The Girl's Own Paper gavs ut från 1880 till 1956, från början som en veckotidning men senare som ett månatligt magasin. Det är intressant läsning som ger en inblick i sin tids syn på kvinnor. Där fanns följetonger, hushållstips, mode, poesi och så i slutet av varje nummer en frågespalt — och det är dessa frågespalter som jag ägnat en del tid. Tyvärr är inte frågorna publicerade, bara svaren — svar som ibland kan vara rätt beska och som får mig att undra hur en flicka reagerade på svar som detta:
Flora.—As we are quite old-fashioned people, we should say, “Never marry without your mother’s consent,” and certainly do not worry yourself about matrimony as long as you write so dreadful a hand and distribute your capital letters so recklessly. Of course, marriage is an important subject, but we can dispense with capital letters when we inquire At What Age We May Marry Without our Mother’s Consent. In point of fact, dear foolish Flora, you are of age at twenty-one, and, in a restricted sense, are at liberty to do all sorts of silly things, which we hope you will avoid doing. As a Christian, you are only free in so far as you honour your parents.
Frågorna delades in i olika kategorier, den här och nästa hittade jag under "Miscellaneous":
E. M. B.—What you really mean are “cheese straws,” and if you had looked for them by that name, you would have found them, we are sure. They are made as follows:—2 oz. of butter, 2 oz. of flour, 2 oz. of parmesan cheese, 1 oz. of cheddar cheese, 1 egg, salt, red pepper. Put the flour into a bowl, and mix with it the salt and pepper, the grated cheese, and the butter, and, with the yolk of the egg, make into a smooth paste, rather stiff. Then roll it out into a strip of about five inches long, and about an eighth of an inch thick. Cut into strips of equal sizes, and also some rounds for rings. Grease a tin and put them on it, and bake in a hot oven for ten minutes till of a pale brown. To send to table, put the straws through the rings like a bundle of sticks, and hand round in a silver dish.
Låter rätt gott! Som synes är det mycket blandade frågor, jag har lagt märke till att många av svaren behandlar frågor där man skickat in sina egna poem, i hopp om att få dem bedömda, och helst publicerade. Under rubriken "Study and Studio" hittar jag svaren från ett par poeter in spe:
Alofa.—1. Your verses are perhaps a little above the average of those sent to us for criticism. It is pleasant to see the beauties—too seldom appreciated—of our suburban common-land made the subject of a poem. One line is faulty—
“Shall fill all the future with undying perfume.”
where, as you will observe, a forced emphasis on “un” must be used to make the line scan. But for this error, we should say that verse—the second—was the best. Perhaps the first now deserves most praise.—2. We can hardly encourage you to persevere in writing “realistic fiction” without seeing a specimen of your work, but from your poem, and your pleasant letter, we should judge you had some talent.
Det verkar som de anstränger sig för att hitta något positivt att säga, också när de påpekar bristerna i deras alster. Men nog skulle de vara intressant att se frågorna.
E. V. O.—1. You must not be disappointed when we tell you that it is a very usual thing for friends and relations to be favourably impressed by the poetry composed by younger members of the family, and to hope for their future literary success; but the power of stringing rhymes together is also very usual, and we cannot encourage you by any glowing prophecy. Do not however suppose that we dissuade you from writing in leisure moments for your own pleasure. “Home” and “alone” do not rhyme.—2. Would you like to take up the study of some language, e.g., Italian and its literature? or Greek? We suggest a language as you say you do not care for music, drawing, or painting. You might take lessons in wood-carving; or learn cookery as a fine art. There is always abundant opportunity for those who are willing to work among the poor. To be eighteen, and have all your time on your hands, is a great responsibility! For opportunities of technical education, write to the secretary, Technical Education Board, St. Martin’s Lane, W.C. If we knew your character and capacity, we could of course advise you more definitely.
Under "Medical" finns en fråga, förmodligen skriven av en knubbis:
A. J. Pattison.—There is no drug known which will reduce corpulency without harm. Very few drugs indeed influence obesity at all, and the few drugs which do have an influence cannot be taken with safety. Look at the drug you suggest, for instance; bromide of ammonium is an exceedingly powerful drug. It has no influence whatever upon the absorption of fat, save that which results from its depressing effects upon the organism. Even if it did cure corpulency, it would be inadvisable to take it, for, however annoying obesity may be, it is nothing compared with the condition which arises from taking bromide habitually. Have nothing whatever to do with drugs, they will only do you harm. It is by dieting and exercise that obesity must be kept in check.
Rätt ofta är det enda svaret på medicinska frågor att de bör söka läkare, jag har bara sett dem rekommendera ofarliga levnadsråd baserade på sunt förnuft. Och slutligen ett svar jag hittar under "Girl's Employments":
Stenographer.—We fear you may have a struggle to support your husband and son in this country by your own unaided exertions as shorthand writer and typist. Still, we believe it might be done if you are very efficient and ready to undertake work at all times and seasons, and to do it often under conditions of great pressure. If at first you could manage to join a lady who already has an office, and act as her chief assistant, we think that might be wisest, as we assume that you have no means of setting up an office of your own. You ought to stipulate for a fixed salary and a certain percentage on the business done by the office. If you simply went out to work on your own account, you might look to receive a guinea a day for first-rate verbatim reporting of meetings, etc.—but orders of this kind are only occasional—or from £1 10s. to £2 a week if you were competent to take an important secretarial post to a society. Merely as a stenographer and typist you would probably not receive so much. Altogether we fear you will have a hard struggle to make a living for three persons.