These Books Made Me

American Girl - Molly

August 26, 2021 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 1 Episode 6
These Books Made Me
American Girl - Molly
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We delve ever deeper into the OG American Girl canon as we explore the pranktastic world of Molly McIntire. We try to decipher the strange recurring chronologies of American Girl books and discuss the highs and lows of the first six Molly books. In this episode we examine the books' decidedly Midwestern-nice spin on World War II complete with casseroles, Victory Gardens, turnip emojis and never-mentioned Nazis. Ella takes us on a spectacle-ular dive into Molly's (or possibly Chekov's) glasses, we struggle with the take home lessons of Molly's glow up, and we ask some hard questions about the serious liability issues at Camp Gowonagin. Additionally, we take a side trip to discuss the book Molly Takes Flight with women's aviation history expert Lauren Deutsch from the College Park Aviation Museum.

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped us and is a product of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System podcast network. Stay in touch with us via Twitter @PGCMLS with #TheseBooksMadeMe or by email at TheseBooksMadeMe@pgcmls.info. For recommended readalikes and deep dives into topics related to each episode, visit our blog at https://pgcmls.medium.com/.                   

We mentioned a lot of topics in this episode. Here’s a brief list of some informative articles about some of them if you want to do your own further research:   
Hula as culture, not costume:
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/cultural-appropriation-halloween-costume-video
Evacuations of British children during WWII:
https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-evacuation-of-children-during-the-second-world-war/
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/forgotten-wolf-children-world-war-ii
Rationing and victory gardens:
https://www.history.com/news/americas-patriotic-victory-gardens  
    

Hannah:

Hi, I'm Hannah.

Storm:

Storm.

Heather:

I'm Heather.

Kelsey:

I'm Kelsey.

Hannah:

And this is our podcast These Books Made Me. Today, we're going to be continuing our American Girl series of episodes with Molly and her original six books. Friendly warning as always, this podcast contains spoilers. If you don't yet know whose underwear falls from the sky onto Dolores and Jill, proceed with caution. Was this is everyone's first time reading. If not, how did this reread compare to your memories of reading it when you were younger?

Storm:

U m, this was not my first time reading it, but it's been quite a while since I first read it. I first read it, u h, 1998 when I was eight years old. And so, um, that was Molly was my first American Girl doll and book that I got as a present for Christmas.

Heather:

Also, not my first time reading it. I read it also when I was probably about eight and I was really into American Girls when I was little. So I read all of the books back then , uh , reading it now I had forgotten a lot of stuff. I think I remembered that Molly's dad was at war, but there wasn't a lot of detail that I retained. So this was almost like reading fresh.

Kelsey:

Again, continuing the theme. I have no idea if I've read these before. I thought I had, but like most of the details are gone. The only thing I always think of with Molly's victory gardens and rationing, like I think I read some of her books. I don't remember which ones. Um, so yeah, it was, it was interesting/ Cause I was kind of reading these fresh eyes.

Hannah:

I read the Molly books. I don't know how old I was exactly, but it was whatever age I was at when I had Felicity and was into American girl dolls. I think I read all of the books that were out at the time, whether or not I had the dolls or not. And I think Molly was possibly my favorite, u h story-wise and doll-wise.

Heather:

Okay. So we're going to get a little background information today about the chronology of American Girls The chronology of the American Girl books has piqued our interest as we make our way through the first six historical girls. Each set of books starts in a year ending in four. So for example, Molly's books begin in 1944 and generally follow a sequence of seasons covering approximately a year and a half. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate an explanation for the four obsession, so that will remain a mystery. Working theories include superstition about four being a lucky number. And that the idea for the dolls came to Pleasant Rowland in during a trip to Williamsburg in 1984, but there's nothing definitive. So instead I explored the broader issue of chronology in the American Girl books. Pleasant Rowland started the company with the goal of having coverage of specific time periods. She found important as a teacher in textbook writer. The decision about when to center the original three girls in history seems to have been born from a mix of personal interest and pure capitalism. The authors of the American Girl series of books were primarily educators and writers fiction selected personally by Pleasant Rowland. Rowland reportedly maintain tight control of the production of the books. And the authors were given specific direction on everything from historical points to cover, to tone. Rowland tasked the authors with creating books that celebrated quote family hard, work, honesty, courage, reliability, and responsibility. While also sticking to the formula six books cycle that would coordinate with specific outfits and accessories. For example, each doll had a Learns a Lesson story that corresponded with the lunchbox and foods, a desk and outfit and school accessories. The chosen accessories, which were researched and developed with a high level of detail would then be interwoven into the story by the author. The historical period informed the character of each dollar as well as Valerie Tripp author of the Molly book says quote, her personal journey mirrors or as a metaphor for what was going on in history at that time.

Storm:

Alright, let's dive right into the books. Meet Molly from being a prisoner to vegetables, to playing it out in detail. The perfect Halloween follow Molly and friends as their spooky night turns into an all-out war. Will this Halloween be more tricks than treats?

Heather:

This book? You guys they're so mean these were intense. So just a quick rundown of the prank war. Ricky, who is Molly's older brother annoys her. Ricky has a crush on Jill, the sister's best friend, Dolores. They end up like mocking Ricky in front of Dolores. So he conspires to dump water all over them and all of them get in trouble, but it's not over because then the girls like escalate even further and get all of his underwear, trick Dolores into coming outside of the house and then dump Ricky's underwear on her head.

Kelsey:

That seems worse for Dolores than for Ricky.

Heather:

Yeah, it kinda does.

Hannah:

For sure.

Heather:

Yeah. it, it seemed like the escalation of the prank where it was really intense, but then at the end it was just kinda like, eh, yeah, we took it too far. We're all good. Now, like there was no real, like

Storm:

Yeah, here was no resolution. I felt really weird that the mom was just like, no, you know, pick up and do the laundry. And like instantly Molly and Ricky are friends like, you know, friendly again, that would never happen for a sibling relationship.

Kelsey:

Yeah. That was like a serious escalation. But I think also like part of it was that they didn't like that Ricky's punishment when he watered them down was like, oh, you just lose your Halloween candy. Like they felt like that wasn't dramatic enough, but I don't know. I think that's pretty terrible. Like you spend all night collecting your Halloween treats and then you get none of them. Oh wait, no, he got to keep.

Heather:

you got one.

Kelsey:

But here's the thing and this really confused me when I, when I was reading that the trick or treating scene is like trick or treating was really weird when didn't have like, pre-wrapped candy. Like you just bring a bag and you get like a fresh doughnut just thrown into your bag. And then like, come sit in our house and drink a cup of cider right now. Like, I just [laughter]

Heather:

So that was, they give them two cups of cider. They like chugging them on the doorstep. Do you take the cups home and then like run a mountain. Like take them back to the neighbor the next day.

Storm:

Well I actually looked up a bit about Halloween back then. And surprisingly, sometimes for some , uh , neighborhoods and stuff, they would do Halloween three nights, three consecutive nights. They would go about doing trick or treating. So , uh , and more oftentimes , um, adults would invite the kid then, especially during war time to chit chat with the children because of their sons and daughters are overseas in war.

Heather:

A very different world. Yeah. I was thinking, at least with the cider, like when I was a kid, my mom was really concerned about razorblades in candy. I don't know if that ever actually happened.

Kelsey:

It's the kind of thing that happened one time. And, and it

Heather:

Traumatized every parent in America

Kelsey:

Like, now there's, there's always a thing of like drugs in the candy. Like there's, someone's gonna sneak drugs in the candy. And it's like, someone's probably not going to waste their drugs just to like put it in candy.

Hannah:

Drugs are too expensive for that.

Kelsey:

Yeah. My parents would always have to inspect each wrapper to make sure it was still sealed.

Storm:

Wrapped candy didn't come out until the 1960, 70s is when they started to prepackage candy for trick - or-treating. But yeah, it was donuts and apples and nuts and coins that they would hand out to the kids.

Hannah:

And I guess they were. They didn't really talk about it a lot, but they were in a period of sugar rationing. So I would assume even if there had been pre-wrapped candy, it wouldn't have been available,

Heather:

But they did get candy at Alison's house because she gave out Tootsie Roll pops. Right.

Storm:

Yeah, her family's wealthy. So I guess they had the money

Heather:

I guess the rations didn't apply to them. They like black market Tootsie Roll pop splurged. Yeah. That was strange. Um, I don't understand the whole relationship with Alison either. So Valerie Tripp made a choice to make Molly kind of unlikeable at times. And I think that's accurate though. Like it's hard as an adult cause you kind of look at it and you're like, oh no, Molly, what are you doing? That's awful. Why, why do you have no empathy for others? But kids are really solipsistic. So I feel like probably that it didn't register to me that like, oh, Molly's not very nice to Alison, Molly's not, as a kid means the book was successful.

Kelsey:

That's the way kids can be is like, you have something different about you. Like it, the thing with Alison has always like her mom is kind of out of touch or like does some , uh, socially inept things and that reflects poorly on Alison and then they kind of latched onto that a way to other her, because that's what kids do is they like latch onto differences. Um, but yeah, I agree. I think, I think Molly does at some points realize like I'm being unfair to Alison right now and does have that growth, especially late in later books where she realizes like, okay, this was a me thing and I need to like move past it

Heather:

By the end, she more or less rights the ship. So I think we've sort of struggled with what were the big take homes in some of the books and Samantha one seemed very focused on clear social issues. Like this book is meant to tell you how bad child labor was. This book is you're meant to tell you about suffrage. These were a little bit more obscure to me in terms of like, this is the historical point we really want to drive home. They seem to be more like Molly's arc is don't be selfish, you know, like think about others more, which I think that's pretty effective. That's relatable.

Kelsey:

I mean, if you're thinking about what Valerie Tripp said though, about how that's metaphorical, I mean the central kind of historical point that they drive home as this idea of rationing and doing things for the greater good of the United States and the war effort and patriotism. And so I imagine that's kind of what Valorie Tripp had in mind is like this idea of thinking outside yourself and what you can do for others as the kind of larger social message going on at the time. Um, one thing I wanted to just quickly on the Halloween topic too, I'm going to be kind of weaving in our, how did it hold up question throughout these books this time? Um, and so this time I wanted to jump on the , uh, talk about the hula costumes. Um, so Molly and her friends decided to dress up as hula dancers and our intrepid researcher Ella did some background research for us on hula and the appropriation of hula. Um, and so there's a lot of history there and I would, I will share some links in our episode notes, but just to note that , um , there is a movement to say that, you know, hula is not a costume, it's a culture. You should not wear it as a costume. This is kind of an ongoing theme with the books that we've been reading of, inappropriate Halloween costumes , um, and hula in particular has a long history of being , um, overly sexualized and , um, just inappropriately , uh, adapted. It was interesting because on the newer covers of the Meet Molly books, she's actually in her hula costume, which is kind of weird because it moves away from the commercialization of like the selling the outfit. I don't know if she had a hula outfit.

Heather:

She did.

Kelsey:

Did she?

Hannah:

Oh, she did?

Heather:

Yeah. She had the little skirt and everything,

Kelsey:

So yeah, not great

Heather:

But yeah, Halloween is definitely one of those topics where you can see the evolution of understanding that certain things are not okay. But I think it's also interesting to look at, well, we realized this particular thing wasn't okay. A lot earlier than we recognize that this thing wasn't okay. And so like something like hula, you mentioning that that's on the cover of the later additions of this book. That's a choice. I cannot imagine that we would have put , uh , you know, somebody dressed up as Pocahontas for Halloween or something like that on the cover of one of these books. And it occurred in the book. I think they would have tried to get away from that.

Kelsey:

Right. I think today people are still not really talking about hula or thinking about the cultural implications of it and thinking about it as something that should not like as an appropriative thing. I don't, I think that that's still something folks are becoming aware of.

Hannah:

I agree. They, they should have just gone with the three Musketeers for their costumes.

Kelsey:

It would have been better that way.

Storm:

Very much so.

Kelsey:

Or Cinderella and the two ugly stepsisters.

Hannah:

Although come on Molly, like no one wants to be the stepsisters.

Kelsey:

I like how she was really into the idea until she realized like, oh, I don't have the Cinderella dress.

Storm:

because her mom would have to make it.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Heather:

Well, even her Cinderella dress was odd sounding, you know, she wanted this big floaty skirt, but that she was going to wear an angora, like sweater with it, which is not how I envisioned Cinderella ever. But you know, that's cool.

Hannah:

Yeah. I don't think Cinderella wore a lot of, you know, sweaters generally. I don't think that was the aesthetic.

Heather:

Really into knitwear [Laughter]. I did want to comment a little bit on the food and the books. We spend a lot of time talking about food in the Samantha books. They were very prominent. Um, but in the Valerie Tripp's Samantha books, she kind of got away from that. She goes back to food in these a lot more than she did in those. So , um, the rationing is really important to these stories. Like I think it's brought up in every single book. And so in this one, we learned that sugar and butter being rationed, but then Gladys makes French toast for the whole family for breakfast the morning after Molly, like, I guess finally choked down the turnips that her mom's seasoned for her, but you wouldn't make French toast. That would have killed off their rations for like the week

Kelsey:

Didn't she say it was like a special recipe or was that something else that had a special, like no butter recipe?

Storm:

That was for the cake I think.

Heather:

That was, yeah

Hannah:

Couldn't you make, does french. I'm sorry, does french toast have to have sugar? I know it has to have eggs, but does it have to have sugar and butter? Like would there be?

Storm:

over the toast making it ?

Heather:

Yeah, you will need either your butter or margarine though to cook it and then you need some sweetener so unless they had like maple syrup.

Storm:

Syrup. Yeah.

Kelsey:

Very odd.

Heather:

Yeah. It was an interesting choice from Gladys who before that was like, so, so firm on, no, you got to take one for the team and eat the turnips and we're not gonna touch the rations. I'm going to make all these breads with tomato juice and all of these other things so that we don't touch the rations.

Kelsey:

Maybe she grew the French toast in her garden [Laughter]

Hannah:

Yes. Our french toast bush. I love it.

Kelsey:

The only other thing I noted from these books is the art is unsettling.

Heather:

I agree!

Kelsey:

And it's weird because some of the art is like the, the other books. Like it's just, you know, your traditional like kind of oil painting-esque kind of art, which I like. And then occasionally there'd be these little, like, they almost looks like clip art.

Heather:

Clip art, yeah.

Kelsey:

And the most uncomfortable one to me is the turnip like that. I, I don't need my vegetables to have a face [Laughter]

Heather:

Right. The old edition version, it's like turnip emojis for like three pages worth of them. It was crazy. I was just looking at it. Like, that's a really bizarre choice. Cause it didn't at all seem in keeping with the general illustration style

Kelsey:

Yeah. It's not for it's like eight, it's very eighties [Laughter]

Storm:

Especially since they also still had some of the old art style for the smaller images, like the locket with her father, that's kind of with the actual paintings of the characters. And then we got the clip art.

Heather:

It's just very odd. And then these illustrations just generally, not to belabor this particular book too much, but this is broadly across all of the Molly's books. I felt like the artists for this one was very definitely going for like a Norman Rockwell sort of vibe. I don't know how effective they are though, because I feel like that's really undercut by the weird clip art. And then the cover art feels a very different style. So I'm not sure I I've really enjoyed the illustrations generally in the other books. And these didn't quite work so well for me.

Storm:

Um, I guess that's a good lead in for the next book because , uh, speaking of Norman Rockwell, the cover for the Molly Learns the Lesson is kind of Norman Rockwell for her sitting at her desk being attentive. Um, so for Molly Learns a Lesson, Molly learns a hard lesson and being selfish and prideful when her class participates in a competition to see who can, can come up with the best plan to help out soldiers overseas called the Lend a Hand project.

Kelsey:

I was just glad that this teacher seemed nice. I feel like the other books. Well, I guess Samantha's teacher was nice, but there were the Nellie's teacher was mean and Kiersten teacher was mean even though she got a redemption arc. And I was just glad there was like a nice teacher in the world.

Heather:

See, I think that we just read them as mean, because I felt like Kirsten, his teacher was meant to be likable. They made like a big character. And I was thinking all of these books, it seems like the authors are primarily educators who then write on the side or write educational materials. There's a lot of like teacher deification going on because in really all of these, the girls are like, oh, my teacher is so pretty. Oh, my teacher is so great. Oh, she's going to come live with us. So, you know, there's all those rhapsodizing over how great the teachers are. So I, I feel like the authors are kind of seeping in a little bit there to be like, teachers are the best and work those in in kind of funny ways. But yes, this, this teacher seemed likable.

Kelsey:

Yeah. And that's the interesting thing is I do think your sins teacher is supposed to be like likable, but she wasn't. And like I said, Samantha's teacher is okay, but then Nellie teacher was mean, and it seems actually weird to me that they would like make such rough teachers being, teachers would write themselves. So , uh , like having so little empathy for their, their students most of the time.

Hannah:

I mean, I think they definitely present this teacher as ultra and kind of an idealized person who Molly really looks up to. But, u m, you know, that aside, the multiplication, multiplication bee seemed like an exercise in public humiliation. How does that [indistinct] to do math?

Heather:

Oh, we did those when I was in school

:

Really?

Storm:

Oh gosh. Really?

Heather:

Yeah.

Kelsey:

It seems like a really good way to make any kid who was like iffy about math, hate it.

Sgorm:

Oh yeah.

Heather:

I do like that Molly's friends are like brutally honest, especially Linda. I liked that friendship between the three of them because they kind of call her on her nonsense a lot, but then they also just call her on stuff for no reason. I like Linda was like, yeah, you're just really bad at it for.

Hannah:

Poor Molly. She's like, I need to move to Mars.

Storm:

Right.

Kelsey:

Or like, later I know this isn't in this book, but when Linda's literally just like, yeah, you're good at dancing, but your hair is bad. So you can't [ laughter ].

Heather:

That crown's going to look bad on you, Molly so you're not going to get the solo.

Kelsey:

Molly's just like, you're right

Heather:

Right. Everyone at camp knows you can't swim, Molly

Storm:

But they're very loyal with each other because like, even when Linda's brutally honest, they still stick with her to carry out her separating from the class to do the raising the bottle caps. Instead of doing the knitting socks thing.

Heather:

They do. It's a really nice , uh, depiction of the kinds of friendships you have when you're a small child, like where it really is more like family almost than friends. Like you have almost a sibling type relationship where you can say things like that to your friends. And if it's not coming from a place of malice, like it's okay. It's just, you know, you're just honest with each other. And there's that level of trust there where it's like, I know this meant to wound. It was just, that's just the way things are, my hair's bad.

Kelsey:

Yeah, I need a friend like that

Hannah:

They did try to like chip in for a product that, to fix it. So like that's, you know, that's friendship [inaudible & laughter ]

Heather:

They were giving up their money to get her perm kit later. So yeah. Molly's hair struggles are relatable as a person with brown sticks for hair and bangs. I did , um , you know, Molly's hair drama throughout the books, well Storm, you too.

Storm:

Yeah.

Heather:

I'm sure it was like, oh yeah, man, it is awful when your hair gets wet and you have bangs This is true. So then I looked to see if Valerie Tripp had bangs, because I felt like she really understood the struggle bangs, but yeah, Molly's hair struggles are very relatable, but it's also a trope, right? There's a lot of things in here. And in all of the American Girl books that we've read that are very like heavily relying on like literary tropes or they're more or less just replicating something that was a very well known feature of another book. So like Molly's whole hair drama was very Anne of Green Gables with the, like buy something from the peddler to dye your hair. And I think that's part of why these work, they're not great literature, right? Like nobody's doing anything that's particularly beautiful writing or like innovative here, but they're doing things that are kind of tried and true that like they know will land. So it kind of goes back to that, like commercialism of everything about American Girl, it's not just about the products, but the books are kind of that way too.

Storm:

Uh, when I looked into the schools a bit of, for this book, I was surprised to learn that , uh, for this time period, a lot of times they'd have separate playgrounds for boys and girls. And not only that, some schools even had separate entrances for the kids, like for boys and girls to enter the school by gender. And I was like, interesting, but yet they still have everyone in the same classroom together, but they make it such a distinction for if you're playing, you can't play together.

Heather:

But then he'd been in the classroom in this, they were doing boys against girls, boys against girls for the multiplication thing. They did boys against girls for the project. So yeah, I guess that was authentic. It was well-researched by American Girl.

Kelsey:

Gender constructs are a hell of a drug.

Storm:

Oh yeah.

Kelsey:

Am I allowed to say thing on this pod?

Hannah:

[inaudible] it's true though.

Kelsey:

Okay. Accidentally sent us on a really wide wild tangent there. But one thing I was thinking about too, I don't know if anyone else here is a knitter, but like socks are so annoying.

Heather:

Socks are hard

Kelsey:

A hundred percent agree with Molly. That, that was a terrible project idea.

Storm:

That was very bad for grade schooler. I mean, I crochet, I can't even knit because knitting's too hard, like croche the easier option. Like when I tried even like a scarf, it was like a difficulty for me. So I can't even imagine grade schoolers trying to knit a sock

Heather:

Well, the hubris. Right? Like I don't really knit, but I'm sure I can knit socks, which yeah.

Kelsey:

You have to do two of them. And they have to match. That's hard!

Heather:

Yes. Her ingenuity to save the knitting project. When it clearly wasn't going to result in anything usable was admirable.

Kelsey:

Yes. And she had incredible project management skills to, like delegate tasks based on everyone's skills and abilities. Like that was impressive.

Heather:

They assembly lined it and then got it done. I will also give Alison credit for very graciously allowing Molly to step in and lead.

Kelsey:

And letting her be the star of the photo at the end!

Heather:

Yeah.

Hannah:

After she crashed their house, they showed up like all sneaky, like, and they sort of reluctantly came in and they showed up, you know, like wet late , um, and without any knitting. [Indistinct & multiple voices]

Heather:

A trench coat show up! [Laughter] L know it's like, what is this?

Hannah:

Like come in, no problem, we have extra materials and I'm like Alison and Alison's mom were far more gracious.

Heather:

Alison's mom was shady though. She was like I told Alison, for sure you would come, you wouldn't be so rude as to not show up.

Kelsey:

So this is the third Learns a Lesson book that we've read so far. Do we need to have a school story every time? Like what does that add to the experience of reading American Girl books?

Heather:

So my theory is is that they do it because school is an instant a universal for kids, right? The vast majority of children in this country go to a school of some sort. And so I think that that's such a touchstone, culturally, that it's a, it's an easy sort of setting to spotlight historical differences.

Kelsey:

On the back matter is literally, always the same, pretty much, which I find annoying. Cause I'm like we could have some really interesting historical context for some other things like , uh , why are we at war? Which they never once mentioned in any book. Uh, but , um, yeah, I do. I do think you're right. I think it's that touch point and interestingly, I think this is the first school story where school looks pretty similar to the way it is today.

Storm:

Yeah. Um , moving on, uh, if you guys don't have anything else to add, we have Molly's Surprise with Christmas shaping up to be a letdown this year, Molly and siblings manage to put aside their differences and work together to bring some magic back into the holiday, the way their father always did.

Heather:

So this is the doll book. The Surprise books are always, the girl gets the doll book, which is so interesting. It's the, we've talked about how meta is to have a book about a doll selling you a doll. And in that book, the doll herself gets a doll and then tries to sell you that doll as well. So we have the sort of nesting dolls of the Surprise books. This one, I thought this was pretty well-written actually , um. I thought the conversations between Molly and Jill about Christmas were pretty well rendered and true to how people process things. I mean, it was maybe a little bit more self realization and I don't know, sort of self-help speak than a 14 year old would normally do when she's telling Molly like, well, this is what I was afraid of and doing this makes me feel like Dad might be gone or, you know, I wanted something different so it wasn't reminding me of his absence, but I thought that that was pretty well done. Um, and I, I think generally the Valerie Tripp books, my issue with them has been that they're very like plot, plot, plot plot plot, and then Danny ma and it's done, there's not a whole lot of character building. And , um, but I think the Molly books did better than she did in the Samantha books of actually developing the character through the books. Cause Samantha had a very well developed character, but it was in the books by Shaw that proceeded the Tripp entries in it. But I think maybe Tripp connected better to Molly and her family. But I felt like there were much more fleshed out characters. And as far as tropes, they got a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. So there's another one where it was just this instant sort of recognition of like, oh yeah, they're going to get this sad tree, but then that's beautiful because they make it happy. You know, they did what they could. Um,

Kelsey:

Yeah, I think Molly was super relatable in this one. I wrote down a quote from her early on: being realistic means being boring and dull. And I think that perfectly encapsulates how a nine-year-old would feel about like war rations and losing the magic of Christmas. Um, I did feel like Molly wanting a doll. I was a little out of character for her. Like she seems like she would want...

Storm:

Rollerskates [Multiple voices].

Heather:

She needs a dog, a bicycle,

Kelsey:

Yeah, something more active. I don't, she doesn't seem like a doll kind of kid.

Storm:

Yeah

Kelsey:

And I think it's telling that she never really plays with the doll after, after this book. Like it's just not her.

Storm:

Um , but like you said, I really liked Joel and Molly's relationship, especially in this book because I like how most of the books Jill is always trying to be the elder sister and she's feeling as we all did probably at that age. Like now that she's 14, a teenager, she's all grown up and she's above everything. Like I remember my cousin being yeah, 14, 15, and she would always want to sit with the adults at the adult table for a family reunion because she thought that kids were beneath her. And I was finally glad to see that Jill admitted that, Hey, I'm scared too. I'm just putting it on a front because I don't want you to be, you know, get scared or be disappointed.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I literally wrote in my notes as I was reading this Jill sucks and then like two pages later. Oh, she bought the tree. That was pretty cool. So I feel like she had a real turning point in this book for me.

Hannah:

I wrote, I think I wrote Jill's a little bit sanctimonious I agree, Molly. And I mean, you know, Molly has been a little bit of a brat in some ways, maybe that's a stronger term that I want, but you know, from, from Molly's perspective yeah. Jill's being a little sanctimonious, but then you see that sisterly relationship kick in and yes, like there, you know, Molly's nine, Jill's 14. Like that's, that's, that's a very different, u m, t he very different, those are very different places to be. U m, but yeah, I like, I like that despite the fact that Molly was driving Joe is a l ittle bit nuts and vice versa, they still kind of came together in this. Yes, we are sisters. And uh, we're both feeling similar things. I thought, I thought that was really touching actually.

Kelsey:

U m, I have a question. Why did Molly bite the Christmas tree?

Heather:

I didn't get that either. Yeah. So, okay. For context, they go to buy the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. They get the saddest frailest tree on a lot. Cause that's what they can afford off of Jill's babysitting money that she had saved for a hat. And then Molly plucks needles off of the tree and chews them up.

Hannah:

Who does that?

Kelsey:

Is that like a thing?

Heather:

Is she like testing it for like freshness?

Storm:

It could be maybe back then, like maybe they did add like kind of pine needles into recipes or like at the decorative, like garnish or something. So maybe she was in the moment, like we're getting a tree and she was excited. So she wanted us to smell it. Like how you love the smell of Christmas tree. Some people love the smell of Christmas trees, maybe the there's a taste, but I don't know. Cause I've never, I've never bitten

Heather:

You're never eaten your Christmas tree! [Laughter]

Kelsey:

Well, okay. Even if that was a thing in the forties, I don't think it was a thing in 1988 when Valerie Trip wrote this book. So she could have said like Molly tasted the tree for freshness as one did at time. Like, as she saw her mom do every year before or something,

Hannah:

You could just take a needle and snap it.

Heather:

A long line of tree lickers

Kelsey:

Her dad wasn't there to do it. So she carried on the legacy. [Laugher]

Hannah:

OK, but speaking about the decorations again, real briefly. So there was that whole conflict between like the homemade decorations versus the more simplistic, fancy decorations like they'd had in Samantha. Um, you know, but Molly had like, she wanted to pull out these, you know, nostalgic ornaments that I don't know they made or, you know, they put on the tree for all life and Jill, like I want a more simple aesthetic. Um, they had that same conflict here, which I thought was interesting.

Heather:

They did, except this one made a lot more sense because Jill was like, yeah, I just didn't want it to look the same as every year. Cause it made me sad or that dad was missing. The Samantha one it was just like, we're rich. And we need to impress this girl that was coming to visit.

Hannah:

That's true. It was more sympathetic.

Heather:

This felt like a more earned Christmas debate.

Kelsey:

Right. Plus it was like the whole patriotic thing. Like, oh, maybe we should support the war effort with their Christmas tree.

Storm:

Yeah, but that kind of baffled me, is like the Jill wanted patriotic tree, but she didn't want the old tree to remind her of dad. But I'm like, wouldn't the patriotic tree also remind you and be a constant reminder that your dad had overseas.

Kelsey:

I just want to say like the patriotism, the arbitrary patriotism. I know that this is very realistic to the times, but like all the little tidbits made me laugh out loud. Like in this book that in the back matter, it said that , um, I guess to preserve gas, you can only drive at a certain speed, but they called it the victory speed limit and the victory speed is 35 miles per hour. It doesn't feel very victorious, like a very safe speed. [Laughter]

Storm:

Next up, Happy Birthday, Molly, Molly is gearing up for her 10th birthday party. When her family gets a surprising new edition, an English girl all the way from war-torn England named Emily, Emily is traumatized, but eventually bonds with Molly, playing princesses, they try to plan a joint party, but it only results in hurt feelings. A pair of birthday puppies mend the friendship.

Kelsey:

Okay. I don't remember if this is Linda or Susan, but early on, one of them says, a real English girl for your birthday. And that's a very strange thing to say. [Laughter[

Hannah:

That was Susan. And I know it because I also thought that was odd. And I wrote down, you know, really Susan? As opposed to a fake English girl?

Kelsey:

Also like you don't get a girl for your birthday! That's weird [Laughter]0

Heather:

No. the level of othering that happens to poor Emily in this book is so bad/

Storm:

But I feel like it's also very, very true to how kids [Inaudible]

Heather:

Hundred percent

Storm:

reacted to people who had a different accent or were just different in general. Not because it was bad for kids because kids are usually pretty open-minded, but because it was so exciting to them and they didn't, they're kind of ignorant in a way.

Kelsey:

I was like really uncomfortable with Molly and her friends playing bomb shelter, like that really stressed me out. And I was very relieved that like that was admonished later and like made very clear that like, this is not a game. Like people are actually in bomb shelters and actually losing their homes. And like, we're not gonna play like ha ha ha I'm losing everything I love and cherish. Like that's not a fun game because I was, I was a little stressed at first that was just going to be like the fun game. And that was that. So I was glad that that was addressed.

Heather:

Probably not a game she wants to play right now. And then Emily really called her out on it too, which I thought was good as well. Um, because I also was worried that that was just going to skate and yeah, no mention of, wow, that's incredibly awful to do to somebody. Yeah. Who was presented in this book as having really significant like PTSD.

Kelsey:

Right. I also think there's, even if they didn't have Emily in their house, it's still like not great to like, be like having fun playing this imaginary game that someone's actually suffering through. So either way I was glad that they addressed it, but I did think Emily's reaction was kind of interesting when they do have this like heart to heart, because Emily basically says like you, like, I, you were not being empathetic to me and understanding my situation, but you also suffered because your dad has gone. And I don't think that those are, I don't think that those are equivalent.

Hannah:

I mean that , uh , you know, I felt terrible for Emily when they were like, Hey, you want to play bomb shelters? She was like, no, but I mean, she was, she was very quiet. And, but when she did speak, I thought she was incredibly self-possessed. Like she called Ricky or not called Ricky. Maybe she did, but she was like, Hey, your airplanes are wrong. And she was like, no, this is not a game. You know, this is not what my life was. Like. I thought she was very clear about expressing things. She was a very self -possessed you know? I mean, what is she like, nine?

Kelsey:

Yeah, fun fact. We had Ella look into this , um, evacuation thing as well. And , um, it actually, wasn't very common for children to be evacuated from London into America. Most children were evacuated into , um, Canada, but there were a couple of kids who had private, like non-official evacuations, which it seems like that's what the Molly, Emily situation is.

Heather:

Cause she's going to her aunt.

Storm:

Yeah

Kelsey:

And it's like, yeah, it's like a friend, aunt situation. So , um, this might be still kind of realistic. Something interesting. I noticed also , um, just like a side tidbit about American Girl birthdays. Um , so we always have a birthday book in the series and I realized as I was reading that, like they always fall in the same, like, chunk of time. So that means like all American girls pretty much from this first set have to be born in the spring. So I looked into this , uh, all of the original six have spring birthdays, and there are no American Girls from the whole collection, from what I could find who have birthdays in July or December, which , um, I think makes sense just because usually your Changes book happens in the summer. So July is just kind of out. And obviously December is always going to be your Christmas book, but I just felt bad for all the like , uh, Sagittariuses and Capricorns who did not get to have a doll that was close to their birthday. [Laughter]Um , I was annoyed that the back matter was about babies being born, not about like London children being evacuated or bombs, or again, why is the war happening? Like none of those things present in the back matter.

Storm:

All right. Moving on to Molly Save the Day. Molly Saves the Day. Welcome to Camp Gowonagin, The perfect summer camp, Molly and friends are excited to hang out in nature and learn many new skills, but a new team competition splits the friends up. Molly learns to swim while leading her team to victory, but takes out half the campers with poison Ivy.

Heather:

Okay. I'm just going to comment because Valerie Tripp also did the Samantha Saves the Day book, which had truly terrible names. She did it again in this book and the like camp leader is a quote Roly Poly woman named Miss Butternut.

Kelsey:

Oh, I missed that she was a roly poly woman. That's not great.

Hannah:

I missed that too.

Heather:

What is going on here, Valerie Tripp.

Kelsey:

Okay. Also, why is Miss Butternut in the friends and family section, but Miss Gilford is, who's not even present on the island?

Storm:

I didn't notice that for that book. Really interesting.

Kelsey:

It doesn't make any sense. And like the one girl who's like the camp, the team leader, she's not in the friends and family section. I feel like she should be there too.

Storm:

Mm, yeah, Dorinda.

Heather:

Dorinda. [Laughter

Kelsey:

Dorinda, Dorito

Heather:

Yeah. Dorinda is a good, like villain name. And she was kind of a tyrant. She's better with that naming

Hannah:

She's not in the friends and family section because she's not a friend. [Laughter[

Heather:

She's not, she's more like a frenemy

Kelsey:

Um, interestingly, this book was dedicated to Pleasant and I was wondering why this of all books was the one that made her feel like thinking about Pleasant.

Hannah:

Oh, weird.

Heather:

I don't know. Um, one thing I did find out was that they had been coworkers, uh , prior to Pleasant bringing her on to write some of these books because there was a pre-existing relationship there that wasn't the case with some of the other authors. So who knows maybe, maybe they went to a camp together

Storm:

Maybe they had a summer experience together. And for that's why and maybe this book brought up fond memories.

Kelsey:

This, the whole camp kind of reminded me of , um, like my experience in Girl Scouts.

Heather:

Same!

Kelsey:

So I don't, it's interesting because in the last book she mentioned Girl Scouts a couple of times, but they never like do anything with it. Like they say she's in it, but she doesn't like go to a meeting or earn a badge. So I'm like, I was kind of annoyed, but like, I, I forgot about situpons until this

Heather:

Yes!

Kelsey:

And I was like, oh yeah, it definitely made a situpon, which is like kind of a random object. Like I don't know that I ever used my situpon once I made it.

Heather:

Oh I totally did because you could use them for other things. So my situpon, I hung onto. And then like when I was in high school, well, okay. Football games in Texas are a much bigger deal than they are here. Like it's an event every week, high school football. And so you take your situpon and you'd use on the bleachers because the bleachers were just metal and cold and really uncomfortable. And then your butt wasn't cold and you know, it was great. So the situpons were very functional.

Kelsey:

Why don't we just call them like cushions?

Heather:

Because everything had funny names, right? Situpons, ]Laughter] s'mores, like everything had funny names.

Kelsey:

The other thing that made me think of Girl Scouts though, was the Taps lyrics. I didn't know that I was singing Taps. I like, I know that song.

Heather:

Oh really. the day is done song.

Kelsey:

Yeah, I remember like, God is not, I remember singing that, but I had, I don't think we sang it to the Taps tune. [Laughter] so I had no idea that it was the same.

Heather:

Oh, that's funny. We definitely did. The day's is done, gone the sun does.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Heather:

But I kinda liked that about the camp book in spite of its many flaws. It did capture camp in a way that seemed very real to me. And like, as I was going, I was kind of singing the little songs in my head because yeah, it does track with how camps still get run.

Storm:

Yeah.

Heather:

But camp was like, the liability issues with this camp were bananas,

Storm:

Oh my god

Kelsey:

I mean Molly almost drowned to death.

Heather:

She almost drowned. 'Cause, and, and then they had said, well, the counselors will be hiding, so we'll know what's going on. But then they had no clue what was going on. Cause they got back. She was like, Molly, can you please explain you were the one ended up with the flag.

Kelsey:

Clearly later on Poison Point at that time?

Heather:

Oh no

Storm:

Clearly they only know That we would be watching from the main land. We wouldn't have counselors on the island in case something goes wrong.

Heather:

Because they were completely unaware of all of the things that went terribly wrong!

Hannah:

This was a chance for all the counselors to be like, oh, thank god [Multiple voices & laughter] We're going to take a nap. Just tell them to go play Capture the Flag and tell them we're paying attention.

Heather:

Yeah, There were just some weird things in this book though, because again with the like escalation of stuff, Molly goes too far time and again in the series, like there's a huge difference between poor Linda who is playing the game and blowing the whistle to alert people like, oh no, they're here. Which was her job in the game. That is very different than Molly collecting worms after Linda told her she had a phobia.

Storm:

And spiders.

Heather:

And dumping them all down her head and shirt.

Storm:

Oh no

Hannah:

That was mean.

Kelsey:

I would have trouble being friends with my friend after this

Heather:

I'd be done. And then at the end Linda, well that's okay. Cause we were playing the game. No, you were playing the game. Molly was not. Molly was like...

Kelsey:

Well, okay. So I wanted to talk about that because I think given what you said about what we said in the intro about , um, Valerie Tripp using all these books as a metaphor, I feel like this was the most obvious metaphor for war.

Heather:

War is hell? [Laughter] That's what I wanted to say. It's like Molly Saves the Day. AKA War is hell.

Kelsey:

And she even says at one point, like the gist of it is basically like, you can't win a war because if you win, you lose yourself along the way, because she did this like evil thing to her friend. But her friend theoretically did this evil thing back to her. But again, like one person was playing by the rules that they set out and like following the guidelines and one person like went rogue and threw spiders at her. [Laughter]

Heather:

Yeah, one person went way too far until yes. Maybe that's metaphoric for like the atomic bomb or something.

Kelsey:

Right.

Heather:

But much like that, the outcome seems to be like, well that was a good move because you won.

Kelsey:

Right.

Heather:

So I'm not sure that there was really a clear, like moral lesson from this other than like, yeah, it's okay to just go as extreme as you need to, if you win.

Hannah:

And there was a picture of them talking, you know, afterwards, you know, when they've just realized, oh no, we're about to have poison ivy. And Linda's like, oh, it's okay that you put worms all over me. And I think Molly or someone is like placing their hand on someone's arm. And I'm like, no, you have poison ivy oil, don't touch anything!

Storm:

Oh yeah!

Kelsey:

Oh yeah, Molly

Hannah:

Right? I'm just like, oh no, poor Linda doesn't deserve to get poison ivy too on top of the whole worm incident.

Kelsey:

Well, fun fact poison ivy is an allergy. And I don't think I'm allergic to poison ivy. So

Heather:

You are so lucky.

Storm:

Lucky!

Heather:

Well don't test it because it also gets worse with repeated exposure. So I was not horribly allergic as a child. And at this point, like if I see it, I am covered. So I have to be so careful.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Well, okay. So then I just also wanted to note, I just to give you us our back matter moment and our patriotism point, I wanted an alliteration there, but didn't really work. Um, it's also, I learned from this back matter, it is unpatriotic to take the train. So in case we're all wondering, anytime you've taken the train, it's been unpatriotic, Patriots only walk. So that's what I learned.

Hannah:

What if we have to cross the ocean?

Kelsey:

Unpatriotic. [Laughter]Don't leave America, what?

Storm:

Changes for Molly. The family is elated when they learn that Molly's father is finally coming home. And Just in time to Molly is gearing up for her big tap dance as Miss Victory in the Red Cross show. But in order to make this night unforgettable, she has to have the perfect hairstyle, which is proving more difficult than she anticipated. Molly doesn't get to dance her solo, but she does get to welcome her father home. Final book guys.

Kelsey:

I think her rain coat is too big. [Laughter]

Hannah:

She looks kind of like the Morton salt girl though.

Storm:

Oh yes!

Heather:

Like the yellow [inaudible] when it rains and the boots?

Hannah:

It's kind of cute, the outfit.

Heather:

Yes. This one, Not very much in this book, except like on the last page, when Dad shows up, like she does all of this planning about her solo and we learned she's a phenomenal tap dancer, but then she doesn't even get to dance the solo. I didn't like that. Her mom was like, you can't wear the wet pin curlss anymore because you're getting sick from them.

Kelsey:

She's a nurse!

Heather:

It's like, that is not how you get sick. Wet hair doesn't make you sick. Why are we perpetuating this myth?

Kelsey:

Especially as someone who works in the medical field that she should absolutely know better.

Hannah:

Yeah. And I mean, I think the tiny kernel of truth, u m, in that is maybe if like you go outside with wet hair a lot and you're doing a lot of like, no, like, you know, you're going from hot to cold. Like, you know, maybe that temperature, I think the temperature fluctuation can maybe knock your immune system down a bit and make you more inclined to get sick. But that's not how it was presented if you're sleeping in wet pin curls.

Kelsey:

Yeah, ear infection was a weird diagnosis anyway. Cause she had like a sore throat and like, wasn't she like stuffy or something. Like that's not an ear.

Heather:

Yeah, it seemed like she had just a general like upper respiratory thing.

Kelsey:

She never even mentions ear pain [Laughter]

Heather:

The ear infection seemed secondary to whatever weird upper respiratory virus she had.

Hannah:

And if she had an ear infection and she was dancing, she probably would have noticed like a balance issue and they never, you know, go, oh Molly, Molly can't, you know, stand up straight during her turns.

Kelsey:

Related to that. Every time she mentioned that the glasses, she took off the glasses and she couldn't see, I was like, I literally wrote down Chekov's glasses because I just...[laughing]

Heather:

You thought she was gonna fall down the stairs?

Kelsey:

Obviously there's like this, that's going to be a major plot point. Why would they mention it like four times? I don't understand.

Heather:

It wasn't...see, and I think that's problematic too. Like a lot of what happens In this book is vaguely problematic because the messages seemed to be like glasses and straight hair ugly. So you can achieve your dreams by curling your hair and getting rid of your glasses. [Laughter] And like, yeah. There's never a point where they're like, Molly, why are you taking your glasses off? You look great. You need those to see.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Oh like the whole, I thought the message, the end was going to be her hair wouldn't curl. She tried like several times then she realized it was like, she can still be Miss Victory with her signature braids and her glasses on because that's who she is. No, curly hair was what got her the outfit.

Heather:

Yeah.it was I mean, Like Linda said, she, she wasn't going to get to wear that crown with her normal hair.

Kelsey:

Brown sticks.

Heather:

It just wouldn't look right. It was Molly's glow up. And then she gets everything she wants and then, oh no, viral ear infection takes her out.

Kelsey:

Yeah, I will say one of the things I really liked about this book is I do think, again, this like Molly as a character development was really strong and the relatability of her as just like a nine-year-old was really strong. So like I loved the scene. Well, I loved when she mentioned that her, her dad mentioned her in the same sentence as a pot roast. Cause I noticed that too. And I was like, yeah, I'd be so mad if I was nine. And it was like, your sophisticated sister and your grown brother and you and a pot roast. And then later she's like having this real, that really sweet scene with her sister when her sister's curling her hair. And she says, she noticed like Jill's socks are never wrinkled. And she always has her hair and like a nice curl. And she's like, well, how did you learn to be sophisticated? Like, I can never like, keep my socks from getting wrinkled. How did you figure out how to do that? I thought that was really sweet and like super relatable to like when you're a kid at that age. Although I feel like I felt like that when I was 14 too, like I don't feel sophisticated yet.

Heather:

Yeah. Jill is very put together. Like she definitely presented more like a 16 or 17 year old in high school. That's got her feet under her and she's got her head on her shoulders and she knows who she is now more than like freshmen in high school.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Heather:

I guess she is a year older in this book. So she was a freshmen in the first book,

Kelsey:

Although maybe it's because of the war. Like she had to grow up a little faster because dad's left. And the other thing I was thinking about, we were talking about this whole like four year thing that was started in 1944, technically I think it's been a year and a half since the series started. So we'd be like mid, 1945. And didn't the war ended in 19, mid, 1945.

Storm:

I could have sworn, even though this was a winter book, I thought it was taking place in March. So we're already in the next year.

Kelsey:

So we're in 1946?

Storm:

Yeah. March, yet rainy cold March afternoon. So

Heather:

That's like two years later, then.

Kelsey:

These sequences make no sense.

Heather:

So the war would have been well, over at that point then

Kelsey:

I don't understand the chronology of these books.

Heather:

Yeah. That's problematic.

Storm:

Yeah. Um, but yeah, the ,I was very disappointed with the ending of the book. It was just so abrupt.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Dad's home. And I was like rushing it, to be very honest. I was rushing to finish it. And I was like, oh my God, like she just got sick. There's so much left. And then I turned the page,

Heather:

Then it's over

Hannah:

I have this very clear sense of reading the book and her dad comes home and like, there's like this catharsis of, oh, nothing else matters now because she gets to see her dad again that like was very like poignant and emotional for me at that age. And you know, it seemed like the whole tragedy of the hair and the role was just like totally swept away. So I mean, that was my, you know, one person's impression at the time. And doesn't, you know, make all of those points about the story, not valid, but that's what I took away from it as at age nine or ten, or whatever I was.

Kelsey:

You know, what I think would have helped for me? Her dad, when she comes back, says Molly, you're exactly the same.

Storm:

Yeah

Heather:

She's like, no, she's not.

Kelsey:

Yeah. She's, it's been two years. She's ,she has to have grown a lot, even just physically, but also like emotionally, mentally, we've seen her go through so much in these books and I feel like that would feel like completing the arc for me. If her dad was like Molly, oh my gosh, you've grown so much or something so that it really felt like a journey.

Heather:

I agree.

Kelsey:

Totally.

Storm:

Yeah.

Hannah:

Each episode, our Intrepid researcher will enchant us with scintillating factoids related to our book. It's time to dive in and explore Ella's Ephemera.

Ella:

I'm Ella. And this is my Ephemera, the part of the podcast where I tell you about some of the neat things I've learned while doing research. Molly was the first character and doll to be marketed with glasses. Her series is classified as 1944 on the covers, but the first book was set in 1943. Luckily for Molly, this was smack dab in the middle of the glasses revolution. Graham Pullin discusses their history and the work of J Lewis in his work about design for disability: When Fashion Meets Discretion quote and the 1930s spectacles were classified as medical appliances, their wares as patients, it was dictated that medical products should not be styled. In the 1930s glasses were considered to cause social humiliation, but the health service maintained that their glasses should not be styled, but only adequate, but things began changing in the 1940s while the decades started with leftover wire frames from the previous decade, world war II changed everything. Suddenly there were horn rims, solid plastic frames, cat eyes, and combination glasses with plastic tops and metal bottoms. And in 1945, the first frames designed specifically for women began being manufactured. Molly really lucked out. Thanks for joining me on this deep dive, I'm Ella and this is my Ephemera.

Kelsey:

There's a lot of ground in our discussion. So I just wanted to quickly touch on this kind of last question we've been thinking about with every American girl book that we've read so far, which is, are there any new insights about American Girl that we've uncovered after reading this book?

Heather:

I don't know that there's new insights just so much as the pattern in the formula is becoming more and more clear, the more that we read them. So I'm interested to see if we notice any differences as we move into different authors with the different girls in the series

Hannah:

Coming up, we'll get an expert's take on an important aspect of this novel that is not often discussed, but first let's pay some bills

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Heather:

Now let's talk to someone who actually knows something about one of the main topics featured in the Molly books: aviation.

Lauren:

So I'm Lauren Deutsch the Assistant Education Manager here at the College Park Aviation Museum. Hi

Heather:

Hi, Lauren. So you're an expert in aviation history and we wanted to ask you some questions about one of the books in the Molly series. In Molly Takes Flight, her aunt Eleanor joins the WASPs. Can you tell us a little bit about who the WASPs were and why they were important?

Lauren:

Yes of course. So the WASPs where the women, the women air force service pilots, and they were a bunch of women who , uh, the government got together. They were technically civilian pilots and the government got them together to do the jobs that male pilots did before the war. So during World War two, obviously a lot of military male, military pilots went abroad, uh, to fight in the war. And while they were gone, they needed pilots to basically like ferry aircraft from factories to air force bases, u h, train, u m, other pilots. And so these two women, u m, Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love really fought for women to get those jobs. U m, and the government allowed it at least for, I think the program lasted only a year and a half because of course, u h, we entered the war quite late. However, u m, it was the first time that women were, u m, doing military military pilot jobs.

Heather:

So In the book, Eleanor seems to have pretty unlimited access to planes like the PT19. And she's able to take Molly flying. Was this an accurate depiction of women's access flight during World War II?

Lauren:

To be honest, when I read the book, I was actually quite surprised too. I was like, where, where is she going? Where is this air force base? U h, w ell, not, air force base for this air field. And how does she own that plane as it, her own private plane, because a lot of women, u m, if the were trained as pilots, well, a lot of, u m, pilot training programs would not accept women. And so there was actually this whole program set up through again, the US government, u m, to go to colleges and train, u m, civilians, how to fly and only 10% of those could be women. So that's how a lot of women got their, u m, experience. And if otherwise, if you wanted experience, most people had to be wealthy enough to buy their own airplanes and then, u m, hire a pilot to teach them. So it was interesting hearing about how Eleanor was from a farm and yet she had this access to this airplane. So I don't in that kind of background. I would assume that perhaps, u m, a good natured person allowed them her, u h, allowed her to fly their airplane. But, u m, I actually don't really think that's an accurate depiction.

Heather:

I was surprised by that too. Generally, when women joined the WASPs, did they have to have prior flight experience?

Lauren:

They did and that was actually , um, an interesting contrast from the male pilots. So a male pilot at the time. Um, well, they didn't have to be a pilot. Uh, they had to be between 18 and 26 years old and have a high school diploma. And actually that was lowered down from , um, a college degree because they were really strapped for people. However, with their women, they were very , um, diligent and getting a women that already had a pilot's license. Um, there was about 25,000 women who applied for this program and only less than 2000 were accepted. Um, and even after they were accepted, they still had to go through a six month long intensive training chorus. Um, so they were already highly qualified , um, and then had to be trained even more.

Heather:

What were their options like after the war and the program ended?

Speaker 6:

Program actually ended because again, World War II was wrapping up and male pilots , um, you know, had this newfound, hope that because, you know, they hadn't made it. Um, they were looking back at home and trying to see what options were available to them when they came home. And when they saw that these women pilots were taking over their jobs, they got very upset. And , um, a lot of congressmen , uh, tried to shut down the program because they, that it would take away , um, jobs from these returning veterans. What they didn't seem to realize was that these women were also veterans. Um, and again that they have extensive training and were highly qualified, but they did a , um, shut down the program and there's even a class still training while when they heard the news. And they were the so-called like lost class because they never got a chance to actually , um, perform their jobs. A lot of women just went back home to their normal , um, quote unquote normal lives, the women who did try to stay in aviation and had to go and become like , um, air stewards or , um, work in air traffic control, because there were no real pilot options for women, either in the military or commercial,

Heather:

Molly loved her first flight, but would she have even been able to follow in Eleanor's footsteps in aviation as a young adult woman in the fifties and sixties?

Lauren:

The sad thing about looking at this through like an adult's eyes, like this really inspirational book for , um, young girls, is knowing the history. And so knowing that yeah, opportunities became much slimmer. The 1910s to like the late 1920s and going into the thirties was like the golden age of aviation for everyone, but in particular women, because when a flight was still getting off, it's still, it wasn't as gendered as it became later. And , um, there were more opportunities. However, discrimination actually seemed to get stricter over time and it wasn't going to be until the seventies until , um, there was a first , uh , female pilot of commercial airlines.

Heather:

You shared with me that you had a Molly doll and read the books as a child. What drew you to her and how did it feel revisiting her now as an adult?

Lauren:

What initially drew me to Molly was just how similar we looked. Um, I wear glasses as does she and we both have, you know, brown hair, which is common enough, but out of the array of American girl dolls, I definitely picked her because I was drawn to her as a character versus the time period she was from. And I think that's a really great thing about American Girl dolls is that they do get used through the personality and then draw you into the history. Because obviously this was like a very bleak time in America's history, but , um, I really liked her like carefree spirit as well as, you know, like she had a little dog and she, she seemed to have the same energy as that dog, like really energetic and optimistic , um, despite what was going on around her. And as you can see in the book , um, and like I said, so I think revisiting it as an adult, it was very hearing -reading the story. It was inspiring, but also again, knowing the history, it filled me a little bit with dread because I know that we have this idea in history that everything is always progress and everything always gets better over time. And of course, things got a lot better after World War II, but opportunities for women pilots in particular did not.

Heather:

Would a little girl who had read the Molly books and was inspired by them when they came out in the eighties have had a path forward in aviation at that time?

Lauren:

Yeah, I do think so. I think there's still a huge discrepancy in the field today and the aviation field of , um, male to female pilots. Um, not even male to female pilots, but in aviation all the way across. Um, and there's a lot of, there's a lot of attention given to try and recruit women into like, you know, the science has obviously in aviation in particular, but that was like, obviously like seventies, eighties, nineties. This is when women were fighting to become pilots of commercial airlines , um, things where women's pilot uniforms were being , um, very much critiqued and changed to make them more utilitarian instead of , um, clinical fashionable. A lot of these things were just trying to make it more normal. And I think this was a good way to inspire. Yeah, women who are little girls to get into the field and then just to make that a normal process so that it wouldn't have to be a dream. It could just be a fact if life.

Heather:

Lauren, I just wanted to say, thank you so much for joining us on the pod today and talking to us a little bit about Molly and the history of women in aviation.

Storm:

Uh, now we'll be moving on to our game segment. If Ricky really wanted to insult Molly, he'd probably call her a turnip, but it made us wonder what kind of vegetable would Molly actually be? We'll figure that out now with the help of a handy Buzzfeed quiz by Audrey and Nelson. Okay. So quiz first off, if you were a vegetable, which dish would you want to be? Oh, and we're doing this from Molly's perspective. So we're doing this as our answering as if we were Molly. So what you guys think she would pick? So we're going to discuss this as a group. So the options are soup, salad, casserole, sandwich, Ratatouille, pizza. I feel like, cause she's a kid. It would be pizza, but I don't. Yeah. They had pizza back then. Right?

Heather:

She's in like suburban or maybe rural Illinois. So I'm guessing

Kelsey:

The casserole.

Heather:

She wouldn't have had a ton of exposure to pizza during this time period. Yeah. I think I would lean towards like Casserole or sandwich maybe. I mean, casserole does have a kind of foreign sounding rings too. So maybe she is feeling really patriotic. She would want to go with like a victory sandwich.

Kelsey:

I guess I was thinking like casserole feels very 1940s, like suburban

Heather:

It's very Midwestern too.

Storm:

Yeah Would that be a favorite for kids back then too though? Cause I know casserole, there are a lot of times, often for nowadays are kind of like, ooh, casseroles for like children. So I don't know if that would okay.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Maybe she's a victory sandwich.

Heather:

Okay. So sandwich.

Storm:

Sandwich. Okay. Next question. Which aisle in the grocery store do you - would Molly shop in the most? The options are snacks, cheese and dairy, produce, bakery, frozen foods and health.

Heather:

I think bakery.

Storm:

Bakery [laughing]

Kelsey:

Oh yeah.

Heather:

Cuz she's really missing the butter and sugar and she loves the bread.

Kelsey:

She loves the bread.

Hannah:

Oh yes

Heather:

Sweets. So definitely bakery.

Hannah:

Bread day. Remember that whole bread day plot line?

Storm:

Okay. Now we would choose a fruit for Molly. There's strawberry banana, apple, pineapple, mango and cherry.

Heather:

She eats apples, but I feel like she would go with pineapple maybe because of the hula costume.

Kelsey:

Oh yeah. [laughing]

Heather:

She would like attach that to Hawaii and be like, look, it's part of my costume. It's a pineapple.

Storm:

All right. Finally choose a word to describe Molly that could also be used to describe a vegetable and the word are fresh, ripe, tender, juicy, organic, and run.

Kelsey:

She's fresh. Right?

Heather:

Fresh.

Storm:

All right. Oh and here it is. She is fiddle head.

Kelsey:

Oh, [ laughing ]

Storm:

I've never heard of that vegetable. Not going to lie, you are a bit of a wild card, while some people have a hard time nailing down w,hat exactly you are. They know for sure that you're unconventional weird and awesome. There's nobody quite like you and you embrace that.

Heather:

I think that's more or less okay.

Hannah:

It's not, it's not wrong for Molly.

Heather:

The last book undercuts it a little bit because she does like the opposite of who she is to get the solo and it rewards that but

Kelsey:

Wildcard behavior.

Heather:

But that's true. [Laughter] But the rest of the books I think are very in keeping with that.

Kelsey:

Right? So now it's time for our Bechtel test. Each episode we ask whether our book passes the Bechdel test, which asks whether a work features two female characters who talk to each other about something that doesn't involve men or boys. So does Molly pass the Bechdel test?

Storm:

Yes. It's always with her friends, talking to her two female friends. They, even when they bring up love interests, when they watch Jill and her friend, they they're at that stage where they're still like, eww, like.

Heather:

Yeah. I mean, They talk a lot about her dad in the books. They talk a lot about Ricky and getting back at him or him being annoying. But there's plenty of interactions that don't hinge on that, you know, there's, Molly's aspiration for the solo. There's the project they're all working on.

Kelsey:

The whole color war. I mean the whole Molly Saves the Day. I don't think there's one man in the book. Yeah.

Heather:

Well, that's it for this episode of these books made me join us. Next time when we will discuss a book about a girl who witnessed a disturbing incident involving chocolate cake. If you think you know which book we're tackling next, drop us a tweet. We are @pgcmls on Twitter and . You can also send us your questions at thesebooksmademe!pgcmls . info for historical deep dives and readalikes, check out our blog, which is linked in the episode notes. Special thanks to our guest, Lauren from the College Park Aviation Museum, our fabulous researcher, Ella, amazing interns, Mariama and Jelan and our producer extraordinary, Will.

Intro
Memories of Molly
The Confusing Chronologies of American Girl
Meet Molly
Historical Halloween
Hula
Food in the Molly books
Unsettling Art
Molly Learns a Lesson
Teachers in American Girl
Molly's Friendships
Hair Struggles
Gender Divided Schooling
Molly's Surprise
So Many Dolls
Molly and Jill
Delicious Christmas Trees
Happy Birthday, Molly!
WWII Evacuee Children
Molly Saves the Day
Girl Scout Camp
War is Hell
Changes for Molly
Chekov's Glasses
This Timeline Makes No Sense!
Ella's Ephemera
New Insights
Local Expert: Lauren Deutsch, College Park Aviation Museum
What Kind of Vegetable is Molly?
Bechdel Test