Competing Girlhoods: Competition, Community, and Reader Contribution in the Girl's Own Paper and the Girl's Realm

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Popular girls' magazines from the late Victorian period frequently addressed and characterised readers as "our girls." The sense of inclusive community conjured up by these words is a key feature of the success of these periodicals, which needed to work hard to ensure a dedicated readership in an increasingly crowded literary marketplace. The remarkable success of the penny weekly Girl's Own Paper, launched in 1880, led to the publication of many new girls' periodicals in the 1880s and 1890s, including the sixpenny monthly Girl's Realm in 1898. Though differing in terms of price, both magazines share a preoccupation with creating a strong sense of community amongst their readers. This article argues that the valorisation of communities of girls represents an attempt to accommodate readerships that are often diverse in terms of nationality, geographical location, class, and age, but these are attempts that are often unsuccessful. It suggests that this lack of success can be glimpsed most clearly at those points in the magazines that specifically require reader interaction--competitions, correspondence pages, or reading clubs. Rhetoric employed to encourage reader participation reveals a great deal about the assumptions and evasions that frequently characterise the implied readership of these magazines. The article considers what the identification of historical readers can begin to tell us about the narrative inconsistencies at play and offers evidence to suggest that readers were sometimes willing to register their dissent over the nature of these idealised communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-300
Number of pages23
JournalVictorian Periodicals Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Girlhood
  • Victorian
  • Magazines


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