The Golden Heroine: An Analysis of the Domestic Heroine in Golden Age Children's Literature
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The Golden Age of children's literature (1860s-1910s) was a period in literary history that saw the publication of many a beloved and, now, classic children's story. It was a time of reinvention for children's literature: writers came down from their moral high-ground and began to address children on a personal level. While encouraging virtue was still an obvious motive, authors also provided their young readers with tales of adventure and wonderment. Although young girls during the time were still socially discouraged from reading the same stories as boys, what books that were made to be accessible to them came to feature a special kind of feminine protagonist. Such a character--who shall be referred to in this paper as the "Domestic Heroine"--was not only an embodiment of Victorian ideals of domesticity; she was also a literary descendant of the same spirited heroine featured in the adult genre of domestic fiction, from the early half of the nineteenth-century. This paper will examine common traits and circumstances pertaining to the Domestic Heroine as she appeared in children's literature, drawing from well-known literary sources from the Golden Age. Such primary sources will include Little Women (1868); A Little Princess (1905); The Railway Children (1906); Anne of Green Gables (1908); and Peter and Wendy (1911).