Colonial Girlhood Project

From Colonial to Modern:  Transnational Girlhood in Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian Print Cultures (1840-1940)

This Australian Research Council project began in 2011 and officially concluded at the end of 2013. The project was a collaboration with Dr Kristine Moruzi  and Professor Clare Bradford. Our co-edited collection Colonial Girlhood in Literature, Culture and History, 1840-1950 was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014 and our monograph From Colonial to Modern will appear through University of Toronto Press in July 2018. 

Through a comparison of Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand texts published between 1840 and 1940, From Colonial to Modern develops a new history of colonial girlhoods revealing how girlhood in each of these emerging nations reflects a unique political, social, and cultural context.

Print culture was central to the definition, and redefinition, of colonial girlhood during this period of rapid change. Models of girlhood are shared between settler colonies and contain many similar attitudes towards family, the natural world, education, employment, modernity, and race, yet, as the authors argue, these texts also reveal different attitudes that emerged out of distinct colonial experiences. Unlike the imperial model representing the British ideal, the transnational girl is an adaptation of British imperial femininity and holds, for example, a unique perception of Indigenous culture and imperialism. Drawing on fiction, girls’ magazines, and school magazine, the authors shine a light on neglected corners of the literary histories of these three nations and strengthen our knowledge of femininity in white settler colonies.

A fuller description of the scope and aims of the project is also available at our Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory page.

Colonial Girlhood/Colonial Girls conference
In 2012 we are hosted the 'Colonial Girlhood/Colonial Girls' conference and the SSHRC-funded '(Trans)National Girlhoods' workshop at the University of Melbourne (13-15 June). Our keynote speakers for the conference were Professor Angela Woollacott (Australian National University) and Professor Cecily Devereux (University of Alberta). The combined program included more than 50 speakers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Singapore, Austria and Belgium.

The edited collection Colonial Girlhood in Literature, Culture and History, 1840-1950 (Palgrave, 2014) includes fifteen essays.

Table of Contents
Chapter One – Introduction
Kristine Moruzi and Michelle J. Smith (Deakin University)

Section One: Theorising the Colonial Girl
Chapter Two: Angela Woollacott (Australian National University)
Colonialism – What Girlhoods Can Tell Us

Chapter Three: Cecily Devereux (University of Alberta, Canada)
Fashioning the Colonial Girl: 'Made in Britain' Femininity in the Imperial Archive

Section Two: Romance and Marriage
Chapter Four: Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver (University of Melbourne)
'Explorations in Industry': Careers, Romance and the Future of the Colonial Australian Girl

Chapter Five: Terri Doughty (Vancouver Island University, Canada)
Deflecting the Marriage Plot in Girls’ Adventure Stories: 'Robina Crusoe and Her Lonely Island Home'

Chapter Six: Subhasri Ghosh (Independent Scholar, India)
Coming of Age in Colonial India: The Discourse and Debate over the Age of Consummation

Section Three: Race and Class
Chapter Seven: Clare Bradford (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
'My blarsted greenstone throne!’: Maori Princesses and Nationhood in New Zealand Fiction for Girls

Chapter Eight: Juliet O'Conor (State Library of Victoria/Deakin University, Australia)
Black Princesses or Domestic Servants: The Portrayal of Indigenous Australian Girlhood in Colonial Children’s Literature

Chapter Nine: Sarah Duff (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, South Africa)
The Jam and Matchsticks Problem: Working-Class Girlhood in Late Nineteenth-Century Cape Town

Section Four: Fictions of Colonial Girlhood
Chapter Ten: Tamara S. Wagner (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
The Colonial Girl’s Own Papers: Girl Authors, Editors, and Australian Girlhood in Ethel Turner’s Fiction

Chapter Eleven: Beth Rodgers (Aberystwyth University, Wales)
‘I am glad I am Irish through and through and through’: Girlhood, Identity and Nostalgia in the Work of L.T. Meade

Chapter Twelve: Susan Cahill (Concordia University, Canada)
Making Space for the Irish Girl: Rosa Mulholland and Irish Girls in Fiction at the Turn of the Century

Chapter Thirteen: Kristine Moruzi and Michelle J. Smith (Deakin University, Australia)
Education and Work in Service of the Nation: Canadian and Australian Girls’ Fiction, 1908-1921

Section Five: Material Culture
Chapter Fourteen: Kristine Alexander (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)
Picturing Girlhood and Empire: The Guide Movement and Photography, c. 1909-1950

Chapter Fifteen: Laura Ishiguro (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Fashioning Colonial Girlhood: Daughters and Dress in Late-Nineteenth-Century British Columbia and India

Chapter Sixteen: Fiona P. McDonald (University College London)
An Unexpected History Lesson: A Presentation of Memory, Femininity, Materiality in Aotearoa New Zealand

The team has published numerous book chapters and journal articles resulting from the project. Kristine and Michelle have had chapters appear in Girls, Texts, Cultures (ed. Mavis Reimer and Clare Bradford, Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2015) on British representations of Canadian and Australian girls respectively. Both also have chapters published in Seriality and Texts for Young People: The Compulsion to Repeat (ed. Mavis Reimer, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) on the Victorian School Paper and national and imperial identifications (Smith) and serialising girlhood in the periodical press (Moruzi). Kristine published an article in JeunesseYoung People, Texts, Cultures on Canadian girlhood at the turn of the twentieth century in 2012. Michelle produced a chapter entitled 'The "Australian Girl" and the Domestic Ideal in Colonial Women's Fiction' for Domestic Fiction in Colonial Australia and New Zealand (ed. Tamara S. Wagner, Pickering & Chatto, 2014) and an article in Women's Writing on 'Colonial Feminism and Australian Literary Culture in Ethel and Lilian Turners' the Parthenon (1889-1892). She has also published an invited chapter on the environment in colonial Australian and New Zealand colonial children's in Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World (ed. Simon Sleight and Shirleene Robinson).

Images: Top: Cover illustration, The Black Cockatoo, Bessie Marchant, Religious Tract Society, 1910; Below: 'The New Zealand Girl', Girls' Realm, 1900, 151.