Noel Streatfield, Hiding the Queer in Plain Sight

The following was written for a collection that sadly did not come to fruition.

We don’t know Noel Streatfeild’s sexuality because she never stated it, but we do know that her long term attachments (a fictional heterosexual romance in A Vicarage Child not withstanding) were all to women (Bull, 1984). How these have been interpreted have changed entirely as critics have made greater space for the possibility of a lesbian sexuality. Angela Bull comes close to denying the possibility, Nancy Huse, ten years later, is quite clear that Streatfeild’s ‘intense friendship with Daphne Ionides’ (and her grief at losing her to another woman) ensured that Streatfield ‘discovered’ her own sexuality (13); Huse also noted that Streatfield had read The Well of Loneliness, and while this might not seal the evidence (many people read the book simply because of its notoriety), in 2022, we no longer (I hope) assume that a non heterosexual identity has to be publicly demonstrated in order to exist.

This article takes for granted that a lesbian reading of fictional texts is one that is alert to lesbian spaces and the potential for decoding heteronormativity (Innes, 272-274). Eve Sedgwick wrote: ‘I think many adults (and I am among them) are trying, in our work, to keep faith with vividly remembered promises made to ourselves in childhood: promises to make invisible possibilities and desires visible; to smuggle queer representation in where it must be smuggled and, with the relative freedom of adulthood, to challenge queer-eradicating impulses frontally where they are to be so challenged (1994, 3).

It begins with these two premises, applied both to Streatfeild and to myself. It works with Richard Dyer’s concept of bricolage—a queer constructed reading by queer people of mainstream texts—and Kenneth B. Kidd’s assertion, that often in children’s literature, queerness ‘manifests itself at the level of character in the form of singular or eccentric kids’ (185) although unlike Kidd’s examples, Streatfeild does not ‘rehabilitate’ her characters through heteronormative plots.

Watching the 2007 movie of Ballet Shoes (dir. Sandra Goldbacher) I had a penny dropping moment. Dr. Smith (Harriet Walters) and Dr. Jakes (Gemma Jones) are a couple. Stunned by that moment of recognition, of which more in a minute, I took Ballet Shoes off the shelf and reread it. The novel, written in 1936, hadn’t changed at all. But I had, and so had the context in which the novel had been read, decade after decade, from the relatively permissive early 1930s, through the straightjacketed 1950s, the even more permissive but (at least in the UK) relentlessly heterosexual 1970s, to where we are now where women’s relationships with women are routinely recognised but where when the history of women’s relationships with women are studied there is still rather a lot of “but we don’t know if they actually slept together” without even considering whether that is even the right question. However, we don’t know that information of all heterosexual couples either: Marie Stopes findings in Married Love, 1918, suggested that happily celibate married couples may have been, and maybe still are, commoner than one might suppose; and the increasing discussion of asexuality may also change our historical interpretation.. Thus when I write below of queerness I am writing, not of whether sex or sexual relations are happening on the page, but on whether the cues and coding Streatfeild provides either model queerness for the child reader, as Harriet the Spy has long been considered to model queerness (1996; Masad, 2017), or can be read as queer if the child wishes to, in a way intended to make space for them as queer children. In all of this I am going to follow Skowera (2019) and Doty (1993) in insisting that ‘queer readings are not subordinate to heteronormative readings of cultural texts’ (Skowera, 87), and Masad in the assertion that of course there have been queer characters in books for children prior to the current more open era, and that Streatfeild knowingly wrote these.

I’m going to cover a number of books in this essay but there will be a particular focus on The Children on the Top Floor (1964) which contains two very obvious gay men. I also want to note that I’m making no claim that Streatfeild was a radical writer: she was often classist, although kind, and although there is one attempt to suggest some religious diversity (in Curtain Up), her worlds are very contained within a normative social structure. Which is why it is even more important that she be acknowledged as a much lauded and popular author who wrote recognisably gay characters in books for children, before such things were considered ‘appropriate’ and who apparently got away with it.

Although this essay is about Streatfeild’s children’s books, we need to begin with The Witcharts (1931) which is the progenitor text for Ballet Shoes. In The Witcharts, the three children are the children of a man with a penchant for interesting mistresses who dumps all three on an ex-mistress and then fails to provide adequately for them. The novel proceeds in the trajectory we would recognise from the later Ballet Shoes but grubbier and more desperate (this is not a criticism, The Witcharts is a great novel). Maimie (the actress) and Daisy (the dancer) are of no interest here, but Tania (with a passion for aeroplanes and mechanics) is. Tania is our proto-Petrova. Tania is not a tomboy in the conventional sense (neither is Petrova) as she shows no interest in boys’ active pursuits: perhaps because of lack of opportunity, but also because until Blyton’s George, the tomboy seems to be an American construction, the girl who likes sports being a much valued, and unqueered, member of the English boarding school story cast. As she matures, Tania develops her interest in motorcars but while she is encouraged by one of the lodgers, inThe Wicharts (1931) even the men who appear sympathetic simply dismiss it as a phase. One of Tanya’s deepest cuts comes towards the end when the garage mechanic with whom she had been learning (before being sent on tour) is shocked that she might want to make it a profession. There is no GUM to come to the rescue and sweep her off to live by an air field.

There are places where The Wicharts is less explicit, and where it is more. The doctors in Ballet Shoes are best friends who work for the YMCA and had been living together in a hostel. They disappear from the narrative immediately. Mamie (Pauline)’s heterosexuality is red flagged: she falls in love with boy after boy. But Tania (Petrova) is ‘fastidious’, she shows no interest in men at all. On the occasions it crosses her mind she dismisses marriage as a “rotten prospect” (120) Daisy notes that Tania is “not the sort to like men” (173) and although Huse suggests this is sublimation (32), a rejection of her sexual mother as role model, it goes much further than that.

In the subsequent children’s version (and it is a note-by-note retelling until the denoument) the book ends when Pauline is 15, Petrova 14 and Posy is coming up to 12. There are no boys in the story at all, but Pauline at 15 is curiously sexless; Petrova at 14 is also sexless but she is thoroughly involved with motor mechanics and aeroplanes, mentored by one of the male boarders and utterly alienated from all the girls at the academy. Petrova is coded queer over and over again, from her short hair (although not so unusual in 1936), the airplane spotter books she reads behind the scenes when cast as a jumping bean, to the dungarees she is so proud of. When Pauline is cast as Tyltyl (a boy) and Petrova as Mytyl (a girl) in Maeterlink’s The Blue Bird, Nana comments that it should have been the other way around, with the feminine Pauline as Mytyl. We are told it is because the boy has the much larger speaking part. But Petrova struggles with the part; she is not a natural actor, and although the focus is on this, there is an extra element there that the part of a girl (as conceived in the play) is as unnatural to Petrova as any other element of the story.

It is tricky to say an author is lucky to get a war, but that is just what Streatfeild was, when the Second World War broke out just in time for a grown up Petrova to go to war. In the past decade the wider public has become aware of the work of the Air Transport Auxiliary (a civilian organisation that ferried planes through the war including during the Battle of Britain, so in effect, under fire), but nothing gets Streatfeild fans more irate than when this heroism is described as “unknown”: to Streatfeild fans, the ATA is Petrova Fossil, who writes nice, practical letters to Mark Forbes, and who is the only Fossil, Doing Her Bit for the country (by time of the post-warThe Painted Garden she is working in an experimental aircraft factory). And as is now well attested, many of the recruits to the women’s services were lesbians who met both short and long term partners during their service (Vickers, 2009): service in the war gave many women a way out of the heteronormative trajectories laid out for them. There is a correlative question about Petrova’s gender identity, but unlike Enid Blyton’s George, there is never a clear expression of desire to be a boy, or belief that she is a boy. It’s not impossible but I’m not seeing the cues.

At the end of Ballet Shoes Petrova asks which of them other girls would wish to be. The answer might well surprise her. Samantha Ellis, later to be a playwright, notes that when she first read it as a child, ‘my answer was you, Petrova, only you.’ (151) Petrova didn’t make it into the history books but she did make it into Archive of Our Own Fan Fiction. In October 2022 there are 41 stories using Petrova, 29 use Pauline and 28 use Posy (some of these overlap of course). Eight of the Petrova stories are queerings of the text (one a very nice cross over with Peggy Blackett of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons).

Because Streatfeild wrote for school age children and not for post-school teens[1] we don’t have much to see in the way of relationships between main characters, but there are some children in the fiction who, like Petrova, are depicted as uncomfortable in their skin, of which the two strongest depictions are Nicky in Tennis Shoes (1937) and Jane in The Painted Garden (1949). The two children are very different in that Nicky is a talented child who hides her talent, and Jane is the untalented child in a very talented family who is ‘spotted’ for a movie but, ultimately, leaves the scene still as the untalented child.

 Both children resent the way they are seen, the expectations for them, their position in the family and a generic sense of not fitting. Nicky is unfeminine with a very pretty sister; Jane is plain, again with a very pretty sister. Nicky becomes increasingly focused on her career as Susan moves away from it; there is a strong suggestion that Susan will be ‘normal’, her desire to integrate into the school indicating that she will always prefer the integrated choice, while Nicky, mentored by the unmarried and career oriented Annie (the cook once a trapeze artiste) will not.

Jane does not envy her sister her beauty, although she does envy her curls, but there is a strong feeling that what Jane envies is that her siblings fulfil expectations in a way in which she not only does not, but, and this is crucial, has no wish to do. Jane’s focus is on her dog, Chewing Gum, who she loves far more than she does any people she ever meets, even as she gains some sense of self and self acceptance in her role as Mary in the movie of The Secret Garden (although Jane does not become an actor). Jane‘s ambition is to be the woman who breeds dogs and run a boarding kennel; a role frequently associated in literature with mannishness, singlehood, and frequently implied homosexuality.

Streatfeild mostly wrote about family dynamics but there are at least two key female non-familial friendships to explore: Lalla and Harriet (White Boots) and Gemma and Ann in the Gemma books. In White Boots Harriet and Lalla are brought together whenLalla’s nanny meets Harriet at the ice rink and encouragesLalla, a proto skating champion, to assist Harriet who is learning to skate as part of her recovery from serious illness. The two children end up being educated together and eventually trained together, with it gradually emerging that Harriet is the far superior figure skater and Lalla headed for showbiz stardom. Streatfeild traces the difficulty this creates for the friendship and in doings so she deftly outlines a common shift in pre-teen relationships as children who are friends because adults decided they would be, find that the structures of that friendship needs to shift or die.Lalla has been supremely controlling, and the friendship almost collapses at the point where Harriet, the ‘junior partner’ resists. The depiction is one of friendship but it is also one of coupledom, of coping when an intimate relationship between same sex partners needs to be reevaluated. Lalla and Harriet are lucky because they are young enough to receive sympathy and support. Streatfeild does not have to decide what that friendship means, but the trajectory of it, from being forced together in training, the excitement of the new, the conflict, and the final resolution has always felt rather romantic and deftly mimics that of many romcoms.

The relationship between Gemma and Ann is very different, and I am not suggesting any romantic undertones to it. Gemma is a child actress sent to suburban cousins when her child parts come to an end and her mother secures a major role. Ann is the eldest of three, serious, conscientious, with a marvellous voice and divided between her father’s ambitions for her (to sing) and her own to head to university. The two share a room because the younger daughter—Lydia—is a dancer and needs the space to practice. Gemma and Ann are never more than acquaintances because Gemma really has far more in common with Lydia, but the two get on reasonably well. In Goodbye Gemma, however, Gemma falls in love.

Gemma was in love with John Cann. It was sad, Ann thought, how idiotic a boy friend could make anybody, even a fairly sensible girl like Gemma… Gemma the silent now had to talk about John, not only while she was dressing and undressing but after they were in bed and Ann was trying to go to sleep. And what boring talk Ann thought it was. (ch. 14, 75)

And her only response to Gemma’s rapturing about John’s touch is “I hate being pawed,” (ibid). When Gemma insists that Ann would feel the same way, her response is “I wouldn’t. I don’t go for boys yet—I think I’m too young.” (76). But Ann is actually a little older than Gemma, her response that (perhaps) of someone vaguely wondering why her classmates are demonstrating an interest that has so far left her untouched. Maybe she will eventually fall in love with a boy, maybe her relationship with Audrey is indicative that she is gay, but maybe, like many of us, she will discover that her attractions lie elsewhere, or (a newly discussed option) that she is asexual.

At another time and in another place, I noted that there are many children’s books that contain feisty girls, but if there aren’t any independent women for them to grow into, it’s not a feminist book. Streatfeild has this nailed down too. While there are of course mothers in her books, it is quite striking just how many single women there are too, and how many of them are far more front and centre of the narrative than are mothers. Some of this reflects the social reality of the time that it took money to get married; some of this reflects the generation Streatfeild was born into: the man shortage post First World War, and the loss of boyfriends, fiancés, husbands and all the potentials was remarked on by everyone (see Nicholson, 2007). The result was a generation of women who had to find something else to do and were enabled by the pre-war feminist movement to do it.

The Doctors Smith and Jakes in Ballet Shoes are of that pre-war feminist generation, who went to university and became university lecturers when the opportunities were still very narrow. When they arrive, we know they have taken the remaining rooms, but not how many rooms there are, but they are taking them as a unit, sharing, at the very least, a sitting room. The UK illustration, by Ruth Jervis, Noel Streatfield’s sister, shows one of the doctors wearing a tie, and appearing rather masculine in dress; and Nancy Huse suggests (45) that the passion for Shakespeare may also be linked to the desire to cross dress and cross gender roles (and perhaps also for asexuality, given that the roles of the fairies, and later of Sorrel’s Ariel) are all played, in these versions, as gender neutral)

Pauline, meeting Doctor Jakes when she has a cold, rather imprints upon her, and the feeling seems to be mutual. When the Doctors Jakes and Smith offer to teach the children for free, this exchange takes place:

“But they’re not your children,” Sylvia protested.

“Nor yours,” Doctor Jakes suggested.

“Mine by adoption,” Syliva suggested.

“Mayny’t we help?” Doctor Jakes leant forward.

But by the end of the book, when Pauline has become Doctor Jakes protégé, one wonders if the answer now might not be “and ours too”. One wonders how they felt when the fictive family of the Fossils, the Simpsons (owner of Petrova’s car) and Theo Dane are all broken up. The loss is not explored. Ellis thinks the Doctors ‘could well have been her [Streatfield’s] image of an ideal relationship’ (154).

Of the single women in Ballet Shoes, only the Doctors seem to stand out as queer –Theo Dane has her own narrative of the dedicated dancer—but they are not the only such women in Streatfeild’s work. In The Painted Garden, the family are assisted by Miss Bean, ‘a friend of the children’s mother’(11). Unlike the cook, Annie, who arrives in the household after an accident prohibits her return to her career as a circus trapeze artiste, Miss Bean’s motivations are entirely personal and emotional.

Miss Bean, or Peaseblossom as she is known, arrived at the house when the eldest was born to lend a hand, and stayed on. This is how she is described:

She was that kind of woman who you could see had once been a splendid head of the school and captain of games… The children’s mother and she had been friends at school, mostly, the children’s mother said, because she had not been good at anything, whereas Peaseblosom had been good at everything and was sorry for her. Peaseblossom had carried the being sorry into grown up life. When she saw the children’s mother struggling, not very effectively, to look after the new-born Rachel, she gave up being a games mistress and took charge.(19)

Peaseblossom becomes a member of the family and when she inherits £1000 she insists on it being spent to enable the entire family to go to America (to help John, the father, recover from an accident). I would tentatively suggest that here we have a queer woman, in love with her childhood school friend, who finds a way to make things work so that she is at the centre of her love’s life and may love and be loved in a societally acceptable way.[2] It is not a new trope, but by the early twentieth century it is looking less conventional.

Great Aunt Dymphna is the star of one of the much later of Streatfeild’s books, The Growing Summer, but she is, interestingly, Streatfeild’s contemporary. Dymphna ‘so the legend went, before the war had run some kind of small school in France. When war was declared she escaped in a coal boat carrying all she could save of her worldly goods in a canvas hold-all” and had ended up living, on her own in a “ramshackle” old house in West Cork (26). When Daddy lived with her after his parents were killed by a bomb, he learned to snare, skin and cook for “she was often away for days together” (27). Yet Daddy, mysteriously to the children, speaks of Great Aunt Dymphna with great respect. When the children’s mother flies out to be with their medical researcher father when he falls ill in the Far East, the children are despatched to Great Aunt Dymphna (because their mother’s relatives are all in New Zealand).

The children’s time with Great Aunt Dymphna is a growing summer in all sorts of ways: the children come into a sense of independence, Alex has his ideas of gender based roles undermined, the two eldest learn to listen to the two youngest, and all of them come to appreciate their mother’s work more than they had. But what also stands out is the way the children come to appreciate their Great Aunt Dymphna as an independent adult. When Oonagh (another single woman, who may or may not be based on Streatfeild’s fRachel Leigh-White) tells them off for not appreciating Great Aunt Dymphna, she reminds them that Great Aunt Dymphna’s privacy has been invaded, her life upended, and familial responsibilities forced upon her: that Dymphna values her privacy, a very strongly coded phrase, is emphasised. Very unusually for a children’s book in a heteronormative world, The Growing Summer argues for respect for a queerer way of life.

Although The Children of the Top Floor was written a decade before The Growing Summer, and right in the centre of the anti-gay witch hunts of the 1950s. It tells the story of Malcolm Master, a bachelor singer and TV star, hugely popular with housewives, who on his show on Christmas Eve repines for the sound of “feet scampering” and tells his viewers, that they are the “lucky ones”. The next day, there are four babies in baskets on his doorstep.

The story of the four children is not relevant here, although it is an interesting one as the money (again) runs out and they grow and explore different careers. My focus is the portrayal of Malcolm Masters. Malcolm Masters is brought up by his mother and his nanny and gains “the impression that that the way to be happy was to be surrounded by women shaped like cottage loaves with a head on top” (chapter 1, 10). When he was eight Malcolm had developed a lovely voice and been sent to a choir school; ”The other boys thought he was a sissy type and teased him” (10); “As a solo boy Malcolm Master soon became enormously popular with the congregation, especially the ladies” (11). All of them are cottage loaf shaped. He grows up to be a baritone, secures a small role on TV and rapidly rises to stardom. When his mother dies he is “heartbroken” and Malcolm replaces her with Nannie, Mamie Briggs who is also cottage loaf shaped, and a cook, Alice Minks, who is, again, cottage loaf shaped (11). A sissy, good to his mother, and preferring women who are motherly: Streatfeild does everything short of running up a rainbow flag to hint to readers—many of whom knew what “good to his mother” was code for—that Malcolm Masters was a friend of Dorothy.

Half way through the book Malcolm Masters becomes ill (the implication is his heart) and the doctor recommends a six month vacation. On the way to South Africa the yacht he is sailing in goes missing and everything changes for the children (in much the same way as GUM’s disappearance does in Ballet Shoes). Claude Cardon, a cameraman, who ‘had never known Malcom Master well… thought about him being missing and wondered if he could help in any way’ and asks to be called Uncle Claude (ch 19). Claude of course is the name Streatfeild gives to the man she falls in love with/imagines herself in love with, in Away from the Vicarage: the Claude who, after five anaemic years in which they were not in the same country for three of them, declares, “I can never marry, Vicky. I hoped you had guessed. All I can have is dreams. It’s the way I was made.” (192) (there is a question there about Vicky’s dreams as well. For all Vicky (Noel) wants marriage it is always very clear that this is because it is the definition of ‘settled’ and to keep up with her two sisters. She shows little interest in sex, romance or children). The choice of name is unlikely to have been accidental.

The Claude in The Children on the Top Floor shows the children the films he has made, shows William arounds his cameras and the studio, mentors William as a potential cameraman and introduces Lucy to the wardrobe team and to the process of producing a show (and it’s noticeable how many women are in the studio in active and creative roles, something new histories of the BBC are only just beginning to recognise). By the end of the story—when Malcolm Masters re-appears—he has become a fixture in the children’s lives in a quasi avuncular or paternal role. It seems unlikely he would be disappeared later, under the new configuration in which Malcolm Masters has decided to take a more active position in the family. Sadly we don’t get to see how Malcolm and Claude’s relationship will develop.[3]

As I have already noted, there are many single women in Noel Streatfeild’s books for children, many with interesting lives of their own. The sense that they are and should be role models runs through many of the books particularly where one of them is an artistic mentor. The sense of a community of women supporting other women is there from Ballet Shoes (the Doctors, Theo Dane) onwards. In Meet the Maitlands this sense of a woman’s community, and the need for it, is made explicit in a way previously absent from Streatfeild’s children’s literature, but there in her adult work. Meet the Maitlands was published in 1978, the penultimate of her books (and intended to be a series, there is a sequel in 1979) in a climate in which she could voice the reasons for her long childhood resentments and come right out with some solutions.

Agnes Maitland, at the age of 15, finds herself orphaned and in charge of her siblings. “Nobody seemed to notice it but each time he [her father] came home he handed one more family task to Agnes.” (2). As she grows up, Agnes becomes the character in the heart breaking Joyce Grenfell sketch, ‘Three Brothers’, living for those moments when her family admit of her existence through their exploitation of her. Agnes then disappears from the narrative—she reappears again in The Maitlands at Cuckly Place where the way she has been used all her life is explored a little, as something the next generation would find unacceptable—and we meet ten year old Selina, her very gentle twin John, their siblings, and Violet, a very bright half Irish gypsy girl who has been denied the chance at an education by her parents who just don’t grasp its purpose. Violet lies and talks her way into the role of governess, while the parents are away; Selena works it out and the two begin to conspire to find Violet’s teacher and to keep the gentle John out of school. When they find the teacher, Miss Dinage, we meet a New Woman, a role that Michelle Abata suggest was considered the adult expression of the adolescent tomboy. Although we know nothing of Miss Dinage’s own childhood we do know that she is determined not only to sponsor the rather wild Violet, of whom she believes “I think some day we may be proud to have known her” in despite of everyone else’s scepticism; but also to open opportunities for Selina, whose intellect is mourned as having been more appropriate for John, and the younger sister Chloe who she takes to art classes with an eye to learning illustration (as Streatfeild’s sister once did). Although the story is ostensibly about the children, the fly leaf makes it clear that it is actually Violet—who comes top of the Grammar School entrance exam—and her relationship with Miss Dinage which is going to matter most in the series. There is no hint that either Violet or Miss Dinage are available for marriage, and it is rather a surprise that Miss Dinage marries in the sequel. Violet on the other hand rises in fits and starts, gaining experience through the suffragette movement. When we last see her she is a short haired New Woman, with a doctorate in History and hoping to secure a lectureship. There are, she says, ‘plenty of clever women to advise me’ (105): Violet is part of a women’s world which operates for and by women. Nancy Huse, repudiating Bull’s idea of sexual repression describes Streatfeild in a way that works also for Violet: one needs ‘to recognise that other paradigms than Freud, other plots than romance, are richly human. She found in her creative process and in her sense of wonder an indispensable harmony.’ (Huse 25). Violet, more even that Nicky, stands as a Streatfield avatar.

Queer readers have always read between the lines to find characters they can identify with. Noel Streatfeild, I would suggest, wrote stories in lemon juice between those lines. Hold the novels she created up against a light, and they are there to find. At the end of The Wicharts (the progenitor novel of Ballet Shoes), Tania finds her mother, who turns out to be in need of a travelling companion (Tania hates travel).

. “I do hope you’ll like travelling, Tania,” she said, after a pause. “I want to take you about, and show you the world, and perhaps later on find you a husband.” “I’d rather have an aeroplane,” exclaimed Tania, horrified out of her usual reticence.”(286)

Works by Noel Streatfeild

The Wicharts. London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1931. Print.

Ballet Shoes. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1936. Print.

Tennis Shoes. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1937. Print.

The Painted Garden. London: Collins, 1949. Print.

White Boots. London: Collins, 1951. Print.

The Children on the Top Floor. London: Collins, 1964. Print.

Away from the Vicarage. London: Collins, 1965. Print.

The Growing Summer. London: Collins, 1966. Print.

Goodbye Gemma. London: Fontana Lions, 1973. Print.

Meet the Maitlands. London: W. H. Allen, 1978. Print.

The Maitlands, All Change at Cuckly Place. London: W. H. Allen, 1979. Print.


Abate, Michelle Ann. Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008. Print.

Bull, Angela. Noel Streatfield: A Biography. William Collins, Sons & Co. Ltd, 1984. Print.

Doty, A. . Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of London Press, 1993. Print.

Dyer, Richard. Gays and Film. New York: Zoetrope, 1984. Print.

Ellis, Samantha. How to Be a Heroine, or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much. London: Chatto and Windus, 2014. Print.

Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. Print.

Grenfell, Joyce. Three Brothers (Song Sketch). unknown. Print.

Huse, Nancy. Noel Streatfeild. New York: San Diego State University, 1994. Print.

Innes, Sherrie A. “Is Nancy Drew Queer: Popular Reading Strategies for the Lesbian Reader.” Over the Rainbow: Queer Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Eds. Abate, Michelle Ann and Kenneth B. Kidd. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. Print.

Kidd, Kenneth B. “Queer Thory and Children’s Literature.” PMLA 126.1 (2011): 182-88. Print.

Masad, Ilana. “Queer Children’s Books Have a Long History That’s Only Now Being Told.” The Guardian 23 February 2017 2017. Print.

Nicholson, Virginia. Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived without Men after the First World War. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Ortberg, Daniel Mallory. “Code Words for “Gay” in Classic Films.” 2015. Web.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

Skowera, Maciej. “Lewis Barnavelt and the Rainbow over New Zebedee: Queering the House with a Clock in Its Walls.” Dziecinstwo: Literatura i Kultura 1.1 (2019): 85-108. Print.

Stopes. Married Love. London: A. C. Fifield, 1918. Print.

Vickers, Emma. “Infantile Desires and Perverted Practices: Disciplining Lesbianism in the Waaf and the Ats During the Second World War.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 13.4 (2009): 431-41. Print.

[1] The leaving age for children in England and Wales was 14 between 1918 and 1944, then 15 until 1972 when it was raised to 16 but with a clause that allowed children to leave at 15 if they had “work experience” which usually meant an apprenticeship; it was quite common for working class children to leave school the term they turned 16 if they had a job to go to, irrespective of their class standing.

[2] An aside, but I noticed recently that in Susan M. Coolidge’s What Katy Did, Cousin Helen may have given up her fiancé when she is paralysed, but he and his wife move next door to her and look after her. They name their daughter Helen and the child spends a great deal of time with her namesake.

[3] Nancy Huse points to the The Circus Is Coming, 1938, which also offers a different portrayal of masculinity in the children’s uncle who is single, and does all his own housework, cooking and mending. (53) She also notes the ‘homosexual teacher’ in the adult nove Luke (1939) who is feared by Luke’s stepfather as a pederast, but who is presented as supportive. Luke himself is clearly effeminate.

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