Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Girls at Saint Brides

Reading is a passion of mine and it is not uncommon for authors  to write a whole series of stories that are self contained and over time start again which does make it hard pick a series to work ones way through.
In the instance of Dorita Fairlie Bruce, she actually wrote five whole series so I've cherry picked this the start of the St. Brides/Maudlsey series to work my way through.
 Originally written in nineteen twenty-three and long out of print, this introduces to Island School of St. Brides on Inchmore far away from industrial west coast of Scotland and introduces us to its main characters although it obviously was not conceived as part of the "Nancy at St.Brides" series at the outset as Nancy doesn't make an appearance!
One strong point of this book is the inclusion of a disabled girl, Winifred who was disabled in early childhood and uses a wheelchair which is very rare for the period and how it touches on the idea of integration, talking about the sense of isolation and lack of acceptance showing how in this school and through the friendship with Morag, she emerges becoming very much a part of the school community.
Integrated education is as I know from direct personal experience as a disabled girl is still controversial and indeed for a period many did not have what would be recognized as a (appropriate) academic education.
Because it was written in nineteen twenty-three, Dorita does use the term "Cripple" to describe Winifrid which would jar many today but we need to remember that it's from the German term "Krupil" and one of the meanings of that word is "lame" which medically speaking is true as her limbs are indeed just that as are mine. It also is the case cripple don't acquire the common abusive undertones it did in the nineteen fifties and sixties as did "spastic" both of which went on unofficial blacklists of terms not to be used from the late seventies onward but Dorita in fairness uses cripple with sensitivity.
I judge what people say by what they say and mean never by an 'approved' list of terms.

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