Unbeknown to me I already had a book called Heroines, one of Bookhound's £1 market finds, but this one was published in 1905 and the full title is
Heroines : True Tales of Brave Women, A Book for British Girls by Charles D.Michael. There's a little epigraph from Charles Kingsley too (he was quite a strange man as I recall)
"Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long".
It's been good to compare then and now and Charles Michael's 1905 preface is also interesting,
"Bravery and self-sacrifice are natural qualities in men, or so we love to think;but men have no monopoly of heroism.In their capacity for suffering uncomplainingly, and in their power of patient endurance, women are, as a matter of fact, more heroic by nature than men"
I couldn't possibly comment but there you have the 1905 angle and,with those criteria resonating, what follows is a roll call of brave women and their stories.Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale and Grace Darling make the cut and there are one or two of Jessica's lesser know choices in the old book too.The unfortunate Elizabeth Mouatt for example who found herself abandoned as the only passenger on board ship after all hands were lost trying to rescue the captain who had fallen overboard.
Then we come to the unknown heroines. This book was given as a Sunday School prize so there's a plethora of missionaries in there and then there's Catherine Vasseur. Catherine was lowered into a sewer to rescue some men who were trapped, and eventually, after a catalogue of disasters, was brought out by a rope tied only to her hair. Then there's Grace Bussell who managed a stunning rescue from a shipwreck near to shore by riding her horse into the waves, by the end she was not surprisingly "thoroughly spent".In fact a steady stream of plucky women, acting in an age when to be a heroine required something very different from now.
An interesting connection then emerged in that "patterning" way that Ann talks about so often over on her blog.I was browsing another new acquisition The Invention of Childhood by Hugh Cunningham and all was explained.
This was the age of the British Empire on which the sun never set and according to Hugh Cunningham, children were deeply affected by it because the future of the Empire depended on them.The Boer War had been something of a wake up call, the health of the nation was approaching desperate with 2 out of every 5 men who volunteered for duty being considered unfit to serve, not surprisingly the children were also in something of a parlous state.A Committee on Physical Deterioration was established and its 1904 report created the impetus for action both on health and education.
Whilst environmental health reforms were put in place to improve maternal health, infant mortality rates (then 150/1000 live births, now less than 10) and life expectancy, children would need to be educated about the Empire if it was to maintain its supremacy.Books exactly like this,about heroes and heroines abounded and identification with bravado was considered essential.
How useful was that to be just ten years later?
I make no pretence at historical expertise as you all know, but to me it's fascinating when one little book leads you to another and off on a trail of discovery to a whole lot of stuff you thought you knew but didn't really.
News tomorrow of another heroine who has me completely in her thrall.