From Kitty Hawke and “Her All-Girl Air Crew” to “Angela Air Hostess” -- Feminism to Femininity as reflected in Girl Magazine
College of Management Academic Studies, Israel
In Teenage Consumer, Mark Adams defines teenagers as “those young people who have reached the age of fifteen but are not yet twenty five years of age and are unmarried” in 1959 in Britain there were five million teenagers 2 and ¾ boys and 2 and ¼ girls. (1959, 3). Out of this number only 650,000 was still at school or college.
In my talk today I shall talk about the younger teen years of girls in school.
In Truth, Dare or Promises girls growing up in the 50s Liz Heron writes:
“It seems . . . that as little girls we had a stronger sense of our possibilities than the myths about the fifties allow. There was a general confidence in the air, and the wartime image of women ‘s independence and competence at work lingered on well into the decade in the popular literature and the girls’ comics of the day, even while these registered an ambivalence about what women should be doing "
The cover page of the first issue of Girl magazine on November 2nd 1951 seemed to reaffirm this assertion, it featured Kitty Hawke, a female pilot and ” Her All-Girl Air Crew “– a comic of a group of women running a charter airplane company. The caption read: "well here we are again, gang with one more job chalked up to the all girl crew—to prove to dad that we can operate his planes as efficiently as the glorious males "
This was a promising beginning for an empowering new magazine for girls. Yet within a few short months, in response to falling sales, the female pilot story disappeared and was replaced by a traditional school adventure story.
Adams finds that each week the average teenagers reads at least two magazines (40% tabloid, 26% love comics and 34% women magazines), At least 40 % of all teenagers read at least one of the valentine/ Roxy type of magazine each week. No wonder that a change had to be made in order to make Girl more appealing to a wider target audience and specifically to the teenager reader.
As Girl attempted to appeal to a wider target audience including teenage girls, the magazine changed greatly throughout the decade. Looking at texts and comicsI shall demonstrate the kind of role models that Girl displayed in order to inspire and motivate secondary school girls. Examining different role models, I shall suggest that at the beginning Girl presented a feminist agenda but later in the decade its message became feminine and convention, leading at the end of that process to another yet very different flying role model -- Angela Air Hostess.
As today’s talk is about the daughters of thosee women to learn firsthand about their reality I chose to focus on Girl a weekly magazine mostly comic for Secondary School girls published by Hulton Press in GB from 1951 till 1964. It had a sizable circulation of around 650,000 per week (Gravett 2006, 133). Looking at texts and some pictures from the magazine (and you have a handout with the texts) I shall demonstrate the kind of role models that the magazine displayed in order to inspire and motivate school girls. I shall suggest that at the beginning Girl ‘s role models reflect a feministic agenda but then later in the decade through different role models in its fiction and real life stories and the message of the magazine became feminine and conventional.
On the cover page of the first issue of Girl on November 2nd 1951 (pic 1 ) It was the story of a female pilot and a group of women running a charter airplane company. Kitty Hawke and Her All-Girl Air Crew. The magazine advertised itself as "a new super colour weekly for every girl a sister paper to Eagle" (a boys magazine which started a year and a half earlier) this strip ran parallel to the Eagle's cover story about the futuristic pilot Dan Dare.
The founder and editors of the two magazines was Marcus Morris a clergyman. This fact is essential to understand the spirit and agenda of the magazine. Editors, argues Marjorie Ferguson, are agenda-setters to the female worlds, their work is have work active and creative role mediating between the interests and needs of various groups. Indeed Marcus Morris was a man with a mission. According to Paul Gravett, in February 1949, he used the Sunday Dispatch as his pulpit and warned, that because of the influence of American comics "Morals of little girls in plaits and boys with marbles bulging in their pockets are being corrupted by a torrent of indecent coloured magazines that are flooding bookstalls and newsagents." As an antidote, Morris envisioned a genuinely popular children's comic "...where adventure is once more the clean and exciting business I remember in my school days."
The reader that Morris targeted (little girls in plaits) was a preteen, who would be most interested in adventures. In January 4th 1952 Morris wrote in a Letter from the Editor "Adventure seems to have become the key-word of Girl". Leafing through that issue page by page that choice is very clear:
p. 1 Kitty Hawke and Her all Girl Air Crew –cover
3) Judy and Pat The mystery of Pine Ridge an exciting School adventure story
4) The Exploits of Candy Maitland the Case of the Invalid's Chair
6) The Adventure of Penny Wise Private Detective
7) Anne Mullion and the Silver sabot Adventure
8) Black Beauty the life of a Horse by Anne Sewell
9) Jacky Center page girl learns to Skate
10) The Adventure of a girl in search of her father Captain Starling
12=13 Diana Down Under Another story of the adventures of an English Girl in the Australian bush
14 Girl Hobbies corner (make sandals)
15 Girls around the world no 8 Holland
16 Daughter of the Nile, the story of Miriam
The Adventures of Penny Wise Private Detective
There were 8 fictional and real life adventure stories in that issue. It appears that one important mission of the magazine was to inspire girls (with stories of courage and integrity,). The combination of adventure stories and Christianity was in which dangerous situations such as those adventures forced the protagonists to take extreme measures provided them with an opportunity to show their strength of character and integrity -- important Christian values. In addition, comic Bible stories was another way to familiarize the girls with their tradition and keep them interested.
Yet in March 1952, in response to falling sales Kitty Hawke disappeared and was replaced by a traditional school story. Morris later wrote: “We decided we had made the mistake of not taking into account the difference between the masculine and the feminine psychological make-up. The difference is a real one." "We had received reports that quite a number of girls were reading Eagle and drew the wrong conclusion: we had made Girl too masculine. We therefore made it more romantic in its approach, more feminine. I worked on the theory that you should be a good deal more personal in your motivation in a girls’ paper. The adventure and the danger can be there but the reason for it must be the search for a long-lost uncle or father. If you can add a fair amount of personal rivalry, jealousy and a very close friendship, so much the better. We applied this theory to Girl and sales picked up. Before long they reached 650,000 and stayed there“ (quoted in Sally Morris & Jan Hallwood Living with Eagles: Marcus Morris, Priest and Publisher, Lutterworth Press, 1998:164)
Looking at the magazine at its beginning I do not see any masculine qualities. Although Morris instructed his cartoonist Ted Drury that there “were to be no breasts” in the comics (Morris and Hallwood 1998:163). But I regard it as asexual rather than masculine. No breasts also meant that there was an editorial decision not to deal with issues of puberty and thus its target reader was a pre adolescent girl. This decision had financial implication, as young readers did not have their own money.
The kind of girls who were role models in Girl at the beginning were powerful, brave, ambitious, resourceful honest and kind.. They combined feminist and Christian values. The role models in Girl when given a chance could do as well (if not better) as boys. They were active, had an interest in sport, and enjoyed a healthy dose of competitiveness. In the first issue of Girl Kitty says "well here we again, gang with one more job chalked up to the All Girl crew—to prove to dad that we can operate his planes as efficiently as the glorious males" . She was "proving to her dad and his male chauvinist colleagues that she could fly a plane as well as any man" (Morris and Hallwood 1998: 163). Here the message was that if girls are given a chance, they are not only as good but can be even better than boys.
What Morris termed "masculine" I regard as "feminist" almost with a capital F. It was not a a typical feminism of the time which advocated different but equal.(In the quote Morris mentions the difference in the psychological make up of boys and girls,). Rather it was a special (earlier?) form of feminism which did not recognize the difference between boys and girls. A fictional heroine from January 1952 illustrates well the kind of girl that Girl promotes, she has qualities of a leader. (example)
Sue's Secret mission
Vol 1 no 22 26 March 1952 p. 4
Sue wanted to be a reporter and she thought the Monster of the Cove would make a good story
Written by Harold Whitehead illustrations by Mazure (George)
If you can spare me just a few minutes Mr. O'Neill? The big man was seated at the desk in the office on whose door, in letters six inches high, was a notice which said it was strictly private. He looked up suddenly startled " What? How, the. . . " he glared at the girl! She was slim and scarcely more than five feet in height, with a tip-tilted nose and laughing blue eyes.
"How did you get in her? And who are you?" Susan Stewart, commonly known as 'Red' I came in via the fire escape". She smiled at him sweetly. "The fire. . . my dear girl, the fire escape finishes at the floor below this" I know" Susan grinned" It was a bit tricky the last lap, up the drain pipe, I mean"
"Bless my soul" Henry O'Neill, editor of the Evening Star, a local newspaper which catered for the towns of Devon and Cornwall, mopped his brows. This girl with the bright red hair was unusual to say the least! "Well – er now that you're here, what do you want?"
"A job – as a reporter" Sue stated simply. "I am leaving school this term. I've sent you lots of my stories, but they have come back so quickly that I'm sure you haven't even looked at them. I've tried to get interviews with you, but up to now I've never got beyond the gargoyle in the outer office".
"Oh I see! That is all you want?" Henry O'neill was heavily sarcastic.
"I write quite well and I'm pretty resourceful" went on the girl eagerly.
"I've noticed that". . .
Sue is ambitious and is determined to succeed, she would do everything and anything (within her moral boundarie