What is it all about?
It is difficult to think of a book that has been so influential in the lives of young girls as Shagle’s Girlhood in America. Today, this book is being recognized for more than its message or inspirational call to action.
This book, originally published in 1961, describes the dynamics of young women and their relationships with adults. It offers an insight into girls’ viewpoints on topics such as love, relationships, education, careers, work, and the world at large. It can be compared to the famous “Girls Gone Wild” era in American literature. As years pass, it is becoming more acceptable for younger girls to read Shagle’s Girlhood in America than the more popular books in their age range.
It is often noted for its lively stage performances, by famous actresses and musicians, including Gloria Swanson, Linda Ellerbee, and the “Fairy Godmothers.” While many have now passed away, they continue to be an inspiration for new generations of young women.
It also reflects the strong influence of writer Jonathan Shadle, whose daughter inspired the author’s generation to speak out. And it was originally written to deal with “new,” rather than “traditional” topics. Yet, it still managed to fit into the larger picture of the old west. Shadle writes from an insider’s perspective that makes it easy to understand his readers.
What can you learn from it?
Girls learn about farming, gangs, boys, and even the dangers of deer hunting. But Shadle is not interested in presenting facts only. He wants to explore the emotions, values, and spirituality of his characters. What he has found through his research is that “everybody knows what’s wrong and everybody has some ideas about what to do about it,” yet “when the people who are supposed to know it all come together and get down to business, that’s when the real magic happens.”
Girls learn about developing, not just talking, muscles, learning to keep cool in heated discussions, taking care of their bodies, and caring for their skin. Shadle, clearly, believes that when girls are exposed to this information, they will be better equipped to deal with the problems that face them when they reach adulthood.
Girls learn about the challenges of being a small, insignificant girl, such as the lack of independence, the “I’m too small to be independent” syndrome, and that even though men love and respect them, they’re stuck in the “little girl” category. They also discover the wisdom of studying hard in order to succeed in their professions, though they may struggle as much as men do.
Another theme repeated throughout the book is the roles of women and how they are perceived. Women are written in as a lighthearted bunch of older women who can help young girls come to terms with the changes in society. When the Girlhood in America focuses on different aspects of women, it really does connect to a broader audience of young girls.
Girls learn about the role of motherhood in a family and about how children are treated and who gets to be a child. The discussion is so relevant today, since the media, and even some moms, portray women as over-protecting and not nurturing enough. In addition, their roles in society are greatly affected by their husbands, as well as the amount of food they can provide for their children.
What does the author Shadle emphasize about the book?
Author Shadle was a pioneer in teaching women to control their own destinies. He writes about the difference between working hard and earning money. He also depicts the need for women to be educated, yet also encourages them to stay in school even if they have a full-time job and still want to be home with their children.
The book is a clear representation of a large part of American society, yet it is also an international viewpoint. It is also representative of its times: feminism was a part of American society before the Second World War, but it was largely confined to women’s issues. Today, it is much more widespread.
In its many forms, this classic book continues to be a source of inspiration for many young girls. What the author gave to his daughter, she gave to her daughter and all her children.