How Enid Blyton Made Me a Feminist

Famous Five


Enid Blyton was prolific author mainly known for children’s books although she’s not been too popular in recent years because of the politically incorrect tone of her books. Aged  6 or 7 I knew nothing about political correctness; the term hadn’t been invented. I did know about reading though and I loved Enid’s work with a passion.

I was working class kid born in the mid 1950s. We didn’t really have many books in our house but my Dad taught me to read before I went to school and I had a few of my own, unusually so for someone from my background. But I wanted more (I have always coveted books.)

With a friend, I discovered the unadulterated joy of jumble sales (thrift sales). You could bowl along to your local church hall or Scout hut, with just a few pennies in your purse and come away with all sorts of treasure. The women who ran these events clearly took pity on this eager child and would give me all sorts of things for next to nothing. My best ever haul was getting a whole slew of hardback Enid Blyton Famous Five story books for less than sixpence! They were deep red and I can conjure up the musty, intense smell now. How I loved those books! I read them over and over again. Their paper covers had long since gone so I had no images to relate to, which, as it turned out, was a very good thing.

In case you’re not familiar with The Famous Five (although I am sure you will have seen many spoofs) here is an explanation:

The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton.
The Famous Five are a group of children who have the sort of adventures most kids dream about, in a world where ginger beer flows and ham rolls are a staple diet. Julian, Dick and Anne get together with their cousin George in the first adventure, Five On A Treasure Island.

George is actually a girl who wants so desperately to be a boy she crops her hair and struts about doing boy things. She hates it when people call her by her correct name, Georgina. She has a dog called Timmy—oh yes, and an island. Most kids just have a dog, but George’s parents own Kirrin Island and let her run around on it as if it were her play-thing. Her parents are known to Julian, Dick and Anne as Uncle Quentin and Aunt Fanny.

Notice the names? Julian. JULIAN! In my working class world no boy was called Julian (and lived to tell the tale), and my Dad’s mates were all Jims, Freds and Bills, and my brothers were John and Jamie.  I simply assumed that Julian was a girl for ages. I knew George was so it made sense to me that Julian was as well. Posh people with islands clearly had odd names. Julian was the leader, she took charge of everything and everyone , (except George, sometimes,) and everyone did what she said. By the time I found out Julian was a boy I’d been well and truly inoculated. Girls could be leaders!

Thanks, Enid.

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Posted on July 5th, 2016 by

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