These Books Made Me

American Girl - Felicity

September 23, 2021 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 1 Episode 8
These Books Made Me
American Girl - Felicity
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We are diving back into the American Girl canon with Felicity Merriman. Felicity was a second wave American Girl and infamous horse thief. We learn about the author of the original six Felicity books (as well as several of our previous AG books), Valerie Tripp, and wonder whether the gender roles focus in the Felicity books is particularly successful or just kind of confusing. In this episode, we tackle some big issues with the framing of slavery and plantation life in both the fiction and non-fiction parts of the book. We also learn that Kelsey doesn't believe in animal best friends and that Hannah has some grave concerns about what happened to Posey the lamb. We debate whether Ben really has what it takes to make it as a soldier, Ella explores Felicity's historically inaccurate hair and suggests some improvements, and everyone learns that nobody's getting jiggy with it in debtor's prison. We'll also horse around with our community expert, Tara Roberts, who has some insights about that Felicity and Penny relationship.

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 and articles in this episode. Here’s a brief list of some of them if you want to do your own further research:
Isaac and the Role of Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War
https://www.army.mil/article/97705/black_soldiers_in_the_revolutionary_war
Debtors' Prisons
https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/100938
Notable Housewives
https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/women-in-colonial-virginia/
Horses in Felicity
https://www.polygon.com/2020/11/23/21583105/real-horseback-riding-books-american-girl-meet-felicity
The Many Faces of Felicity
https://dandridgehousedolls.com/2019/06/27/felicity-through-the-years/

Hannah:

Hi, I'm Hannah.

Heather:

I'm Heather.

Kelsey:

And 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 Felicity and her original six books. Friendly warning as always, this podcast contains spoilers. If you don't yet know whose tooth fell into her teacup, proceed with caution. We have a special guest today joining us.

Maria:

Hi. I'm Maria. Thank you for having me. And I'm really excited to talk about Felicity. So was this everyone's first time reading it? I know I didn't have the doll. I was introduced by the movie, but what did you guys think that this compared to how you remember it?

Heather:

And Felicity was a little late in the game for me. The original three girls were more at the right time of my life, but my daughter had Felicity. So I read the books in the context of my daughter getting Felicity.

Kelsey:

I had, well, as we all already know , I was a Kirsten girl, but I also had Felicity's books. It was the only other books that like I owned. I don't know why that it was Felicity out of all the other ones, but I recently discovered upon doing this reread that I somehow didn't have her birthday books. So I know books one through three and like five and six really well, like I remembered a lot of them. And like I had no idea she had a lamb because it comes up once and never again. And it's only in that book. It was probably the most interesting American Girl experience for me because I have the most like school education tied to it that I also don't really remember and also feel like maybe I didn't get the full picture in school. So I don't know. There's a lot of conflicting feelings coming up.

Hannah:

So Felicity was the doll I had growing up. I guess I would I identify as a Felicity girl like you identified as a Kirsten girl. Um, I really enjoyed the historical details from the book. And I was at that age, entirely horse mad, like Felicity was. So I liked all the American Girl doll books and I read all, but Felicity was like, definitely my, my favorite.

Kelsey:

All right. So let's dive into a little bit of , uh, author background, Valerie Tripp, author of the Felicity books, as well as many other American Girl series was born in 1951 and grew up with her three sisters in Mount Kisco, New York. She was part of the first co-ed class at Yale graduating in 1973. After college, she wrote for the Addison Wesley reading program, which appears to be a series of textbooks and activity books for K to six students of which Pleasant Roland American girl founder is listed as the author. Tripp went on to get her master's in education from Harvard in 1981. Soon after receiving this degree, she was contacted by Roland about starting the American Girl line. Their philosophy, according to a 2007 Washington Post article of the American Girl series specifically, it was as follows; I always hated books where it's the girl who says to the boy, don't go in there. We wanted the girls to be the ones pushing things to the limit. She wrote the first outlines of the stories for the first three dolls, Kirsten, Samantha and Molly, and then went on to write full text for part of Samantha's books and all of Molly's. In an interview with Cracking the Cover blog, she describes her writing and research process. She says she begins by reading, watching, and listening to anything she can find from or about the time period and uses that to identify the major issue of the period, which then informs the personality of the doll. She also researches girls of today to find out what matters to them, especially those issues, which are consistent, no matter what era a girl grows up in, generally her characters are based on a mix of girls she's met and herself though Kit in particular was based on her mother. In addition to the books already listed, Tripp's body of work includes the Hopscotch Hill series inspired by an elementary school teacher. She loved and the visits she would do with classes in Girl Scout, troops, the Felicity, Josefina, Kit and Mary - Ellen books. The pastime American girl plays ,some American girl short stories, books for most early American Girls best friends and a guide to colonial Williamsburg. More recently, she's also penned the Wellie-Wishers American Girl series. And in 2020 launched a series called Izzy Newton and the Smart Squad about five young women who use science and friendship to tackle mysteries and solve problems. Since 1985, she has lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, just down the road from our county. According to the Post article, she offers her house for American Girl tea parties several times a year as an auction fundraiser and has spoken on female empowerment at conferences at the Library of Congress and Yale University. Tripp continues to be an advocate for girlhood. There's an age when girls can lose their footing, when sports aren't cool anymore, maybe, and everything seems to be pushing them to be older than they are, She told the post, My hope is to help them shore up a little bit as they entered that tough period. I liked the idea of a vacation from sophistication. Books can provide that.

Heather:

I am just realizing that I am completely wrong about when Felicity came out. So she definitely was during a time when I was still involved with these dolls. So I have no idea why I was thinking she was later than that. Now I feel like maybe I was just getting really old catalogs or something, or I only had one catalog ever that I was just repeatedly returning to.

Kelsey:

Maybe you had one catalog and your parents would just take it away and then give it back to you over three months and be like, mail's here.

Heather:

My whole childhood was a lie. All right, let's dive into the books. The first book in the six that we're going to look at was Meet Felicity. Felicity Merriman is the high spirited daughter of a shopkeeper in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774, Felicity falls in love with the unbroken horse being abused by the local tanner and town drunk Jiggy Nye. Felicity borrows, some writing breaches from her father's apprentice, Ben and teams and rides Penny the horse, eventually stealing her and setting her free from Jiggy Nye.

Kelsey:

Okay so I figured I could start us off with a friends and family update because I know that we like to check who's in which section. I will note that Jiggy Nye is listed as a friend.

Heather:

I will say that the friends and family portraits at the beginning of the book, I think only once have been accurate to friends and family, because they've always, either been family and family or family and some guy who's not a friend or [Laughter]

Kelsey:

They need an enemy section. Also Penny the horse is listed as a friend. So.

Heather:

That's fair.

Hannah:

That's legit for Felicity.

Kelsey:

I felt weird this whole book, every time it was like Felicity's best friend, Penny the horse. I mean, that's just like, you can love your horse. I love my dog. He's not my best friend.

Hannah:

So I think when you're a child , uh , the idea of having an animal for a best friend doesn't seem that wacky. I, uh

Heather:

It doesn't seem that weird to me as an adult, to be honest. I like the horse better than Elizabeth too. All

Kelsey:

Alright. Maybe I'm just being mean

Heather:

Kelsey is the low key Jiggy Nye of this podcast. [Laughter]

Kelsey:

For most of these books, we have complained that there's like too much happening. And this is the first time where I felt like it was very, very focused, like clean narrative. And I a ctually enjoyed that because I was much more committed to what was happening. But I also think this is the one book where I wouldn't want that to be the case, because I do want to learn about the person and their world. Not like the one thing that happened with them in their horse.

Heather:

Yeah. I agree. This one did feel more focused than a lot of the other ones. It was less of an info dump.

Hannah:

That makes sense. I hadn't, I hadn't noticed that to be honest with you until you both mentioned it. And now I can see the difference from the previous book. It's, it's a single line rather than a bunch of stuff kind of happening all at once.

Heather:

Maybe actually this one is one where the title is more accurate because we do learn a lot about Felicity. Like your in Felicity's headspace a lot with this one because she's not interacting with humans for a good part of it. She's interacting with the horse.

Maria:

And it is true that we do follow her and just it's that whole like tunnel vision. That's just like one focus. And it's throughout the whole book series it seems.

Heather:

Though, I guess that's kind of true of all of the characters in this one that we actually really encounter. Everybody's kind of tunnel vision about something like Ben with the like Patriot thing, Grandfather with the Loyalists/ Patriot tea thing. Oh, Jiggy Nye with, well, I don't know.

Hannah:

Alcohol?

Heather:

I don't know what Jiggy's thing is, he's

Kelsey:

He's got a lot of things.

Heather:

He's got a lot going on.

Kelsey:

Yeah

Heather:

A lot going on. He would not think Meet Felicity was the right title for this at all. He would just be like Felicity Merriman, Horse Thief, or something. [Laughter[

Kelsey:

Can we talk about the horse stuff for a second because like, okay, so Felicity goes to this horse, which, okay. I will talk to a horse expert later, but I'm not buying the, you can as a nine - year - old child who we've never heard ride a horse before, but just loves them. Maybe I'm sure she has written them, but we've not really established her horse proficiency. And she's nine, goes for one month and breaks a wild horse that's been really deeply abused. And then she steals it. I mean, she gets on it and she steals it.

Heather:

She straight up steals it.

Kelsey:

She goes to her house and they're like, yo, put that horse back. And she does. And then when she's going to go free it at the end, Ben's like, you know, horse theft is a crime and if you free it, you're, you'll be stealing it. And they hang you and I'm like, she already stole it once she's already crossed the line, they should have hung her the first time. If that's going to be the threat.

Heather:

Yeah, it's very interesting. And we'll see this throughout the books. Felicity has a very loose concept of morality when it comes to "borrowing things." Like, in this one, it's the horse and Ben's pants, but then she gets really outraged later in the series about other people stealing things. So, yeah, her moral code is a little bit ambiguous here. I get why she wanted to free the horse because the horse was being badly mistreated. Her means of freeing the horse didn't exactly make sense to me because she could have just opened the gate and closed it behind the horse and left.

Kelsey:

I was thinking about that too, but I think she wanted to jump it over the fence because it had to like get up the courage and the momentum to leave. I don't know. I thought they were implying some sort of like horse/Felicity connection that she like inspired by the big grand show of jumping the fence

Hannah:

I think Felicity has a flare for the dramatic.

Multiple voices:

Yes.

Hannah:

I think that's part of her character. I think also , she doesn't always think her actions through. So it makes total sense to me. She's like, no, I must jump over the fence. We have to do the symbolically.

Maria:

Yeah. That's Felicity. Like it wasn't, it wasn't even just rescuing Penny anymore. It was, it became pretty selfish. It's just like, no, she's going to be mine. She cares for me too. And I'm going to make sure that she's well taken care of. And I mean, it's not until the end that okay, I can't keep her. So she has to be free.

Heather:

The movie did set up the backstory on her horse experience a lot better. I thought her grandfather apparently is a horse trainer. And you know, he has a long history of this and he comments that like, she's fantastic with horses and has a real gift for this. You know, she's shown riding that horse right at the beginning of the movie. So I think the movie might've had when they went to make the screenplay had some similar concerns about the book, not really doing the groundwork for making that plausible?

Hannah:

I'm going back to the Kirsten books, like with the bear I'm like terrible injury or death would be very plausible in this scenario with a nine year old coming close and trying to break and ride an abused horse

Heather:

Like I think you were supposed to feel like, uh oh, this could go badly. I don't know that the book really set it up that way. She never seemed in in peril from the horse. She seemed in peril from Jiggy Nye who threatens to shoot them in the movie.

Maria:

Yeah. And you read it too. I mean, Jiggy Nye grabs her and even like seeing it in the movie, it's just like, oh my gosh, it's, it's really freaky. It's very scary to watch.

Heather:

They did the Jiggy Nye illustrations and the book I thought were also very effective in being like really scary looking. Like I thought they did a great job of making him villainous and frightening in the book. Um , and then they did a really great job casting him in the movie as well. Like I thought that was inspired casting of, I don't know that actor's name, but poor man's Pete Postlewhite as Jiggy Nye in the movie I thought was great.

Kelsey:

I think we'll come back to the back matter a lot, but it bothered me that I think this was one of the more like random wide ranging back matters, especially given we talked about like nothing in the actual book itself related to Williamsburg, they mentioned Marcus quote, free Black like one time in the book. And then they just like offhandedly referenced him in one second in the back matter. If I hadn't read some of these books before, I would have had no idea who you were talking about. And you've given me no context in either setting for who he is or why like what his life is like as a Black man who's free in the South.

Heather:

And it's contradictory. And I know you've got some information for us later when we get to the character of Isaac about free Blacks in colonial America. But in the back matter, they even say something like slaves like Marcus often.

Kelsey:

Oh right.

Heather:

Which yeah. Which was really odd to me because they had, they had that kind of throwaway characterization that they didn't explain. And that was a little bit odd. We will talk about how slavery gets represented in the books because it's pretty inadequate in the back matter. I think really fails us as readers in a lot of points.

Kelsey:

Oh yeah. It says, half the people who lived in the town were African-American slaves such as Marcus.

Heather:

Yeah. So yeah. There's issues here. Okay. So in Felicity Learns a Lesson, mother decides it's time for Felicity to leave her wild ways behind and become a gentlewoman, a notable housewife, Felicity begins attending etiquette lessons with Mrs. Manderly and meets a pair of British sisters, snobby Annabelle and meek Elizabeth. Felicity and Elizabeth become fast friends in spite of their family's differing views on taxes and loyalty to the British crown. What'd we think about this one?

Kelsey:

I was getting really tired of hearing them call Felicity impatient. Cause I feel like it was more of like a critique that was levied against her versus anything that was actually shown in her behavior. So it was just like, you're always so impatient. And I thought it was genius that she climbed up on the roof and found all the apples in one place rather than being exhausted, searching for them around the grounds. I thought that was a great idea.

Maria:

I mean, even like comparing her to animals, I mean, we even see her being described or like paying attention to the cardinal and wants to be free. Like she has some serious cabin fever and she's just does not want to fit into the status quo of what it is to be a gentlewoman.

Multiple voices:

Yeah.

Heather:

With this one, the whole notable housewife and like what it is to be a lady and a gentlewoman, they presented in a way that it's not appealing at all. But then Felicity is sort of enchanted by it, which also seems to go against her character because she goes to the lessons and gets all enamored with the tea serving. It didn't seem in character for her. Like they didn't present anything about the tea serving. That seemed particularly interesting.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I was thinking about that a lot because I feel like, and especially in later books, like she starts to really enjoy like, oh, pretty dresses. And there's one, one book where she's like, oh, she loved like the brown sewing hoop. And it's like this whole series. She said she hates sewing. All of a sudden she loves her brown sewing hoop. Like it doesn't make sense. And I was trying to decide if I felt it was poor characterization or like acknowledging that there are these tensions where like, just because she doesn't want to be like tied to that being her role in life doesn't mean she can't like it. Like she could appreciate going to balls and learning how to serve tea and sewing and whatever, but she just doesn't want that to be like, as her mom calls it, her most important task in life. I don't know that that was well executed, but I was like ma- thinking, maybe that's what the message was, which I can appreciate because I feel like that was something that I experienced as a kid.

Heather:

Yeah I think like the idea that we all contain multitudes is very valid. And I like the idea of saying things aren't binary. You don't have to be a tomboy or a girly girl. You know, it's okay to want to ride horses and play rough and tumble outside and climb on the roof and still want this beautiful dress. But again, I think the execution fell a little flat because instead of it feeling like a spectrum that she was on, it felt at times more like an unearned conversion. And that's what didn't work for me because then it seemed like it wasn't just, oh, Felicity's finding the beauty in lots of different things. And she's really learning about herself and she's trying new things. It seemed more like, oh, well, her mom was right. If she just did these things enough, then she would become , uh , you know, a notable housewife. And she would understand that that's...

Kelsey:

Like, it's suggesting her mom is right. That like wanting more for yourself as childish, which is

Heather:

Right. That she just needed to grow up.

Kelsey:

Right.

Heather:

And want to do these.

Hannah:

We don't see her reconciling her new interest in pastime and education with her, with her old, like you said, Heather, it's like an unearned conversion. It just feels like her character is being kind of slightly rewritten. And you know, it maintains part of the old, but like there's no, I mean, we see her reflecting on other things I would have liked to see here, reflecting on, okay, well I like going outside and I like stealing Ben's breeches [Laughter], wishing I could study Greek and Latin, but I also maybe like this beautiful blue dress that we see later on. And uh, you know, maybe, maybe there's some fun in the tea ceremony, but we, we don't see her putting those together. We don't see her , um, finding a new self. We just kind of go kind of go, all right. well now she's into these things. If you look at book one, Felicity would not fit at all.

Kelsey:

I think that's such a good point, like about the Greek and Latin, or I think maybe if, if that had carried through, like, she was like, I'm glad I know how to pour tea still wish I knew how to speak Greek or whatever, or like still going to steal Ben's pants and ride my horse in the middle of the night. We needed some carry through. I think

Heather:

Well, we do see like flashes of that again. And I think that's when the character is actually the best written are the times when it is her with the horse. You know, we see that Felicity again in the Saves the Day book, for sure. We see that Felicity to some degree in the final book as well, where she's doing more like there's more agency there, but I feel like she's very, very passive in this book goes along with things. And then it's kind of like, okay, yeah, sure. I accept this. And mom was right. Which I don't know. I did want to ask you guys, you know, when we did the Kirsten episode, Emmy had a really good point about the subtle, like guerrilla marketing of American girl throughout these books. I felt like that was very present in this book where it was adding stuff in to move product. So like the tea thing, we never found out why that would be so interesting to anyone really like they're just pouring tea. Like there was none, but it sold the tea set, it sold, you know? So I didn't did that come across as a possible reason for the non linear characterization of Felicity in this? Is it like sometimes we just take a side Tripp into, we need to sell some stuff.

Hannah:

I mean, I'm sure that was a factor. Um, you know, cause manufacturing, tiny, adorable tea sets to sell with dolls. You know, it seems , uh , it seems a no brainer, but they could have written a little bit more in to make it seem less like shameless product placement I thought.

Maria:

And I thought it makes more sense in the movie because at that point it's like the tea just signifies what it means, like the taxation on the tea, patriotism, loyalism um , but first instinct rereading it. It's just like, oh, it's it's political. It has to be. But I mean, it doesn't come off in the writing itself. So I mean, honestly that would be my best bet as well. Just the product placement.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Well I actually, I think it, I think it was given what I now know about Valerie Tripp, having done research. I think it was, she identified the main issue being, well, the broader issue being like this, the seeking of independence for colon- colonists, but like this event of the tea dumping is like something that she identified, I think would be of interest to kids or like able to understand in some way as a form of protest? So I think it's partially the structure of the way American girl is that like, you always have to have a school. And the only school that would be accessible to her, to Felicity, is going to a manners lesson and she wanted to bring in this tea thing as a political like lesson, like that's kind of the moral of this series.

Heather:

There's nothing there that lets us understand, like why does Felicity care about the tea at all as a ceremony? Cause it's not really a ceremony it's just serving tea, but then we're led to believe that she's like now quite charmed by these lessons at Miss Manderley's when everything about her says this would bore her to tears.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I think the things that we're marketing were the doll that I don't think Felicity would've cared at all about. And in fact, doesn't really care at all about even in the book where she gets it as a gift. I think the lamb that appears in is never like every doll, every girl has to have a pet and a horse is a really hard thing to ship.

Hannah:

I mean, there's a part of me that was like, did they eat Posey for an...

Maria:

Oh no, [laughing]

Hannah:

Easter meal later? Since we never hear about her again. And she's not going to be a cute little lamb for very much longer, she'll become a giant sheep.

Heather:

All right. Well, shall we move on to Felicity's Surprise. Felicity is invited to a ball and her mother thrilled that Felicity is finally appreciating lady-like things begins to make her a fashionable blue gown. Her mother catches a fever and quickly becomes deathly ill. Felicity forgets about the ball and nurses, her mother back to health, earning the respect of apprentice, Ben who conspires with Elizabeth to finish Felicity's gown and escort her to the ball.

Kelsey:

There's a lot of parallel to today with like people being in all different places on the political spectrum and philosophies about like how much your politics should affect your behavior and your interactions with others. I actually really appreciate that Valerie Tripp shows people, creating those boundaries in all different ways. And I respect that Felicity's father says, this is what I believe. And he did this in Learns a Lesson too. Like, this is what I believe in. This is why this is what other people believe in and this is why, like you, Felicity, need to make your own decisions about like what, what you stand for and how you're going to enact that. I'm sure that he has things that he maybe believes in that are more, more morally tied to like are, are a line that he doesn't want to cross, but for some politics, he's like, you know, you need to navigate this yourself. And I, I really respected that. And I think it's interesting that there's so many different takes on how to approach this in all different characters.

Heather:

I really liked that too. Kelsey, the spectrum of political opinion for the characters in these books and the ways that they express it, I think is great because it doesn't to me read as though Tripp is endorsing, one way is the right way to, you know, show your political beliefs or agency. It shows you a lot of different ways. You know, Ben is the firebrand he's outspoken. Even if that means that he's condemned by certain people, he's going to say he's a Patriot a hundred percent, but he starts on that end. Grandfather gets really upset initially, but kind of well, okay, but these are my loved ones and we're going to agree to disagree on this. Um , Elizabeth is more measured, but still a loyalist. Her dad takes the stand of not selling tea, which they show has harmed their business like badly, but he's not as like outspoken maybe has been, but he's committing to an act that has real personal consequences. Felicity turns over the cup.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I thought Elizabeth and, and this is in the next book, but Elizabeth and Annabelle's father was interesting too because he aligns with the Loyalists, but he doesn't agree with their taking the gunpowder. So again, it's like, there's a nuance here. You can agree with a cause and still disagree with its actions. And, and as people who are engaged with the world, we need to be like conscious of that and make our own decisions based on our own values. Not just follow the cause blindly.

Hannah:

Yeah, I think she did a great job of kind of showing, you know, there's this complicated volatile time and you know, people are having a lot of different feelings and opinions about that. You know, even just in this one small space, I thought it was kind of a nice microcosm of human reaction and opinion.

Maria:

It's definitely a great relationship that they show between Mr. Merryman and Felicity. And I don't know if it's just because the movie is fresh in my mind, but I can't remember if it was in the movie or from the book where , um , the dad admits that. I mean, she's still a child, so she should still be able to have like the fun without the politics completely like swarming her.

Kelsey:

Well, and her dad in the book emphasizes that perhaps if the kids come together and dance, like that'll help soften things. And maybe her father and I could see eye to eye on some things or have some interaction and he's not wrong. That's, there is. I don't want to sound like all like kumbaya. Like there are some things that like, I'll just never agree on with some people, right? Like there are some hard lines that I draw personally, but I also think that if you're willing to talk to someone about some of your beliefs and see them as a whole person with complicated perspectives and reasons for doing things and you have those conversations, sometimes you can find a compromise that works.

Heather:

So I did want to talk to you all about the Ben and Felicity relationship, the way that the story set it up was, you know, meant to have a sort of see like, oh, Ben and Felicity, they have this lovely relationship, but like maybe we sort of shipped them in eventually that's who the family will marry her off to. And then Ben's going to run the family store. Cause he kinda that's what he's doing at the end of the book. But then you look at like, Ben is 16 and Felicity is nine and now it's weird thoughts on that. Was anyone else? A little disturbed.

Hannah:

Yeah. That's definitely disturbing honestly until , um, you know, when we talked about this before we started recording, I was like, oh, they're just friends. He's like her big brother. And then he started pointing things out and I'm like, oh, okay. I guess I didn't notice that. Or didn't want to see it. Yeah. That's, it's deeply disturbing. That's an age gap where if they were 25 and 30, that would, you know, whatever, but she's very young. It's a little weird.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I, I knew going into rereading that people were talking about this Ben and Felicity shipping, so I was looking for it, but I kind of agree with you, Hannah, I didn't, or at least your initial thoughts. Like I didn't really even knowing that people were shipping them, didn't read even the scene where he takes her to the dance. I kind of still viewed it as like on the line between friendship and, and I was like, hmm I don't know, like if I wanted to see it there, I could probably see it. But I feel like I have to dig a little bit, but then in Saves the Day, this is where I was like, oh, there, they want them to be together. Wait, hold on. He says, it's hard to refuse you Felicity Merriman. And I was like, you can just like hear the wink. So like, then I was like, yeah, they're, they're going to get married and I don't love it, but it's fine. I guess.

Heather:

So I think if I was reading these at nine, I probably would have been shipping Ben and Felicity. Cause I feel like the books are telling you to do that. But then at the same time, that's a little concerning to me because even though that may very well be historically accurate that this was being set into motion by her family. And like, this was a really good way to vet a potential husband is like, can he handle the shop? He's going to apprentice to dad. And he's sorta part of the family and we trust him.

Kelsey:

And he has a lot of money.

Heather:

He comes from a good family. Like there's all of this and okay. That probably is historically accurate. But the reality of a nine - year - old with a 16 year old, his relationship to her is a little weird.

Kelsey:

I feel like he likes her more than she likes him.

Heather:

Right, which is a little weird.

Kelsey:

It's really weird

Maria:

Which would pair up with their ages. I mean, at least when I read the books, I was about 12 or 13 and of course, I mean, it is an age or perspective. I mean, I was a young girl, oh, this older teenage boy is taking her to a dance. So for me, I was on that boat, Felicity and Ben. I can't even lie. But , um , but rereading it, it's just like definitely more on Ben's end than on Felicity's.

Hannah:

I mean, he's going to become a soldier and maybe he's going to die in the Revolutionary War

Kelsey:

That's true.

Hannah:

That might not happen

Heather:

But he might not because he's just 16. So we would have to fast forward two years to find out. And at that point, you know, where are they in the war? Who knows? And if dad has died and now Ben's it for taking care of the shop, he may stay put like, that's left very open-ended too. I thought like Ben really wants to be a soldier, but is Ben actually ever going to be a soldier? He doesn't seem like it'd be a very good soldier since he hurt himself just trying to get...

Kelsey:

On a tree! [Laughing].

Heather:

...Just trying to get to the place to be a soldier. Yes.

Hannah:

Foiled by the forest [Laughter]

Kelsey:

Just like every other American Girl series, like the year, the timeline is very unclear. So like, I think technically it should be 1776 when he leaves, when he runs away or 1775?

Heather:

It's 1775 is what, what I think the back matter says that, that like the summer of 1775, this was what was happening.

Kelsey:

Oh, that's good. Cause usually they don't acknowledge the fact that time passes.

Heather:

I think that was where I read it. It may have been in one of the side American Girl titles when we were doing research, but it commented that it's summer of 1775, when blah happens, this was what was going on. But I can't remember where I saw that.

Kelsey:

Okay, so they actually are honest about it at this time. That's good. Cause it does still say 1774 on the book. [Laughter[ I also did just want to note like the dress seller, the fabric seller is very good at his job because they went from like, we're going to get a little lace.

Heather:

A little trim.

Kelsey:

to we're buying a whole dress and a pattern and probably a doll to go.

Heather:

And a doll, [laughing]

Kelsey:

With it real quick, like zero to a hundred real quick. I was impressed. And then I was wondering about her mom gets, when she, when she does finally put on the dress, her mom says like, go get a pearl earring. And she puts it on her cord. And I was wondering, did they pierce ears back then?

Heather:

That's an interesting thing. When I was researching the movie, one of the time incongruities that was mentioned was that you can see that Shailene Woodley has pierced ears in a scene and that would not have been authentic to the time.

Hannah:

I noticed that.

Kelsey:

So could they could do clip on earrings?

Heather:

Maybe clips because especially since they did put it on a chain, I think so maybe it was a clip. I don't know. I mean, and I was just also very skeptical that Felicity's mother was actually sewing all of their clothes. I think that would have been highly unlikely. Given the background there, she comes from plantation wealth. They have apparently multiple slaves in their home. I doubt she was doing all of the clothes making for that family, especially with all the babies that she had. So it was kind of odd that she was like, I have to make this dress by hand. You know,

Hannah:

I would have, I mean, if someone with their amount of wealth, it's got, it seems natural to me. They would have gone to a dress maker. Like I feel like that, I feel like that was very normal at the time. I mean,

Maria:

I think my, like one of the funniest parts for me was just Nan, just like Nan is literally Nan. She's like, she may as well be Felicity's grandmother.

Kelsey:

She has big Virgo energy.

Heather:

She does have big Virgo. That child is a lot.

Maria:

She just critiqued like Felicity's lack of propriety. And it's just, it's hilarious to watch, but it's also like, I mean, essentially it could be like just the Merrimans investing in Felicity's feature, like with everything from like the dress to like making sure that everything goes well at the governor's ball, but it still, Nan [Laughing]

Hannah:

I thought that in the movie they cast Nan super well, like she was just was just always

Heather:

Yeah, that little girl was a little old lady.

Maria:

She was great

Hannah:

She was just looking with such disapproval, such buttoned up disapproval

Heather:

Epic side-eye that whole movie that she was giving to Felicity [Laughter].

Maria:

Oh Felicity

Kelsey:

One other random thing in the back matter for this episode, they talked about holidays and they said that some colonists would celebrate Christmas by doing what they call shooting in the Christmas when you just shoot guns in the air. And I was like, that's still happening. [Laughing]That still happens

Heather:

Yeah, it totally does. I mean, that was very much for us. We had fireworks for baby Jesus and it involved fireworks and guns every year. Like

Kelsey:

America loves an explosion. That's pretty consistent.

Heather:

Absolutely, why not blow things up? [Laughter[. Hasn't changed. So on to Happy Birthday Felicity, which does involve guns it's Felicity's birthday. And she gets a lamb and a guitar from grandfather in an attempt to make Annabelle, jealous, Felicity damages the guitar and stumbles upon a plot by the governor and Loyalists to steal the militia's gunpowder. Nobody believes Felicity when she tries to warn them, she sneaks out and gets Ben and Isaac to muster the militia. When they witnessed the theft of the gunpowder, how are we feeling about Happy Birthday Felicity?

Maria:

I kind of want to take us back a little bit , um , because we did discuss a lot about Felicity and wanting to not do lessons, but can't help, but like enjoy the tea aspect of it. But what I thought was interesting, I mean, she started to realize that she's actually good at guitar playing and singing and she was better at it than Annabelle. And it was just

Heather:

That was a funny scene too. Like legitimately the Annabelle singing off key scene was very like Cinderella stepsister from the Disney movie vibes, which like I thought that was very vivid and well done. I liked it a lot.

Maria:

It was definitely, I mean, we definitely see it, her enjoying it because she knows she's good at it, but then it breaks.

Heather:

Yeah. This one worked better on that level. Like you could see why she would be, and you could even see that like her family has like, they're good at music. You know, her grandmother was gifted at it and she might have natural talent towards it. I thought this one did a much better job of why working with Miss Manderley would start to appeal to her at this point. Then the, the tea ceremony did

Kelsey:

Uh, all of them, I think so far have snuck out of their house at night at some point or at least like a good chunk of them. I don't think Molly does. Samantha does .

Heather:

They had the Halloween hijinks so I think Molly probably counts. Yeah. Samantha and Nellie definitely do. Did Kirsten go out at night? She more just got stranded and lost in the corpse cave.

Hannah:

She left home early to go meet Singing Bird, but it wasn't night.

Heather:

Okay.

Kelsey:

Okay, sneaking out at dawn,

Heather:

Just sneaking out. [Laughter]

Kelsey:

Um , and then also , uh, this was from before, but cool foreign exchange students. [Laughter] Very common theme.

Heather:

So, okay. She messes up the guitar when she takes it out, she wants to make Annabelle feel bad that her guitar is better than Annabel's guitar. And then when she's leaving, it gets all wet. But then that's the reason they don't believe her about the gunpowder.

Kelsey:

I thought that was a bit extreme.

Heather:

So I, yeah, cause at first I read it, I was like, you got the guitar wet. So now we can't believe you about this plot. But then I think they were trying to say that she was using that as a distraction so that they would stop like being mad at her about the guitar. Like..

Kelsey:

I read it as like you're irresponsible. So you're obviously also a liar, which is not, those are not the same things.

Heather:

They sort of did a boy who cried wolf thing with her, but she had never cried wolf. Like there was nothing at all up until that point where Felicity was lying about things. I mean, I guess she kind of lie of omission with like going to see Penny, but she never like lies like flat out lies about anything that I recall. And then they're just like, you liar go to bed.

Kelsey:

You obviously made this whole major thing that we take very seriously up, bye. Like the whole gunpowder thing was weird to me too, because, okay. So like she says, they don't believe her. She sneaks out, she makes Isaac?

Heather:

Mm, hmm.

Maria:

Mm hmm.

Heather:

The drummer

Kelsey:

Come out, which that's a whole separate thing we'll talk about in a minute, but that was not great. Like he didn't need to be there.

Heather:

No.

Kelsey:

Especially because it's dangerous for him. He didn't need to be there. And then like the gunpowder are already stolen and they tell people about it, which people would have found out anyway. So you risked everything for no reward whatsoever. Like I didn't understand. She didn't save the day. She didn't do anything that wouldn't have already happened. And I was reading again in the back matter or they said that this was based on a real event and in the real event, like they alerted people before all the gunpowder was taken. Um, but on the topic of Isaac. So I mentioned he, when Felicity goes to like knock on his door to say like, Hey, come out and help. He specifically says like, it would be very dangerous for me as a Black man to like go out in the night. And Felicity's like, I don't care, this matters more, which like, I don't think it did.

Heather:

And so to piggyback on that as well, Isaac is the drummer for the militia. That's like how this is set up. And we're told that he has code, basically, on the drum to muster people. So different drum patterns mean different things for the people to come out and, and do things. He has taught these to Ben and Felicity at this point. So they could have just asked for the drum. [Laughter] He did not need to leave the house. She could have been like, yo Isaac, I need your drum because someone's stealing all the gunpowder. I gotta call the militia, it's rum pum pum pum. Right. And he would have been, yes, she would have drummed her drum.

Hannah:

Isaac would have been safe. They could have sold a little drum to go with the Felicity doll. You know [Laughter] everybody, everybody would have been, you know, in a better situation [Laughing[

Heather:

But yes, this was another thing where we get this like one sentence throwaway about race in these books where like clearly we're at a time where race is a really big deal. We have slaves in these books. We have Isaac who is a free Black, but that is not really explained in any way we get this, I shouldn't be out at night as a Black man. You did a little research on this, right, Kelsey,

Kelsey:

Again, like we had no backstory on him. So it was kind of curious like how he would have come to serve in the militia. Um, and I found out that, and this is according to the official like US army website. So it said that according to this site, Washington and most slaveholders in the North and the South, the heavily opposed Black soldiers, even though they had a real need for more soldiers in their army because they viewed it as training, training slaves for a possible slave uprising or rebellion. Free Black men had served in past wars. And some states did attempt to recruit them, especially like the New England states, but , uh , Washington eventually signed a decree, specifically disallowing the practice of working with free or enslaved , uh, Black men. However, Virginia's governor then offered freedom to any slaves who ran away to join the Loyalist cause which then pressured Washington to allow them to serve. So then it became a mix of some free men, some who were enslaved and enslaved , um , men were either serving in order to win their freedom. Like one of Washington's bodyguards. That's why he was his bodyguard. Um, or some were being paid to serve, although their pay went directly to their masters. So, but apparently there were 9,000 black Patriots soldier, soldiers, but almost 20,000 loyalist soldiers who are black because of this Virginia governor's , um , decree. So I think there was something more in the back matter too, about like younger , um, Black soldiers. They often served in more of , um, I, Isaac's role as , uh , militia, men who fight or drummed.

Heather:

Yeah. I think with all of these things, it would have been really helpful to get more than just a cursory mention of it with, with the Felicity series in general, I feel like we, we do not get nearly as much context on the time in specificity as we do in some of the other books. The back matter just seems a lot more here's 10 different things that we'll give two sentences about that occurred. You know, that we mentioned at some point in the book, whereas I do think the back matter was more focused in some of the other Girl series.

Kelsey:

It felt like she wanted to talk about politics and history, but then like was constrained by the fact that American Girl doesn't get that deep into it. So she was like trying to sneak it in, in a way that was really inelegant.

Heather:

Grandfather ends up being like the moral center of the whole story. And he's living on a plantation with a bunch of slaves

Kelsey:

And we never acknowledge that.

Heather:

That's that's not really, no one cares , um, which might've been historically accurate to the time that no one would've cared, but we should care. And that should be mentioned in the back matter, in a way that was more clear instead of, well, we'll talk about the back matter for the next book, but where that's gets real problematic on how that's treated.

Kelsey:

I thought it was weird that they subbed hot chocolate for tea. Why not coffee?

Heather:

Yeah, and especially cause they say that he has coffee in the store in the first book.

Kelsey:

That doesn't make any sense to me.

Heather:

It's specifically mentioned, but then they have a dedicated chocolate pot.

Kelsey:

Is coffee taxed as well?

Heather:

Didn't say.

Hannah:

Our intern Mariama did some research into, like, illnesses and medicines. And she found that at some point, many people believed that hot chocolate had the ability to treat fever, liver illnesses and stomach ailments. So I wonder, I mean, I don't know if that's referring specifically to this time or why they would've chosen this. Maybe it was more of a status thing to drink chocolate out of a shiny pot, but

Heather:

Maybe it was to help mother recuperate from her near death experience in the previous book for a

Hannah:

For a fever, drink chocolate.

Heather:

Yeah, it's restorative chocolate. It's like Harry Potter.

Maria:

Yes. [Laughter]

Heather:

On to the real problematic one, Felicity saves the day Felicity is spending the summer on her grandfather's plantation when she is reunited with two old friends, Penny the horse and apprentice Ben who is gravely injured himself in an attempt to run away and join the militia. Felicity nurses Penny and Ben back to health. And Ben turns himself in coming to an agreement with Felicity's father that he can join the militia when he turns 18. Okay. So for this one, grandfather is a slave owning planter. The back matter does talk about plantations. Um, but I wanted to read a little bit to show how it's characterized in the back of the book because this to me was real problematic. So they mentioned that most slaves worked in the fields from sunup to sundown that some had , uh, skills like carpentry shoemaking, etcetera. But then we have quotes. Slaves had little time to themselves. On Sundays and holidays slaves tended small gardens of their own and spent time with their families, telling stories, singing and dancing, help them enjoy at least part of their lives, which were directed by the slave owner in every other way. Some owners treated their slaves very harshly and any` planter could separate slave families by selling off husbands, wives or children. That's it, like that is. I don't know that to me feels like a way rosier depiction of slavery in America, then ever should be written as a summation of slavery in colonial America.

Kelsey:

They had a harsher description about the like children, factory workers in Samantha's books. And they did about the system of slavery and listen, the children factory workers were really bad. I feel like slavery was worse and they barely addressed it.

Hannah:

That's a really good point. I didn't notice that. But yeah, they did get into like the brutal conditions for the children factory workers, but they did not here.

Heather:

And to go back to Kelsey's information on Isaac, this was the back matter that had the mention of the war timing and about free Blacks serving in the war. So it says the war had just started during the summer. Felicity was 10. In Virginia men were beginning to sign up to fight in the war. Slaves had not yet been asked to join the fight for independence. They weren't really asked to join. Were they like, again, the characterization of this, there's so many softeners on things that one of the great atrocities that humanity has really ever committed.

Kelsey:

Well, and the only real mention that grandfather even has slaves on his plantation is when in page two, they're describing all the buildings on the farm and they just say the fields, the slave quarters and all the outbuildings, like.

Hannah:

That's it.

Maria:

That's it.

Kelsey:

Casually , the place where all the slaves live, just one of the buildings. It was, it was difficult to read this book because of how pleasant it made this place sound and never acknowledged how miserable it must have been for so many people living there.

Maria:

Yeah. Felicity waking up and peacefully and it's busy, but lazy work at the plantation. And it was just, it was really hard.

Heather:

And the movie really didn't do any better. I didn't think the movie never really acknowledges anything. And then when Grandfather dies, there's a bunch of slaves like crying in the background at his funeral. Is it historically accurate that Grandfather wouldn't have been viewed poorly by his granddaughter for being a slave owner? Sure. There's ways we choose to frame things. And I think the framing of the happy slaves is really, really damaging. I mean, there were some funny things in this one too, Ben hurting himself on a twig. [Laughter] Like ,I really worry for his ability to do well in the militia when he can't even walk to join the militia without gravely injuring himself and needing to be nursed back to health by nine year old.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I mean, for me it was Nan pulling out that big Virgo energy again with the William, birds don't nest in the summer. [Laughter]

Heather:

Well, this is like so dramatic too. It's like Ben has left a map drawn in BLOOD of his location [Laughter].

Kelsey:

And the map is just a picture of the house. And then three trees [Laughter].

Hannah:

How did he know that she would look into the birdhouse? Like she had?

Heather:

How did he get there too? Because he can barely walk.

Kelsey:

I know the whole injury was very implausible because he's like, yeah, I , I gashed my whole leg open and couldn't walk three days ago. Then I walked all the way to this plantation.

Heather:

Where no one noticed me me dragging my leg behind me to the birdhouse

Kelsey:

Like his wound is definitely infected. I don't know what, I don't care what Felicity put on it. I'm pretty sure she's not like gifted enough in the healing arts to like undo like a bacterial infection that he definitely got.

Heather:

She cured his sepsis and gangrene with some witch hazel, Kelsey.

Hannah:

Yeah. He needs like intravenous antibiotics or something.

Kelsey:

He's gonna lose that leg.[Laughter] Very suspicious.

Maria:

And even, I think it's the same with the movie. I mean, isn't the note under Penny's saddle?

Heather:

Yeah. Again, he's like somehow like limped his way to like hide a note in a place. She probably might not find it. And then why is it like a treasure map? [Laughter[ It's not a scavenger hunt But that' like what he's turned it into. It's like, can she find me? Well done Felicity. You did it! [Laughter]

Kelsey:

Speaking of implausible things? How did Penny that, that made no sense. They're very far from when she let Penny go. And how did she recognize Penny? I don't understand.

Heather:

It didn't makes sense. I buy the recognizing because.

Hannah:

I buy that too.

Kelsey:

She was obsessed.

Heather:

But the movie tried to address that by basically saying Grandfather bought every copper colored mare in Virginia Like he literally says something like I bought almost every copper colored mare in Virginia looking for her.

Kelsey:

But they don't even know if she got trapped. Like she could be running off in the wild. That doesn't make any sense.

Heather:

She's on Chincoteague, just doing her thing [Laughter[

Kelsey:

I know that we all, we all thought that Samantha was going to be the spoiled one, but I just want to do an accounting of the amount of gifts that Felicity has received a dress, a very expensive blue dress, a doll, a guitar, a lamb, a horse, twice.

Heather:

Wait, you're not the only one who noticed this because in Felicity the movie, the quote, you can't always have everything you want Felicity, said Ben , but then the book say differently. She does indeed get everything.

Kelsey:

And her sibling's got nothing. They got part of the lamb.

Heather:

Yeah. Felicity is mad spoiled. Changes for Felicity. Penny the horse is going to have a baby and old Jiggy Nye is locked up and ill in prison due to his failure to pay his debts. Elizabeth and Felicity take a care package to the jail for Jiggy Nye. Grandfather is visiting and becomes ill with a fever and dies, but not before paying Jiggy Nye for Penny, the horse, allowing him to pay his debts and get out of jail. Felicity is left to mind the store. While father goes to become a commissary agent for the Patriots in the revolutionary war. We have not commented on what a bizarre named Jiggy Nye is. I just want to say that. [Laughter]

Kelsey:

It sounds like a song.

Heather:

Yeah. It's like getting Jiggy with it. Every time he comes into the scene,

Kelsey:

I was confused. Again, timeline thing. I was confused about Jiggy Nye because it seemed like he was in withdrawal, question mark?

Heather:

Definite DTs

Kelsey:

But that's a long time to be detoxing. Cause he was in the stocks for a while and then he's in jail. And I feel like he's been in jail for like six months already. Like that's a really long detox

Heather:

I don't think they could decide what was wrong with him. Because then I think it's also implied that he may have infected Grandfather with whatever Grandfather dies from.

Kelsey:

I think Grandfather's illness just got worse because he went out in the cold. We know it's canon that that's a problem in these books.

Heather:

They imply that too. Which you know, American Girl, this is really problematic from like a public health standpoint. Going out in the cold does not make you die.

Kelsey:

Let's just clear, clear that up upfront. It's nothing. Debtors' prison is evil. Like that is terrible. I know that, Heather, you mentioned like before that, like it's pretty unreasonable to think that someone who's in jail is going to get enough money to get themselves out of jail because they're in jail. But also it says that he can't, he doesn't have heat or a bed because he can't buy them. But I'm like, does anyone in debtor's jail have a bed because they're debtors? So that's why they're there.

Heather:

Yeah. And like maybe some people's family could help with that, but not the whole debt or saying, but Jiggy doesn't have any family ,did this all occur because Felicity freed the horse that was going to provide income for Jiggy Nye when he sold it, after he broke it, without that income, he was now in debt arrested for the debts he couldn't pay. So is Jiggy Nye actually in debtor's prison because Felicity stole the horse to begin with

Kelsey:

Maybe, but he was never going to break the horse.

Heather:

No, he probably wasn't.

Kelsey:

He was making it worse,

Heather:

But he would have been killed the horse and sold the hide.

Kelsey:

That's probably true.

Heather:

I mean, he did threaten to do that on multiple occasions. I did want to bring up in this one that , uh , it's the transition of time between this book and the previous book, Saves the day where I found the continuity issue with the timeline. So Mom Merriman in the last book was pregnant, which was weirdly commented on by the male neighbor of Grandfather in the timeline of that book. They said they're there in the summer. She's going to deliver in the winter. I believe they said so she wouldn't have most likely been showing even for someone to comment on it. And I'm skeptical that a man would have commented on a non-relative female's pregnancy at that time anyways, that seems incredibly rude. But Ms Merriman was pregnant in the summer and saves the day. And this book it's the spring. They comment on it being the spring and the baby is one month old.

Kelsey:

Oh so It's been like nine months.

Heather:

Right. So there's no possible way the neighbor could have known she was pregnant because she most likely didn't know she was pregnant. Uh , although this one where Jiggy Nye like is in prison, he's obviously like going through some things. And Elizabeth's like, well, if we're nice to him, it will reform him. Like, we'll just bring him a blanket. And now he will stop being an abusive to animals alcoholic and be a kindly old man. That's not how things work. And I think this is a troubling message to send girls.

Kelsey:

I don't love it. I don't love it.

Heather:

Like, it's not great. You can't fix him, ladies Can't fix him. Nope.

Kelsey:

Let him go.

Heather:

Gotta let that Jiggy Nye go. [Laughter] Yes. And I will say that the way that they play the redemption of Jiggy Nye in the movie, it's, it's pretty great. I mean, it works a little bit better because that actor, like, I mean, props to him because he took that role and just really ran with it. So there's a lot that he's doing with like his body language and his facial expressions and like the way that he looks at her when he, when she brings in the blanket and you can see the wheels turning a little bit more, but the end of the movie is very like Scrooge from Christmas Carol.

Hannah:

Yes.

Heather:

Jiggy Nye. What'd you come to our Christmas feast and he's like, so touched because he's just delivered Penny's foal.

Kelsey:

Jiggy Nye in general reminds me of Scrooge.

Hannah:

Yes. The illustrations sent me to a very Dickensian place.

Maria:

I mean, I'm always a sucker for symbolism. So even like the red cloak around Felicity and the blue one around

Kelsey:

Oh, yeah.

Maria:

Elizabeth. It's just, I mean, and I mean, I'm just going to get a little English with it, but I mean, like, I mean, red is always typically the loss of innocence and that's essentially what we see with , um , Felicity. I mean, when she comes across with Jiggy Nye with Elizabeth and even her grandfather and also the title mean it is changes for Felicity. So it's just, it's very different things happening for them. And they're also just very, they're on opposite sides of the color wheel. And this is also where we see just them completely just see their friendship fall apart. As we see.

Kelsey:

Red versus blue

Hannah:

It's blue blue, and the red cloak, it's like a cardinal and a bluebird. I think they referred to that in the texts.

Maria:

Yes they do.

Heather:

Yeah. And like she had, you know, there's the foreshadowing of that with the sampler and how things are depicted. Um, and, and we, we see her kind of going back and forth with that too. Cause he had the blue dress at Christmas that she has, but at the end, it's the red cloak getting late. Yeah. I think that, that is a, it's a little bit more sophisticated storyline than some other American girl books are. I think that that was nice that there was actually imagery in it.

Kelsey:

I think too like this emphasizing at the end about Loyalists being locked up in general, again, like further complicates the, the narrative of like the Patriots were always right and they're fighting for this noble cause and Felicity just because she decides that she is a Patriot, doesn't agree with the jailing people. And so again, it's like, you don't just follow one cause all the way through, you have to kind of make, keep making choices as you go and assessing your decision. Um, so again, I think this just carried through with it. I think that was the strongest message that I think worked really well. Is this navigating your politic

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 :

Hi there everyone. 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. If you've been with us for the entire American girl series, you might remember a discussion about Kirsten''s bangs in a previous episode. If you haven't listened to that episode yet, what are you doing here? Please go listen to it. I'll wait... All right. Now that everyone's on the same page. We all remember the thing about how doll wigs were manufactured at the time, but Felicity was the first American girl doll to be released without bangs. I know, it sounds like a revolutionary breakthrough in doll hair technology, but it was honestly the bare minimum they could do. On one hand. Her clothes are so accurate to colonial fashion that the fabric of her torso had to be changed. On the other hand, her hair is one inaccuracy after another. First off, ribbon was incredibly expensive in Felicities time period and would have never been used on a child's hair. And speaking of hair cleanliness, the cap she wears was primarily used to keep dirt out and his hair was washed so infrequently. It wasn't meant to be a fashion statement. If you want your Felicity doll to be truly historically accurate, your best bet is to toss around and rub some mud in her hair...Thanks for joining me on this deep dive I'm Ella and this was my ephemera.

Kelsey:

All right. So now we're just going to circle back around and, and kind of look at this series as a whole and think about Felicity as a character. Um , now that we've read her books, how do you feel about her as a role model?

Hannah:

I like that they present Felicity as , um, someone who's passionate and you know, even, even her dramaticness, like I kinda like, I, I, I have a soft spot for the scene when she storms out of tea. When Bananabelle, you know, says mean things about her father, like it's very, you know, it's very much something you can see a kid do , uh , doing. Um, I mean, I liked it. I also liked that she's kind to animals. Um, she's a pretty classic sort of spunky tomboy archetype, which I think we were kind of saturated with in the eighties and the nineties. I think that's something that meant a lot to those of us reading it at the time. I don't know how it reads now. I think what you said Heather, about the obliviousness to like the condition of slavery, especially when one of the themes of the books is like independence and freedom. Like it makes it extra , um, glaring and awful, but that's not addressed at all mixed feelings, but you know, I am, I do remember Felicity with, you know, being a child, reading the books. So it's hard to , um, not have sort of a soft spot for her even now looking back with very different eyes.

Maria:

I I'm kind of on the same boat as you Hannah. I mean, I definitely remember reading this when I was younger, but at the same time, Just rereading this, it's, she's a very fiery character, but again, she's a very privileged, very, I mean, she gets everything she wants. Um, in the end, I mean everything's tied up in a neat red bow. Um, so it, it is a little difficult for me to see her as like a real role model. I mean, she's very observant when it comes to animals, but everything else, again, very oblivious and just, it's a little, a little heartbreaking for me too, but yeah, I don't think she is.

Heather:

Yeah. There's no struggle here. That's an interesting, like when you were saying that Maria, I was thinking back on the other girls that we read and with the others, Kirsten obviously has some struggles. Like they, they have a rough journey over, she loses people. She loves her house burns down. Um, there's a lot of obstacles and things she has to overcome. Molly's dad is missing almost the entire series because he's at war and she's scared for him.

Kelsey:

Samantha i s an orphan.

Heather:

Samantha's an orphan and her best friend has some like real serious struggles. You know, also an orphan at that point later in the story, there's never really anything here except grandfather dying at the very end.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Heather:

And we don't really see Felicity particularly overcome that. I mean, yeah, there's no real struggle. There's nothing that she particularly overcomes. There are changes happening of the girls so far. She is incredibly privileged and doesn't really seem to meet with any major challenges.

Kelsey:

I think the, between, between that, and then the, as we've kind of talked about inconsistent characterization of like what she actually values, she kind of lost some steam for me along the way. Like I like that she has these complex interests, but again, by the end, it wasn't really clear to me who she actually was like who, what her true passions are. I think I enjoyed these books. Most of what we've read so far because they were more focused as a character. I don't think Felicity has been my favorite of the characters.

Heather:

Yeah, these were generally I think, better written.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Heather:

In some ways like from a literature perspective, not necessarily a historical perspective.

Hannah:

It's funny to me that I think we always remember Samantha as the ultra privileged doll and uh , well, you know, maybe it was Felicity all along.

Heather:

Yeah.

Kelsey:

Plot twist

Maria:

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

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Hannah:

Hi Tara, thanks for , uh , joining us today.

Tara:

You're welcome.

Hannah:

I had a couple questions for you. I hope you could answer as a horse expert. It seemed a little unrealistic to us that Felicity would have been able to tame and ride the horse Penny in the way that she did during Meet Felicity. Can you talk about what kinds of things you as an experienced horse person think about when you see these sorts of portrayals of people working with horses and how realistic or not you found this instance

Tara:

It was realistic in that people tend to think that way. There's a lot of green horses and green riders. Sometimes people that with limited experience around horses tend to have magical thinking. The Felicity actually says at one point she won't hurt me. She will never hurt me. No horse people know that you're going to hit the ground a lot horses, keep you humble. You can't get too much of a swelled head about yourself because horses will bring you back down to earth. The writer to me doesn't seem to have much experience around horses and made a lot of very common mistakes and very odd mistakes in her description of Felicity and the relationship with the horses.

Hannah:

Are there any tropes related to horses and horseback riding that are pet peeves for you when reading or watching TV/movies?

Tara:

Mainly the horses, making inappropriate noises or noises that they normally don't when they don't the lack of paying attention to all horses behavior as , um, if they know their person, they can be very expressive. Additionally, a lot of people who don't ride horses don't realize that their leg muscles might be a little sore the next day or the day after Felicity was doing a lot of horseback riding on Penny. And she was riding a stride. Someone would have noticed something because you can tell someone who was just riding for several hours the day before, because they will kind of walk a little different. Also, I, even though I ride horses and not drive horses, I have been in carts and have had a chance to do that. Assuming Penny could even drive a cart, they never did hook her up to a cart. They had her backing up to a cart. You don't back horses up to carts, horses and carts don't mix. When the horses are backing up to them,

Hannah:

I have to ask, I know you've read at least part of the Felicity books to speak on the horse parts of this. How do you feel about the whole Felicity series of American Girl doll books?

Tara:

I think it's a cute series. It's probably one I might've gotten into as a kid from me, Caddie Woodlawn and others where the books of the time period, I'm interested in history. So probably the history portion would have been of interest to me .Felicity, she was sweet. I mean, she was, there was nothing inherently bold about her. It just, she seemed to be more of a witness history and interested in a horse type character. And the last one, I was surprised with how ignorant she was of the local politics going on. Uh, and especially in regards to then. So in terms of that, she seemed more of , uh , a little more vapid in some ways. It's a nice series. I mean, I, I like the concept of the American girl series.

Hannah:

Okay. So , uh , we've talked off mic , uh, before this interview about the fairy fingers on the hooves of newborn horses. And I think that's going to inspire a longer blog post, but did you want to , uh , tell us now about this phenomenon?

Tara:

If anyone has ever seen a foal being born, there is a covering on their hooves to protect their mothers and their dams, their mothers in utero as the canal walls that are being birthed that are referred to as fairy fingers. If you solve them, they don't last very long there. By the end of the day, they're all, they're off the baby off the foal once they hit the air and, and the rubbing, rubbing on the ground, they come right off. But I do not think this author ever saw the birth of an actual horse because the fairy fingers look like tentacles coming out of the bottom of the foals feet. And they are a huge, what the hell is that sort of a moment if you don't know what they are, if you Google fairy fingers and, and horses or fairy fingers and foals, you'll see pictures of them. But , uh, they are very startling to people. Their first time seeing them, it really does look like tentacles at the bottom of their feet, but they are there to protect the mother. The placenta can attract danger because predators of course can smell the blood. And so the foal has to be able to get up and run fairly soon. I mean, sometimes within hours, but yeah, the tentacles on the bottom of the feet are a good way to tell if someone actually has seen the birth of a foal or not.

Hannah:

Yeah. When you mentioned those to me, I did a Google search and I think I both laughed and my eyebrows went up to my hairline and I saw the photo. I was like, that is something I did not know existed. Is there anything else I didn't ask you about today that you wanted to share any thoughts on this or any closing thoughts really

Tara:

Well, I would hope that it gets kids interested in horses. You know, if it's a nice, it's nice to have horse stories out there. Some of the older authors are not in our, their books aren't necessarily getting printed now. So it is helpful to have newer books out there that do depict horses and hopefully inspire more kids to want to ride. We do have stables in and around PG county. Horseback riding is actually , uh , a big deal in the county still, we also have , uh , racing too with Rose Hall stables. We do have the equestrian center. I do recommend going and seeing some of the horse shows that happen there. Um, we've got the Bill Pickett rodeo. So we've got Western riding that goes on at the horse center, as well as English riding. There are a lot of horse opportunities in and around Maryland.

Hannah:

So it is time for our game segment. And today we're going to be playing a choose your own adventure style. Are you a gentle woman game? All right, scenario one, you are at a gentle woman's home and she has poured your tea. You want to drink from your tea cup, which has a handle, but you were unsure how to do it properly, the correct way to hold your teacup and hold it to your lips is a) to loop your fingers through the handle and support the bottom of the cup with your other hand. So as to avoid dropping her hostess's delicate teacup, b) to hold the teacup in your right hand and gracefully, wave it around before putting it to your lips so that people can observe the pretty pattern on the China or c) to pinch the handle between your thumb at six o'clock on the side towards you and your index and middle finger on the other side at 12 o'clock and your pinky should gracefully extend out

Multiple voices:

[ Laughter ].

Heather:

Strange tea cup holding things...

Hannah:

I need to take a video of this moment.

Kelsey:

I got lost with all the times...

Multiple voices:

Yeah..

Heather:

12 o'clock six o'clock and the pinky...

Kelsey:

It's ok

Hannah:

Six o'clock is like, you know, if you're holding the tea cup towards like your chest, as opposed to the

Heather:

Yeah. Where does your ring finger go?

Kelsey:

12 o'clock.

Heather:

I thought that was your index and ...

Hannah:

Oh no, I was trying to make it easier. I think it make it, I made it harder by introducing the times of the clock.

Kelsey:

It's okay. I think we got the gist. I think it's that one, right?

Heather:

Is it? I was going to go with a)

Maria:

I was too actually with a)

Kelsey:

Oh really? I don't think, I definitely don't think we want to wave our cup.

Heather:

No we are not waving the cup

Kelsey:

We're not doing magic tricks. Um, I mean, if we think it's a) I can go with a) I thought the holding the hand underneath was kind of weird and I didn't think a dainty woman would ever loop a finger. It seemed like.

Heather:

Oh, well

Kelsey:

Holding it.

Heather:

Yeah

Kelsey:

But I did think a saucer would be involved.

Heather:

So I was imagining a saucer under to prevent spillage or horrible catastrophe.

Kelsey:

So what are we going with?

Heather:

Maybe it is c)..

Maria:

Yeah

Heather:

She talked us into c)

Kelsey:

Oh, no

Hannah:

C) is correct.

Multiple voices:

[Laughter]

Hannah:

Um , apparently it's a faux pas to like loop your fingers through the handle. And..

Kelsey:

I knew it.

Hannah:

grab it from the bottom. You're supposed to very delicately

Kelsey:

Dainty women don't have joints.

Multiple voices:

[laughter]

Hannah:

Right, No joints. And if you drop the tea cup, well, that's a different social faux pas.

Heather:

I shall take no more tea.

Multiple voices:

[Laughter]

Hannah:

Now. You were suddenly at a dance.

Kelsey:

Woah. How'd I get there?

Hannah:

Don't think how you get there too much.

Heather:

Ben took you

Hannah:

Magically. A gentleman has approached you. He bows and he has asked you to dance. Your next step should be to a ) accept his invitation to dance, because it would be rude to refuse. B) politely decline because you don't want to seem too eager to spend time with the opposite sex or c), ignore him and dance by yourself in the middle of the dance floor. He'd just cramp your style.

Kelsey:

I'm like picturing Bridgeton. What did they do in Bridgeton?

Heather:

I think it's probably a)

Maria:

yeah

Kelsey:

I think it's a) too, but I want it to be c)

Heather:

That's very like Audrey from Twin Peaks like I'll dance by myself in the corner.

Kelsey:

Very Robin.

Maria:

dancing on my own.

Hannah:

a) is correct.

Kelsey:

Whooo We need a little like ding, ding.

Heather:

We do, we've learned so much from Miss Manderley

Kelsey:

What an excellent teacher but side note. She really was a nice teacher. I like she could have been real mad about the tooth, but she was chill.

Heather:

Yeah. She was..

Hannah:

All right. Final scenario. You are at a fancy dinner now and you have a piece of meat on your plate that is desperately in need of salt. Do you a) dip your meat into the communal salt b) scoop a handful of salt up with your fingers and smear it on your meat or c) use a clean knife to put salt on your meat.

Kelsey:

I mean, it's gotta be c)

Maria:

Yeah. Oh no

Heather:

Is the piece of meat Posey?

Hannah:

Oh no. It might be. Poor Posey.

Heather:

Posey is a little dry... little gamey, needs some salt. Yeah. I'll say, c)

Maria:

I would say c) because I hope it's c).

Kelsey:

what we're going with c)?.

Hannah:

Yeah, you're correct. It was c) All right. You are all gentlewomen.

Heather:

Wonderful.

Kelsey:

We did it.

Hannah:

You all passed with flying colors.

Maria:

Okay. So each episode we ask, whether our book passes the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test asks whether a work features two female characters who talk to each other about something that doesn't involve men or boys. So what do we think? Does it pass?

Heather:

Yes, but probably not as easily as I would have thought, because I think it really passes on the basis of some of the conversations between Miss Manderley and the girls at lessons, because almost everything else. It does connect back to a man or a boy in some way, even all of the talks between like Elizabeth and Felicity about patriotism and loyalty that connects back to the dad or to Ben or the king or so I think it really is maybe just at Miss Manderley's, where we truly get conversations that do not in any way revolve around the male character.

Kelsey:

Does talking to Penny count?

Hannah:

I was wondering that too.

Heather:

I guess Penny is a girl

Kelsey:

But Penny doesn't talk to

Heather:

Yeah That's not really a conversation.

Hannah:

I mean...

Heather:

and I'm not sure that Penny is really a character in that. Like, we don't really have any sense of Penny's feelings on anything,

Kelsey:

Because I guess in that instance does Meet Felicity pass? Well she talks does she talk to her mom about...

Heather:

being a notable housewife,

Kelsey:

But that's in book two.

Heather:

Yeah. One like even talking about being a notable housewife that is in relation to a man. I mean, I think as a whole, the series barely passes. I think individual books, we have some that do and some that do not.

Maria:

Yeah.

Kelsey:

I don't think it passes. That's disappointing. Well, that's it for this episode of These Books Made Me join us next time on we'll discuss a book about a girl who wears a cowrie shell necklace. If you think you know which book we're tackling next, drop us a tweet. We're @PGCMLS on Twitter and #TheseBooksMadeMe, you can also send us your questions at thesebooksmademe@pgcmls . info for historical deep dives and read the links, check out our blog, which is linked in the episode notes.

Intro
Our Felicity memories
Author Valerie Tripp
Meet Felicity
Felicity's Friends and Family
Felicity Merriman: Horse Girl or Horse Thief
Felicity Learns a Lesson
I Will Take No Tea
Felicity's Surprise
Ben and Felicity
Happy Birthday, Felicity!
Black Soldiers in the War
Felicity Saves the Day
Changes for Felicity
Ella's Ephemera: Felicity's Coiffure
Horse Expert Tara Roberts
Are You a Gentlewoman?
Bechdel Test