Bessie Marchant’s Turn-of-the-Century Girls’ Adventure Fiction in Special Collections and at the Edge of Empire




Raposo, Kalea Furmanek

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I analyze the complexity of Bessie Marchant’s pro-imperial rhetoric in her girls’ adventure novels held in UVic’s Special Collections. Her early 20th-century girls’ adventure novels Daughters of the Dominion: A Story of the Canadian Frontier (1908), Juliette the Mail Carrier (1907), and A Heroine of the Sea (1904) are set in Canada and follow a formulaic plot: circumstances prompt a young female protagonist to take charge of a situation—nursing someone back to health, delivering the mail, or investigating a murder—before she ultimately marries. Marchant thus affords her female protagonists opportunities for action while simultaneously circumscribing them within marriage plots, expanding readers’ ideas of women’s sphere while also reinforcing middle-class domestic ideals. Set in Canada, Marchant’s novels offer both adventure and social mobility that England’s conventions around class, aristocracy, and gender did not. Marchant thereby expands possibilities for girls’ action by turning education, domestic responsibility, and family expansion into adventures on par with the dangerous physical tasks that heroines undertake as part of the main adventure plots.



fiction, family, adventure, children, imperialism, colonialism, novels, girls, twentieth-century