Why did the figure of "the girl" come to dominate the American imagination from the middle of the nineteenth century into the twentieth? In Consumerism and American Girls' Literature, Peter Stoneley looks at how women fictionalized for the girl reader ways of achieving a powerful social and cultural presence. He explores why and how this scenario of buying into womanhood became, between 1860 and 1940, one of the nation's central allegories, one of its favorite means of negotiating social change. From Jo March to Nancy Drew, girls' fiction operated in dynamic relation to consumerism, performing a series of otherwise awkward maneuvers: between country and metropolis, "uncouth" and "unspoilt," modern and anti-modern. Covering a wide range of works and writers, this book will be of interest to cultural and literary scholars alike.