Ponies, ponies, ponies
Esther Greenacre Hall
Esther Greenacre Hall spent her early years on a Colorado cattle ranch, which formed the background of two of her books. She wrote seven novels for older girls, which often featured young women and their careers, an unusual subject for the 1930s. Her Haverhill Herald sees the heroine taking over the running of her father’s newspaper when he was taken ill, and Sharon’s Career sees the heroine starting and running an antique shop. The heroine of her two horse novels, Holly Daggett, wants to be a doctor, and is at university. (Hall herself went to university). Holly plans to return to Colorado once she is qualified, as there is a shortage of doctors and patients might have a journey of many hours to get to the nearest.
I have found mention in a blog of Esther Greenacre’s father dying young of a wasting disease: if that was so, that perhaps explains why she has at least two of her heroines dealing with catastrophic illness in the family by working.
The plotline of girls wanting to be slim in College on Horseback may sound sexist now, but is less so when considered in context: formerly active girls and now spending most of their time at sedentary study: they can’t afford new clothes and want a healthy outdoor activity and riding seems the perfect solution!
Finding the books: Back to Buckeye is reasonably easy to find in the USA. The original printing of College on Horseback is expensive. The Random House reprint is much, much cheaper, but beware, as it lacks all internal illustrations. Neither title was published in the UK, and both are almost impossible to find here.
Links and sources
A blog entry on Esther Greenacre Hall
College on Horseback
Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, New York, 319pp. 1933, illus Paul Brown
NB: this edition is fully illustrated, and has Brown's best early work
Random House -
This edition has had the cover art colour tinted, is substantially smaller
(shorter, slimmer) than the original, and has no internal illustrations.
When Holly Daggett, fresh from a Colorado cattle ranch, began her freshman
year at Sierra University in California , she found herself plunged into a
bewildering world of dormitory rules, sorority functions, personal relationships
and campus traditions. Accustomed to breezy ranch people, Holly found
college girls formal and conventional. As she herself explained, “I’ve run wild
on the range all my life and I’m not used to these stable-
But there was one thing that Holly did know about more than most Sierra girls,
and that was horses. And so when her funds began to run low Holly turned to
horses for an income. Capitalising on the college girls’ desire to be slender,
Holly decided to offer riding lessons as a means for reducing. The only
drawback was a lack of horses!
Back to Buckeye
Junior Literary Guild/Harrison Smith & Robert T. Haas, New York, 317 pp. 1934, illus Lee Townsend
Holly Daggett is facing a busy summer. She goes home for a brief vacation. Home is Buckeye
Ranch, which her brother Van has been trying to make pay since the death of their father. Then
Van breaks his leg – with threshers coming and irrigation ahead. Holly decides to give up her
summer school and stay at Buckeye. It is a real sacrifice, but Holly faces the heavy tasks of
housekeeping, nursing Van, and cooking for hungry threshers bravely, as well as the other
complications which crop up.