Expendable parents

While none of Haverfield's young characters die, wiping out one or both parents is a handy plot device creating a change in circumstances and often sending the heroine to school in the first place. In The Girl from the Bush, the entire plot rests on Hilary Walford's lack of parents, or even relatives. Abandoned at the station when sent to England from Australia after her father's death from a weak heart, she is temporarily taken in by Miss Knight at her school, an undertaking which the girls and their parents view as risky in the extreme. Illness intervenes again as we later discover that Mrs Harrison failed to meet her because was knocked down by a motor and has spent weeks in hospital. In The Luck of Lois, Lois' sister Vivian joins her at school following the death of her godmother who had adopted her. Stella West, the heroine of Just a Jolly Girl is an orphan sent to school by guardians, as is Sybil Tunstall in The Mascotte of Sunnyside.

Widowed mothers are suddenly forced to earn a living. In Meriel's Choice Meriel's mother turns their house into a teashop after her husband's death and much of the book deals with the snobbery, real or imagined, which Meriel faces at school as a "tea-shop girl". In The Ghost of Exlea Priory Mr Stanton's death leads to the family having to leave the Priory and move to London where their mother starts to run a school and daughter Molly resents their having gone down in the world. This is also the course taken by Mrs Craig in The Luck of Lois after her husband is killed out hunting and Ann Craig's sullen character at the start of the book stems from her resentment at having her home taken over by schoolgirls. The widowed mother in Audrey's Awakening takes a different course and the plot revolves around the arrival of a step-father and a new step-brother joining the family. The father in Sylvia's Victory remains alive but suffers a "paralytic stroke" from trying to save his failing business. This again leads to a fall in the family fortunes and Sylvia being sent to school, where she is pleased to accept a post as a pupil teacher because of the money she can bring in, despite becoming ostracised by her class-mates as a result.

In many of these cases the cause of death or the illness is unspecified. Was the death of a parent so common that Haverfield felt it unnecessary to go into details? It seems unlikely, given her plots, that she suffered from a lack of imagination.

[1] Encyclopaedia of Girls' School Stories, p 171

I am also indebted to the Encyclopaedia for the publication dates used throughout.

Appendix: Haverfield's school stories (again from The Book)
Our Vow 1898
Blind Loyalty 1900
The Ghost of Exlea Priory 1905
The Mascotte of Sunnyside 1906
Dauntless Patty 1909
Audrey's Awakening 1910
Sylvia's Victory 1910
Joan Tudor's Triumph 1918
The Girls of St Olave's 1919
The Happy Comrade 1920
The Luck of Lois 1920
The Girl from the Bush 1920
Just a Jolly Girl 1922
The Discovery of Kate 1925
The Madcap Trio 1927
Meriel's Choice 1933
Kate Lambert
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