A survey of children's literature offers a glimpse of what impressionable youngsters were reading and learning, and what their
parents and teachers wished to impress upon them. When investigating children's reading matter, however, it is important to
remember that, early in our history, books were expensive and generally available only to the well-to-do.
The Juvenile Collection contains nearly fifteen thousand children's books, chiefly American. Most of the collection is arranged
chronologically. The earliest book, A Course of Sermons on Early Piety . . . by Increase Mather (Boston: S. Kneeland, 1721; BX7233.A1 C6 Juv) was printed in 1721. Significant selections from each year continue through the twentieth century.
A section arranged alphabetically by author and title contains the work of thirty-six American authors considered significant,
of which fourteen are women. The collection includes many books and serials written for children of both sexes by women authors,
fiction written specifically for girls, and instructional and advice books for girls and young women.
Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) edited the Juvenile Miscellany (Boston, 1826-34; AP200.J7) , the first American magazine for children, and penned many monographic works. Sarah Josepha Hale's “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
first appeared in Juvenile Miscellany. Other early magazines for children grew out of the Sunday school movement, including the Children's Magazine (New York: General Protestant Episcopal Sunday School Union, 1829-40, 1871-74; AP200.C5) , the Encourager [Methodist] (New York, vol. 1, 1846; AP200.E6)
, the Catholic Youth Magazine (Baltimore: Murphy, 1858-61; AP200.C3) , and the Juvenile Instructor [Mormon] (Salt Lake City: Cannon, 1866-73, AP201.J7) . Later Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905) edited St. Nicholas (New York: Scribner, 1873-1919; AP201.S3) , which focused more on entertainment than instruction.
Louisa May Alcott, 1888. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ61-452 (b&w film copy neg.)
Susan Warner (1819-1885), under the pseudonym Elizabeth Wetherell, wrote many domestic stories for girls, featuring pious,
earnest young women such as Ellen Montgomery, the orphan heroine of Wide, Wide World (New York: George Putnam, 1851; PS3155.W6 Juv), Warner's first and most popular novel. The first edition of Little Women (Boston: Roberts Bros., 1868; PZ7.A335 Li Juv) by Louisa May Alcott was published in 1868, introducing more believable and natural girl characters. Also in the collection
are the first works published under Alcott's name, Flower Fables (Boston: Briggs, 1855; PS1017.F6 Juv) and her rare Nelly's Hospital (U.S. Sanitary Commission ; E621.A35 Juv)
, which was written after she returned from volunteering at a military hospital.
Isabella M. Alden (1841-1930), who used the pseudonym Pansy, and Martha Finley (1828- 1909), who wrote under the pseudonym
Martha Farquharson, were prolific and popular nineteenth-century authors whose stories often featured girls and their adventures.
Harriet Mulford Stone Lothrop (1844-1924) wrote the Five Little Pepper books and many others under the pseudonym Margaret
The collection also holds many first editions by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), with illustrations by Helen Sewell. Other
women authors of children's books include Rebecca Sophia Clarke, Mary A. Denison, Theodosia Maria Foster, Frances Griswold,
Clara Guernsey, Augusta Larned, Johanna Matthews, Julia Mathews, and Sarah Stuart Robbins.