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 boundaries) to realize her dreams. Only when she feels she has no choice she chooses extreme measures and takes her destiny in her own hands. Yet she remains honest and her actions are in response to injustice (she was ignored). Also she is not shy about her advantages, she should get the job because she can do it. Her no nonsense reply to Henry O’neill, shows a realistic and sensible attitude.
At about the same time Morris announces in a letter from the editor a New feature Girl of the Week volume 1 no 24, Girl of the week-
Introducing the new feature, Exciting new Feature Girl of the Week
Girl of the week, an interesting, new and unusual feature which we are introducing here for the first time, will appear week by week on this page. It is the story of any girl, such as any of you may be, who has achieved something. It needs not be fame or fortune, just the story of an ordinary girl who is a little "different". If you think you or your friends might qualify as girl of the week by holding some record, medal, or having strange hobbies by experiencing some adventure or by being "different" in some way. . Send
The word ordinary which describe Girl’s readers appears quite often in the magazine at that time. They are ordinary girls who live ordinary lives and live in ordinary houses. (for example Morris introduces a new adventure story in January 1952 “it is about two ordinary girls like any of you might be, to whom adventure comes almost by accident, it could easily be a real life story, couldn't it”, and another story about an out of the ordinary skater uses very similar “Daphne had to go to school like any ordinary little girls as well , of course. But because of her skating activities, she had to rely on private teachers and governesses”)Yet although Morris insists on the ease by which an adventure can come to a girl reader, the magazine, at that time did not feature ordinary girls, did not reflect their lives. Moreover, in a subtle way Morris encourages the reader to do something different, to dare and to achieve. Here too true to the Christian values of the magazine, it is clearly not the superficial achievements of fame and fortune which are applauded. It appears that at that time the editors were under the impression that ordinary is quite boring therefore it won’t sell. The Girls of the week do something unusual and often are proving themselves to be better than boys in their own game.
Example -- in 23 April Maureen's a billiard champion
Maureen Barrett, fourteen did not let a childhood illness get her down. In fact, if she hadn't been forbidden to take part in any athletic sports she would probably never have become Britain's leading schoolgirl billiard player
Maureen, who now goes to Collingwood Central School Peckham, found that doctor's orders prevented her from entering into many schoolgirl games. So she began to look longingly at the green baize billiard tables at Peckham Health Center, watching boys, wielding the long cues and listening to the click-click of ivory balls.
Then she tried her hand at it herself, found she had a natural skill and began to beat the boys at their own game.
"There was a good bit of opposition at first" Maureen admits "But only among the boys who aren't so very good. The best never mind and are always ready to give me a game."
Maureen is modest. She didn't add that she can give any boy a game on equal terms. They accept her not as a girl but as a first rate player. Later she won the schoolgirls' Billiard Championship, and her shows her in play at the event(?)
Maureen highest "break"—continual play without a single mistake --is 56 at Billiard and that is pretty good by anybody's standards.
Billiard, though is only a hobby for Maureen, she wants to be a chartered accountant, a job most people associate with men rather than women but in which recent years has attracted quite a few girls with a head for figures and the patience tackle long training and stiff exams.
Besides those two great interests Maureen add quite a few others—stamp collecting, reading, piano playing, and cycling. Quite a triumph for a girl who wasn't strong enough to play games with other girls, isn't it?
June 11 Peggy is a chess champion
Peggy comes to chess naturally. Her father an expert champion player, edits a magazine, Chess and Peggy and her three brothers learned watching him. "I don't think chess ids difficult to learn", says Peggy, "and I think it helps you concentrate".
Peggy can hold her own in chess among boys, she practices with her brothers and this year came fourth in the Birmingham Junior Open Chess Championship, and last year fourth in the Warwickshire Under Fourteen Championship. In each tournament she was the only girl competing
Vol 1 No 43 p.11 (20 Aug)? Mary Captains a boys cricket team
Mary Weller is the only girl in her school cricket team. But that is not the half of it. She is their Captain voted to that position by her fellow Scholars? at Westcliff school
You might imagine that there would be jealousy among the boys at a girl chosen to lead the game at cricket?
Vol 2 no 11 7 January 1953 Rosemary runs a riding school
At sixteen Rosemary Whiteruns her own riding schhol with twenty five pupils ranging from four year old to adults older than herself.
The school began with two ponies, Rugsby and Sherry and two girl pupils " It took quite a tine to build up at first" rosemary says "but one pupil told another and that's how the school grew."
Rosemary does all her work herself. She keeps her own books and looks after the ponies and stables on her own. In summer she kept her ponies in one acre field. But when the weather turned colder she took over some old stables offered her quite near her Maidstone home and repainted them herself.
Self-reliance has been the key to Rosemary's success from the very beginning. She taught herself to ride. When she moved to maidstone, she saved her pocket money and bought the ponies herself. Then when she left Maidstone High school last year, she worked for some month in a private stables, "the best way to learning" she says. The riding school idea was entirely Rosemary's own—indeed some friends and relations looked on the idea with great skepticism at first. "But I love outdoor life" Rosemary declares" And I thoroughly enjoy teaching. She is saving up for another pony and has her eye on one whom she has already names Pedro.
Running a business single handed takes up most of Rosemary's time –but her great relaxation is to go hunting on Rusty. She says he loves it too and is always ready to be off through the woods and fields and overjumps.
I want to make the riding school something to be really proud of" Rosemary says, she has the right to be proud of what she has already achieved don't you think?
As we can see from the 4 examples, all 4 girls are proactive, ambitious and self reliant. They are inspiring role models to any young girl. Yet in December 31th 1952 Morris announced in a letter from the editor
Our main resolution will be to try and make Girl better and better in 1953. We've started already in fact. You'll find two new features. Mother Tells you how and Charm school on page 15 this week. One designed to help you in the home , the other to show you how to make the most of your appearance.
First mother tells you how that issue Mother Tells you how to bathe the baby
New section Mother Tells you how (to bathe the baby Dec 31 1952) above the section I want to be Chartered Accountant.
Morris set about to establish a magazine which centered around Christian values and its high moral tone won parents approval. (Gibson) Thus it is no wonder that the change in Girl included Introducing the mother as a teacher and advisor . The mother knows everything, but only in the realm of the home not in the outside world, she is elegant (well dressed), beautiful, respectful, competent, confident, well organized, resourceful, gregarious, industrious, and patient. Judy, the daughter, is childish, eager, curious, obedient, hesitant, a pupil . She is respectful to her mother who loves nothing more than to teach and spend time with her daughter. We only hear the mother Judy has almost no voice. Instead of the brave role models that we saw so far the mother elegant and competent is the new heroine. The girl Judy who is being told how is appreciative, obedient and passive. She has all the questions mother has all the answer. (photo)
Penny Tinkler notes that for girls growing up at that time as for girls today the years between 12 to 20 are marked by number of changes. The most important of these were the transition form school to paid or unpaid work., and "entrance' into heterosexual (3)
In Girl, at least at the beginning, those symbols of changes were not present, rather the writers and editors of the magazine showed a world of adventure that seemed like an escape from the reality of most girls in that time. After 1953 we experience a gradual change by which feminism was replaced by femininity. Role models have all changed, they became ballerinas, nurses. The magazine aimed at older girls and offered them career advice and answered their concerns with “What’s you worry”. In 1958 Girl introduces a fashion section. And at the end of the decade The symbol of the change is Angela Air Hostess, no more pilots, girls can aspire to be air hostess.
In a recent (2007) program of the BBC on BBC4’s Comics Britannia, “Boys and Girls”, Jodi Cudlipp, a former member of the editorial staff of Girl, had this to say: “I thought from the very beginning that Kitty Hawke was wrong … I said, no, this is not the thing that girls of today want … You want stories about animals, or something like a ballerina.”
Looking at Girl from the end of the decade and the beginning of the 1960s one would never guess that it used to be a feminist magazine who made girls believe that there was nothing they couldn’t think, in a very similar way that looking at their domestic mothers one could never guess that only a decade ago they ran the country.
Marjorie Ferguson acknowledged the prescriptive role of the magazine and its editor. Although it was short lived there were girls who read the magazine at the beginning of the decade and it changed their lives When I wrote to an English friend asking her about Girl magazine she replied enthusiastically that as a child in the 1950s she read Girl. She distinctly remembered several heroines of the old cartoons like the pilot " Kitty Hawke and Her All-Girl Air Crew: and commented " Pretty daring for the 1950s, I suppose, but I saw no reason why a girl shouldn't be a pilot! Now I think about it, this probably helped to form my ideas about the role of women in what was supposed to be a man's world."