Girvin, Brenda | Munition Mary
SOLD First edition, first impression of this important First World War adventure novel by the lesbian author Brenda Girvin (1884-1970). Uncommon with the decorative publisher’s cloth in such nice condition.
During the First World War “female authors were quick to take advantage of the changing social climate in which women were taking up the opportunities of more and varied work outside the home and for the war effort. The heroines, albeit fewer in number than their male counterparts, worked on the land, in the factories, and as army and ambulance drivers. Brenda Girvin’s eponymous heroine in Munition Mary (1918) single-handedly foils a German spy-ring attempting to sabotage the newly employed female labor force in the munitions factory owned by the fierce Sir William. Sir William is so prejudiced against women working outside the home that he will apparently walk up several flights of stairs rather than get into a lift operated by a woman. Mary’s colleagues initially blame the sabotage on Sir William himself, but the loyal Mary fights to prove his innocence and ultimately captures the Germans. Throughout however Girvin is at pains to let her readers know that Mary lost none of her ‘womanliness’ despite taking up men’s work” (Kennedy, The Children’s War: British Children’s Experience of the Great War, Goldsmith’s College PhD thesis, p. 218).
Girvin and her partner Monica Cosens (1888-1973) both served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the First World War, and Girvin dedicated this volume to her “munition friend” the artist Margaret Kemp-Welch (1874-1968), who presumably worked in one of the factories at the same time. Girvin and Cosens had extensive careers as children’s authors, often working together on books and plays. Together they built the remarkable vernacular-style holiday cottage Cock Rock in North Devon, which was designed by the prominent architect and landscape designer Oliver Hill (1887-1968) (Kepp, “Gardens by Oliver Hill in North Devon”, Journal of the Devon Gardens Trust, March 2020).
...Illustrated by Gertrude Demain Hammond. London: Humphrey Milford, 1918.
Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine and upper board gilt, elaborate illustrations to spine and upper board in black, yellow, and several shades of blue. Colour frontispiece and 3 plates. Sunday School prize bookplate awarded in 1927, the bookplate manufactured for Brown’s Bookstore in Hull. Small manuscript note on 1996 purchase loosely inserted. Spine rolled, lightly rubbed at the extremities with just a little loss of size from the lower corners of the boards, endpapers partially toned. A very good copy.