Life at the bottom of the Fashion Caste

Marjorie Dean, High School Junior

“‘Only to think, next week, at this time, I’ll be saying good-bye to you, Mary Raymond.’ Marjorie Dean’s brown eyes rested very wistfully on the sunny-haired girl beside her in the big porch swing.”

– excerpt from Josephine Chase’s Marjorie Dean, High School Junior

Lately I’ve been looking back into my family’s history, hard. My great-grandmother recently passed away and I’ve been given the task of sorting through boxes upon boxes of her old things. From figurines to photos, china sets to coupon clippings, I had my hands full.

This massive organization inspired me to sort through some other old mystery boxes in my house, sometimes full of myriad treasures and sometimes full of, well, let’s just say trash. Apparently just about everyone in my family is/was a pack rat.

But I’m thankful for that! Because it’s led me to some really priceless finds, mostly based on sentiment. One such find was a novel by the title of this post, Marjorie Dean, High School Junior by Pauline Lester.

I adore antique books. Like, verging on unhealthy adoration. I would rather buy a used book than a new one any day of the week. My favorite part of cracking open a beautiful used book is the possibility of stumbling across an inscription that gives me a clue to the book’s former life before it came to rest in my hands. Marjorie gave me just that.

Inside the front cover of my copy of Marjorie Dean is scribbled “To Mildred, From Lucille, Christmas 1918.”

Since coming across the book, I’ve picked it up from time to time to read a few pages here and there. Last week I finally came to the end of Marjorie’s junior year saga. I immediately set to work learning everything I could about Marjorie and the author.

“Marjorie entered her mother’s room and dropped dispiritedly at her feet,”

There’s not much to go on but a few half-written Wikipedia pages, but as it turns out, Pauline Lester was a pen name used by author Josephine Chase. Stories about harrowing, golden-hearted young women were such a smash at the time, Chase also wrote another series about title character Grace Harlowe under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower. The fake names didn’t stop there, however, and before Chase’s death in 1930, she also wrote a boys series called the Khaki Boys Series under the title Captain Gordon Bates.

The entirety of Marjorie Dean’s high school career was put to paper in 1917. Her success in life is attained based on a strict sense of duty to friends, family, school work, and those less fortunate than she, in her middle class existence. Marjorie is a beacon of truthfulness, fair play, beauty, and moral conscientiousness.

I was ecstatic to learn that not only did Marjorie graduate high school with flying colours, but that she also lived on, in a literary sense, to complete college, have a (short) career, get married to her high school sweetheart, and have a family, all before 1930! Learn more about Marjorie’s rival of her college years in this article.

I also learned a little about novels written for young women during the early 1900’s and their effect on women’s roles in sports, thanks to Dr. Nancy G. Rosoff. Both Marjorie and Grace were avid basketball players and much of the conflict faced in High School Junior was derived from the game.

All of this is even more interesting when you add in the fact that the publishers of Josephine Chase’s works were anticipating these novels to influence the young people in America. They hoped that the girls and boys featured in Chase’s novels would inspire the average reader to follow suit by understanding their places in society and the world. As such, the Grace Harlowe series was widely marketed as “stories of real girls for real girls.”

Read the entire story of Marjorie Dean’s junior year of high school online, right here.

Do you have any favorite antique or used books? Ever come across some beautiful inscriptions? I’d love to hear about em!

ttyl,

Maria Nichole

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One response

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! It’s nice to find another Marjorie Dean enthusiast.

    November 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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