” The treadle, which required constant motion of the leg, was supposed the cause of this inadvertent arousal that, in turn, led to a variety of ailments ranging from eye strain to heart palpitations.
Masturbation endangered more than physical and mental health. It put the whole notion of woman as finding fulfillment in serving the needs of others at risk. True, women must engage in sexual intercourse. And many conceded that women, even "true" women experienced profound pleasure in coitus. This was fine, so long as intercourse was not too frequent and so long as procreation was the object — conditions reminiscent of those in Tomboy Kate: it is fine for girls to romp and run and have some fun, provided they remember not to overdo it. In BROTHER JONATHAN'S WIFE: A Lecture, by a retired editor (Philadelphia, 1842), John Neal, one of the most popular authors of antebellum America, rhapsodized:
She clings fondly for protection and support, to the man of her choice, and scatters sunshine in the pathway of his existence. Possessing a fine nervous system, and bright intellect, she is capacitated for the highest pleasure, which, if moderately enjoyed, is to woman what the sun is to the flowers: It beautifies, it refreshes and improves. But if immoderately enjoyed, it withers, desolates and destroys. Chastened pleasure calls forth all the sensibilities of her susceptible nature, and is as necessary to the full development of her charms, as the shade and the shower are to the lily; confirming its beauty and increasing its fragrance. It is her privilege to enjoy; it is the grand principle of her nature;--when the golden fruit is within reach, it is natural to pluck and eat. For the purpose of enjoyment, heaven has made her the most beautiful and susceptible being that exists. Her society charms--her person fascinates--to her we owe the sweetest enjoyments of life. Beauty woos to her embrace, and will find a ready response in every manly heart. She is indeed a creature to be adored--the most faithful of wives, and the fondest of mothers. She sweetens the charms of home, and is the pearl that enriches and adorns the social hearth. Religion is her panoply, and no one who wishes her happiness and who appreciates her virtue, would weaken their best security.
Engaging in self-abuse betrayed the whole ideal. Pauline's torment fit the enormity of her transgression. Hers and the punishments meted out to the other bad girls in this literature are a measure of the near impossibility of living out the ideals of true womanhood.
It is no small irony that the sentimentalizing of motherhood and of womanhood generally that accompanied the sentimentalizing of childhood in the mid-nineteenth-century gave new life to the notion of infant depravity. Ironic too is the fact that it would be applied disproportionately to girls. Boys too are shown as proud, lazy, or slovenly in children's books. And they have specific flaws that mark their failure to become true men, such as cowardice or not keeping their word. But their fate is rarely as dire as that which so commonly befalls the Lazy Charlottes and Miss Mopsas. Girls only occasionally are allowed to learn from their mistakes in McLoughlin Bros. stories. Boys routinely fall from grace but then find redemption in suffering and sin no more.
Further, there was a counter literature for boys. Twain's Tom Sawyer is the most popular and influential example. Tom is a constant trial to his long-suffering Aunt Polly. Yet his failings are the necessary complements of his virtues. Tom is brave, a loyal friend, and fundamentally honest and trustworthy. Tom did not have a female equivalent. Girls could not, and did not, violate Sunday-school rules with impunity. At least not in popular literature, and never in a story published by McLoughlin Bros.