301 Things A Bright Girl Can Do
My mum recently mailed me Three Hundred and One Things A Bright Girl Can Do. It's one of my favorite childhood artifacts, along with The Little White Horse and The Moomintroll books. And yes, I was kind of a prissy little girl.
The reason why I love THOTABGCC (published in 1911, at the tail end of the Edwardian era), is that there is a kind of sense of impending modernity about it, but it's still pretty quaint, and is kind of illuminating in terms of the knowledge a well-brought up young lady could reasonably be expected to have.
It has chapters on different sports (hockey, tennis etc), and a whole entire chapter on May Pole Dancing, which is less exciting than you might imagine. If you were a bright girl, you could also learn how to: make tents, grow flowers, sketch, paint in oils, do pyrography, study architecture, raise silkworms, tell fortunes, make a hammock, knit, crochet, sew, create the illusion of someone being cremated alive, do sign language, cut a bottle in two, play a series of very boring but elaborate parlor games, make toffee and fudge, decorate a church, and put on a theatrical production.
Another reason I love this book is the blatant snobbish editorializing; in the aforementioned May Pole chapter: 'it is a pity that the vulgar rubbish of the Cockney music-halls should prevail when excellent music is available'. In the hockey chapter: 'Girls who club together for the exercise alone and with no desire to show off will be able to keep expenses down'. In the Introduction: 'How gracefully and well does a woman ride a bicycle usually; how humpbacked and ungainly do most men appear on the same machine!'
Anyway, I guess I'm the third generation to own this book; there are no bright girls in the fourth generation, more's the pity, but I hold out hope for the fifth.