“The Best Thing in a Girl’s Life”: Early Women’s Colleges in Fiction and Fact

College Girl Fiction

The college girl books are very similar to one another in terms of plots, characterizations, and so on.  This is due partly to the market forces that demonstrated what a successful series needed to include.  But there was also an expectation on the part of the writers, the readers, and college girls themselves, that an individual’s experience of school had a predictable trajectory.  We are familiar today with stereotyped ideas about a student’s progress through college; we speak of the “freshman fifteen”, the “senior slump,” and so on.  But in a college where all freshmen and sophomores took the same courses with few or no electives, where identity as a member of a specific class was reinforced from the first day, and where privileges changed and events were restricted depending on one’s class status, the student experience in fact differed predictably from one year to the next.  These differences were experienced as successive identities: the “green” freshman, the boisterous sophomore, the “jolly” junior,” and the dignified senior.

College Girl Fiction
Freshman Year

Bryn Mawr College Library