I absolutely adore Carolyn Wells’ books for girls. Even though I knew nothing of them as a child, they never fail to captivate me. The Two Little Women series (this is the second book of three) is like Betsy-Tacy minus the realism, as it concerns two close chums and is set not much later. This volume was written in 1916. I wish I could scan in the frontispiece–it’s exquisitely glamorous.
Two Little Women and Treasure House picks up the story of Dolly Fayre and Dotty Rose (whose surnames match their temperaments) once the school year is underway. As neither can find a study space quiet enough, and “both mothers objected, on hygenic grounds, to using [their bedrooms] for sitting-rooms,” the families decide to build them a little house between the two properties that they can use for pursuits both scholarly and social. And not just the kind of playhouse you could get today at Home Depot, either. Treasure House, as the girls dub it, is twenty feet by fifteen with a fireplace (for heat), electricity, a veranda, and a fully-equipped kitchenette.
The book further details their delightful activities throughout the fall, such as a masquerade Hallowe’en party. Dolly notices that snobby Bernice Forbes has no friends and hopes to “boom” her into popularity, despite the rest of the set’s disapproval. Soon something happens, however,that threatens to demolish Dotty and Dolly’s idyllic existence.
At times I am shocked at how spoiled the children in these books are, and yet at the same time Carolyn Wells is writing exactly what girls want to read about. As a child I hoarded any discarded homey accoutrements I had, such as picnic dishes, and used them to play house. I still love planning parties and decorating.
I know the story described here was not reality for many of the times (like Samantha vs. Nellie in the American Girls books), but to me it still seems evidence disputing the claim that children grew up faster then. At 15 the girls still aren’t allowed to be out at night unchaperoned, and are affectionately childlike with adults (who seem to serve only to cater to their whims). I know these were still popular at least into the late 1920s because of the ads in the Grosset and Dunlap reprints; I wonder how they were received by children of the Great Depression.
This is my choice for the “Used” category of the 9 for 09 Challenge. Last year I was lucky enough to purchase a set of eight dust-jacketed Carolyn Wells books on eBay (a mix of Little Women and Marjorie). The names on the inside covers reveal that they all belonged to the same little girl originally, which always makes me smile.