Separate Shelves: Gender Distinctions and Market Segmentation in American Children's Publishing, 1860-1960 Open Access

Nelson, Jennifer Michelle (2010)

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Separate Shelves:
Gender Distinctions and Market Segmentation
in American Children's Publishing, 1860-1960
By Jennifer M. Nelson
This dissertation examines the emergence and persistence of a gender distinction in
American children's publishing. The focus is on the creation of gender-specific recreational
reading intended primarily for boys or girls between 1860 and 1960. Boys' books and girls' books
operated as more than simple classifications for children's recreational reading. These separate
incorporated prevailing beliefs about boyhood and girlhood and translated them into
specific production and consumption practices. Using trade journals, archival documents, and the
popular press, this work investigates how producers (e.g., publishers, editors, and writers) and
consumers (e.g., librarians, teachers, child-study professionals, moral authorities, and parents)
worked to create opportunities for boys and girls to consume specific books.
The first chapter describes the growing recognition of children as a separate reading
public within the chaotic period of antebellum publishing. Chapter Two focuses on the emergence
of late-nineteenth-century boys' dime novels in the context of growing middle-class anxiety about
popular entertainment. Chapter Three recounts the organized efforts to provide children with
"quality" middle-class recreational reading as an abundance of inexpensive boys' series and girls'
series fiction gained enormous popularity. Chapter 4 explores the effect of accelerated
adolescence on children's recreational reading to illustrate how the naturalization of separate
facilitated the dissemination of widely-accepted conceptions of femininity and
masculinity. Chapter 5 investigates consumer education of the mid-twentieth century to better
understand how boys and girls became valuable book-buyers. The final chapter assesses the
continued relevance of separate shelves in the children's book field, as well as the recent
intensification in marketing to and through children.

Separate Shelves:
Gender Distinctions and Market Segmentation
in American Children's Publishing, 1860-1960
Jennifer M. Nelson
B.A., University of Pittsburgh, 1995
M.A., Université de Montréal, 1999
Advisors: Timothy J. Dowd, Ph.D., and Mary E. Odem, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies of Emory University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in Women's Studies

Table of Contents

CONTENTS Introduction The Persistence of a Distinction 1 Chapter One Mental Intoxication: Women, Children, and the Threat of Light Reading 24 Chapter Two A Taste for Books:

Recreational Reading for Boys and Girls in the late-Nineteenth Century 44

Chapter Three More Books in the Home!: Boys' Books and Girls' Books, 1900-1930 102 Chapter Four Young Adults: Gender Distinctions in Boys' and Girls' Series, 1930-1960s 155 Chapter Five Appealing to Young Readers:

Boys and Girls as Valuable Customers in the Children's Book Field 192

Conclusion The Continuing Relevance of Separate Shelves 233 Appendix A Data Sources for Juvenile Fiction and Nonfiction Series, 1835-1990 258

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