Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jane Allen #1, Jane Allen of the Sub-Team

The Jane Allen College Series is, not surprisingly, about Jane Allen's life at Wellington College.

Jane Allen of the Sub-Team introduces Jane, who is 16 at this point, her father, Henry, who is a wealthy (natch) Montana rancher, and her spinster Aunt Mary, who has moved in with them after the death of Jane's mother ("Dearest," aka Dorothy) when Jane was 12. Is there any greater predictor of mortality than being the parent of a series heroine? Apparently it was Jane's mother's dying wish that she be educated at Wellington Seminary, which is now Wellington College. Jane is a spoiled tomboy who HATES the idea of going east to school. HATES.

Jane has never had girl friends her own age and can't see the point of courting them. She's rude and stand-offish, with a terrible temper. I enjoy having an imperfect heroine, but Jane at this stage is pretty much unbearable. Of course, with the encouragement of her roommate Judy Stearns and other friends, she eventually becomes more pleasant and makes friends. For a series whose gimmick is basketball, it's not introduced at all until the sixteenth chapter and isn't really a focus of the plot, which suits me just fine. Anyway, with some strategic injuries, illnesses, and resignations, Jane eventually makes the main team and leads them to victory over the sophomores.
  • "Once she was imprisoned in that hateful seminary she would die. Her father and Aunt Mary would be sorry. She pictured herself slowly dying of grief and homesick longing. Some day, soon after they sent her away, a telegram would come to El Capitan. Her father would open it and read, 'Come at once. Your daughter died last night.' Then, when it was too late, they'd understand. Jane wept afresh in sheer sorrow for her untimely end." I wish the whole book were as funny as this passage implies.
  • Jane has a portrait of "Dearest," to whom she talks. Dearest is her inspiration to do good.
  • Jane reads a book series, Beatrice Horton's _____ Year at Exley (First through Fourth years), on her way east. For the record, it doesn't really exist, but I'm entertained by the whole meta aspect.
  • She meets the series enemy, Marian Seaton on the train east. Her main flunky is Maizie Gilbert, and while she has others, they eventually defect. Seriously, over the course of the series, Jane inspires more conversions than a messianic figure.
  • She lives at Madison Hall, under the auspices of Mrs. Weatherbee. Mrs. Weatherbee messes up the room assignment, and she and Jane haven't resolved their differences by the end of this book.
  • Friends and character traits: Judy (bizarrely absent-minded), Dorothy Martin (benevolent/saintly upperclassmen), Adrienne Dupree (elfin daughter of French dancer), and Norma Bennet (poor girl working her way through Wellington waiting tables at Madison Hall).
  • In old books like this, girls have "crushes" on each other, not on boys. They also invite each other to dances. I know Clair Blank hadn't been to college when she wrote the Beverly Gray books, but I wonder who had the boys at dances bit correct.
  • They have a Morris chair in their room.
  • The Rutherford Inn is their off-campus gathering place.
  • Jane is tall, with auburn hair, grey eyes, and a size 5A foot. This is my own coloring, which I've always thought was relatively uncommon, but which fits at least one character in about every series.
  • The series does have some fashion descriptions, but I'm not a huge fan of 1910s style, honestly.


  1. This series sounds similar to Grace Harlowe in several ways. Basketball is very important to Grace Harlowe, and it gets more time than I would like. I never get into sports descriptions.

    It sounds like Jane is as good with conversions as Grace Harlowe. I prefer it when the bad girls get sent away.

    The girls have crushes in the Grace Harlowe books as well, and from my modern perspective, it makes me want to read more into it than is really there.

    The auburn hair with gray eyes does show up rather often in series books. Could it be that series book authors considered it as sort of an ideal? Did they like it from reading that description in other series books?

  2. There is probably a good reason for this. At least the first two Jane Allen volumes and the high school and college Grace Harlowe series were written by Josephine Chase (1883-1931).

    I'd like to know if she did all of the Jane Allen volumes. It might be useful to do a QSUM text analysis of sample chapters from each of the volumes in the series plus other works known to be by Josephine Chase.


  3. First, for Jennifer:
    I really don't care about the basketball aspects of the story, so it's a relief that they're minimal. Ironic, considering that's the premise of the series. I also think it's ridiculous that Jane has never played before and is now the star player.

    I get a bit tired of the enemies in these series. They do add interest, but I don't think they really read true. It would be even more interesting to have the enemies be stiffly polite and just dislike one another, instead of actively being out to get the heroine for absolutely no reason (or out of jealousy).

    I think some of the grey eyes bit, at least, has to do with changing standards of beauty. Currently blue eyes are ideal, so most people with any kind of lighter/unpigmented (genetically speaking) eyes tend to be described as having blue. The idea of grey as a normal eye color, which is common in any book pre-WWII, has really exited our cultural lexicon.

    Conversely, books like Jane Eyre make me think that green eyes (which commonly go with red hair), were considered undesirable. So maybe grey was a pleasant alternative description?

    Finally, the most famous fictional character with that combination is Anne of Green Gables, who is, if you think about it, a truly iconic and archetypical series heroine. I suspect that that ideal may come from her to an extent. I also think that the choice (both for Anne and the later characters) may stem from the idea that it implies an interesting character. Red hair is often thought to go with a passionate nature and fiery temper, while grey eyes are generally considered indicative of intelligence (think Sherlock Homes) and to a certain extent a dreamy, "starry-eyed," inner beauty. So an intriguing combination, both physically and internally.

    And this is most probably overthinking it entirely!

  4. For James:
    I think after the third title (I can't remember offhand), the cast of characters change pretty significantly, and, in my opinion, the writing style does as well, becoming more contemporary and chatty.

    While the characters remain the same in the third volume, the writing style does seem a bit different. So while I lean towards thinking the final volumes were probably by a different author, I'm not quite sure on the third.

  5. In 1932, after Edward Stratemeyer died, the Syndicate received an unusual request. Arthur T. Leon of Cupples & Leon wanted them to add a volume to the Jane Allen series since "the original author has passed away." We know that Josephine Chase died in 1931 so this fits but it does not account for other writers in the middle.

    As was common, this series was probably sold outright to C&L so they might have used Chase for the first two (Sub Team, Right Guard) and a second author beginning with volume three (Center).

    I just checked and a couple of the Jane Allen books are available online for those who would like to sample them for free.

    1 Jane Allen of the Sub Team (1917)

    2 Jane Allen: Right Guard (1918)

    3 Jane Allen: Center (1920)

    4 Jane Allen: Junior (1921)

    5 Jane Allen: Senior (1922)

    The title the Syndicate was supposed to supply in 1932 was Jane Allen: Graduate. After a decade I imagine that C&L reissued the other books in a cheaper edition and found the sales good so wanted a sixth title to round out the series.

    It may be possible to transcribe a chapter or two from each story plus samples from other known writers to guess at some candidates for the authorship of these later (bad) books.

    One thing that struck me when I was doing a "Jane Allen" search on Google Books was that there is a specific reference to her being on the team for 1920--the year the book was released. Most series books try to be a bit timeless and avoid such references except when they are set around historic events such as wars in the past or present.

    The choice of titles where she is portrayed in each position reminds one of the works of authors like Ralph Henry Barbour who used various football positions. In that example, however, a different character name appears in the title even though the same team is described in the books.

    It is certainly possible that a male writer took over for Chase for volume 3. We have already seen this for the Grace Harlowe books where the two school series are by Josephine Chase and the Overseas and Overland Riders were by Frank G. Patchin (an Altemus writer). A similar situation may have occurred with Jane Allen.

    Stratemeyer said that he had a hard time finding good writers of girls' series volumes. He ended up having his best success for many years with W. Bert Foster beginning with Ruth Fielding.

    If I find some spare time I will see about typing in some chapters (probably in the middle) from each of these five volumes and round up some similar sample texts. As you can imagine, this takes time and if any people want to volunteer to supply carfully-typed texts of the books only available in scanned page image PDFs, I will edit them to ensure that they are usable in the QSUM analysis program I wrote to implement that technique.


  6. Jane Allen, Graduate is mentioned as a ghost title (as far as I know) at the end of Jane Allen, Senior. I wish it had been written, as Senior is, in my opinion, the most interesting title of the series, setting up Graduate to probably be about Jane's career as a social worker, as well as a romance.

    I noticed the 1920 reference as well and meant to comment on it. None of the other books make any specific references, and the first two books make barely any mention of WWI, even.

    It is possible that Chase wrote the series and was told for whatever reason to change the characters after the first two volumes. Basketball is barely mentioned in the later volumes, too, and Jane's temper and Judy's absent-mindedness (their only character traits) also disappear. It's hard for me to judge if the actual writing styles change between the books, so I'll be very interested in your analysis, should you be able to do it.

  7. *Spoilers ahead!*

    Am I missing something at the end of the book? We go from Roberta Hurley requesting Jane's resignation from the sub team at the end of chapter 24, to Jane taking Alicia's place on the freshman team in chapter 25 with no explanation of exactly what has happened in between?


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