The American Girls Handy Book:

How to Amuse Yourself and Others

If Tom Sawyer had been a girl, Aunt Polly would certainly have seen to it that she had a copy of this book—and with a heartfelt blessing. It’s a magical cornucopia of projects, devices, toys, gifts, dolls, recipes, decorations, perfumes, wax and clay modeling, oil and water-color painting and games, all with clear and practical directions for how to make and play them. Vintage Americana by the Beard sisters, two of the founders of Girl Scouting in the United States.

See also The American Boy’s Handy Book and The Field and Forest Handy Book.

In the Beard sisters’ version, ‘the American girl’ ranges in age from eight to eighteen. Healthy and spirited, she thinks nothing of taking a ten-mile ‘romp’ through woods and fields with a group of friends, and collects flowers and leaves for preservation or presentation to friends and relations. Above all, however, the Beards’ girl is handy. She can make a hat rack, a screen, or a bookshelf; fashion a macrame hammock or a cornhusk doll; and draw, paint, sculpt, or decorate a room. The American Girls Handy Book, in short, by emphasizing what girls can do, presents a portrait of girlhood that is vigorous, active, and full of possibilities.
—From the foreword by Anne M. Boylan


This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.

Lina Beard was the sister of Adelia Beard and Daniel Beard. With her sister, Lina co-founded the first American girls’ scouting group, known originally as the Girl Scout Society, then the Girl Pioneers, and finally as the Camp Fire Girls. She was greatly interested in equal franchise for women and was a member of the Equal Franchise Society of Flushing. Lina and Adelia co-authored several books together, the most well-known of which is The American Girls’ Handy Book.

Adelia Beard was the sister of Lina Beard and Daniel Beard. With her sister, Adelia co-founded the first American girls’ scouting group, known originally as the Girl Scout Society, then the Girl Pioneers, and finally as the Camp Fire Girls. She also contributed funds to the Good Citizenship League. Lina and Adelia co-authored several books together, the most well-known of which is The American Girls Handy Book.

Anne M. Boylan is a historian of the nineteenth-century United States and of women and gender, and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Women and Gender Studies. A graduate of Mundelein College (B.A. 1968) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. 1973), she has published articles in The Journal of American History, American Quarterly, The Journal of the Early Republic, and other scholarly journals. Her books are Sunday School: The Formation of an American Institution, 1790–1880 (Yale University Press, 1988); The Origins of Women’s Activism: New York and Boston, 1797–1840 (University of North Carolina Press, 2002) and Women’s Rights in the United States: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is currently researching the production of popular versions of women’s history in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. She has been the recipient of fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Radcliffe Research Scholars Program; the Hagley Museum and Library; the Western Association of Women Historians; the American Association for State and Local History; the Middle States Council for the Social Studies; and the University of Delaware.