Adventures in Feministory: Louise Fitzhugh & Harriet the Spy
For my turn at Adventures in Feministory, I wanted to give props to the creator of a character that inspired girls to keep spy notebooks and make their own tool belts. A character that was every bit as unladylike as she was fond of gossip. A character who was unapologetically loud and rocked jeans and sneakers everyday. I am, of course, talking about Louise Fitzhugh and (my personal hero) Harriet the Spy.
Louise Fitzhugh was born on October 5, 1928 in Memphis, Tennesse. After her parents' divorce, she grew up predominately with her father and went on to attend three different colleges without obtaining a degree. She kicked off her short-lived writing career in 1961 with a beatnik parody of Eloise, titled Suzuki Bean. 1964 saw the introduction of Fitzhugh's most popular novel, Harriet the Spy. Fitzhugh's third novel, The Long Secret, was published in 1965, before the author died of a brain aneurysm in 1974 (at the age of 46). Several of her books were published posthumously, including Nobody's Family is Going to Change (1975) and Sport (1979).
Harriet the Spy has since won over fans because of its realistic and controversial depiction of girlhood, parenting (or lack thereof), and ill-mannered children. Harriet personified the childhood extremes of insisted independence and heartbreaking loneliness. With her parents preferring cocktail parties over family time, Harriet escaped into her journal and into the lives of those around her. From hiding out in dumbwaiters to peering into windows, Harriet insisted on knowing everything about everyone, regardless of how rude, entitled, and invasive that made her. A tomboy to the core, Fitzhugh presented a frank depiction of alternative girlhood. Though, not all are fans of our heroine. Harriet the Spy was banned from several schools. The reasoning? For teaching children to "lie, spy, back-talk and curse."
Well, from one loudmouth know-it-all to another, thank you Harriet and thank you Louise Fitzhugh.
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