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What Are Little Boys And Girls Made Of?

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Julie Myers-Mushkin Dr. Nancy Theriot HIST 611: History of American Childhood 29 June 2015 What are Little Boys and Girls Made of? A Christian Challenge to Nineteenth-Century Gender Stereotypes in The Youth’s Companion, April 1865 “‘Come, Frank,’ said mother, one afternoon, ‘run and wash your hands extra nice, and then come here, and I will teach you how to make a short-cake. Mother has no daughter but you; so she must make the most of you’” (Clark’s 55). So begins “Frank’s Short-Cake,” a tale of a young boy who obligingly learns to cook by diligently working alongside his mother in the kitchen and ignores the provocation of schoolmates when they discover his lessons. Published in April 1865 in the children’s periodical The Youth’s Companion, the story chronicles Frank’s childhood culinary education and ultimate enlistment in the army, where he then realizes the value of his Christian upbringing and mother’s domestic instruction. The moral of “Frank’s Short-Cake,” as the narrator emphasizes at the story’s conclusion, is that “you do not know how much you may help a tired mother or sick sister, some dreary day, by having a ready, skillful hand in some of these simple domestic arts” (55). Nineteenth-century children’s periodicals such as Boston’s The Youth’s Companion were infused with moral tales like “Frank’s Short-Cake,” which emphasized the formation of proper character at an early age. Fictional accounts of the escapades and frivolity of youth entertained readers, and
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