Winifred Darch’s school stories and the democratic possibilities of schooling for girls


I’ve been reading Heather Julien’s study of Winifred Darch’s school stories. According to her: “Of all of the twentieth-century school story authors, Winifred Darch is perhaps the one most concerned with the democratic possibilities of schooling for girls. More than many writers in the genre, she wrote about state-funded schools and their role in the continuing democratization of social institutions. She was also interested in school as a workplace for women. Darch’s books connect conversations about teachers and education policy with representations of schoolgirls. As a career teacher herself, she was aware that professional “educationists”—librarians and theorists as well as school administrators and teachers—played a role (or at least attempted to) in the success or failure of school story writers.
As with other examples of the genre, her books—published by Oxford University Press’s juvenile division—targeted girl readers. Some books seem to be pitched to a young teenage or preteen audience. However, equally important is the possibility of an actual readership that included adults. …Consideration of Darch’s prolific output in the context of a crossover readership illustrates her complex negotiation of the politics of professionalism, workplace justice, institutional authority, and the training of “modern girls.”” (p.1)

Darch stands in a place of distinction among the most well-known, and many other school story authors for two reasons. First, she wrote about the new girls’ high schools that were created after the 1902 Education Act and that expanded in the first third of the twentieth century (Summerfield, Mitchell). Second, she wrote several main characters who were scholarship recipients. Typically, needy students appeared as minor characters in fiction by other school story authors. Darch’s more democratic subjects and settings distinguish her from many of the leading figures in the genre.” (p.2)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Julien, Heather. Learning to Be Modern Girls: Winifred Darch’s School Stories The Lion and the Unicorn 32,1 january (2008) 1–21  2008


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