How to be a girl

This year I finished reading an old Australian book series called Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce, set in the early 1900’s in Victoria, Australia.  The story is set on a cattle station called Billabong, owned by David Linton who, as a single Dad raised his two children, Jim and Norah.  Both my Grandma and Mum grew up reading these books though they are sadly now out of print.  I loved these books (My Grandma had a copy of the series).  There is no way they will ever get back in print because they are pretty politically incorrect, but I’m so glad I’ve been able to find the books and read them myself.

Since reading them I’ve formed an opinion on something, which I’m about to tell you about and could get me excommunicated from Girl Books Inc. forever, if such a society existed.  Norah Linton is my favourite girl character out of all the girly books I’ve read.  Please don’t call me a heretic, but I have to say that I like Norah – the humble Australian the greater half of the world doesn’t know exists – better than the renowned Anne Shirley, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, Pollyanna, George Kirrin (from the Famous Five) and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Let me explain.  Norah Linton is not your ordinary girl.  She grew up on a huge cattle station; horse riding before she could walk and bush dancing like it was second nature.  The housekeeper, Brownie, taught her to cook and keep house and sew and knit.  She spent her days in the saddle with her Dad and brother mustering the cattle and camping in the bush.  She wasn’t an academic, but she knew what she needed to know academically.  Norah had good manners, knew right from wrong and loved making friends.

What I love about Norah was that she lived such a balanced life.  Norah knew how to cook better than a lot of girls, but she wasn’t absorbed in frills and lace.  She dressed nearly every day in a riding kit getting dirty, but Norah didn’t wish that she was a boy.  She liked being a girl, but was practical, enthusiastic, and ready to get hot and sweaty helping with the station’s work.

I think that’s the way to live.

Your thoughts?  By the way, if you would like to read these Australian books, the first one, A Little Bush Maid, is available in ebook format at Project Gutenburg.


23 thoughts on “How to be a girl

  1. This is so interesting! Just this past Sunday some friends and I were discussing this very thing, about how difficult it is to create a true and real girl character, and how often authors have failed at that. Examining each of our own selves revealed that while we all love pretty clothes and things, we all also enjoy being outdoors as well.

    Not sure when I’ll get around to reading the book from Gutenburg, but thank you for sharing the link, because I’m very interested! 🙂

  2. Great thoughts, Jessica! I do love that balance. And, not surprisingly, it makes me think of the Proverbs 31 woman. 🙂 It is being unafraid to work hard and get dirty and yet still loving to be a woman and doing “girly” things. Lots of good stuff. ^_^ haha
    The books certainly sound interesting. It always sad when something is printed anymore. 😦 We have a series that isn’t printed anymore that I love! I wish I could print things myself sometimes. 😛 lol

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Your friend,

    1. ‘M, that’s a good point Rachael! I love how the Proverbs 31 womans’ ‘arms are strong for the task’ and how she ‘does not eat the bread of idleness’

      1. Exactly! I once made a picture that I took of my mom’s hands. One hand was filthy with mud and the other was perfectly clean with her ring on it. So I took a picture of the two and in the middle of the picture wrote “Honor her for all that her hands have done” (which is actually in Proverbs 31).
        Then on the top and bottom I put a bit of a couple different verses next to her hands saying something about being a woman and the other about working hard.
        Did that all make sense? Anyways…so that’s just what always comes to mind when I think of the kind of woman you described. 🙂

        1. yes, that does make sense – that’s a really neat idea, although I’d like to know what on earth your Mum could have been doing with one hand that could get so dirty while she managed to keep the other hand white.

          It also proves that your Mum is right-handed! I’m a lefty.

          1. Yay! haha
            She was weeding and I guess just didn’t use her left hand. I’m not totally sure how she pulled it off though. lol That’s talent. 😉

            Oh that’s cool!! Is anyone else in your family left-handed? 🙂


            1. Ahh! Now I see!

              Josh is! I’ve heard that I won’t live as long as a right-hander, but I’ll get more things done while I’m here, and I’m OK with that. 😀 LOL

            2. haha Who told you that you won’t live as long as right-hander? XD So then how uncomfortable is it for you to write or do whatever with your right hand? Because I know it’s definitely more difficult for me to write with my left hand.

            3. Hi SK
              woops, I didn’t reply to your last comment… I heard it at the Rebelution conference (on DVD!)

              I use my right hand for the computer mouse, because Mum never thought of changing it over for Josh and I. Other than that I think I use my left hand for mostly everything. I can maybe use my right hand more than right-handers can use their left-hand though.


  3. Oh this post brought back memories! I love the Billabong series, and read them countless times as a girl/teen. Although I’m not a big fan of children’s fiction these days, I think the stories about Norah are great, and I love that they’re Aussie 🙂 My favourite character was Wally. I liked the first few books best, as they were more realistic. The ones later on (ie. about Norah’s honeymoon trip etc), aren’t as good, IMHO.

    1. Hi Bonnie! Great to hear from you! I haven’t read the first four in a few years so I was really excited to find the first one for free on Gutenburg. Yes, it can be hard to find decent fiction, and the best ones have just about always been the old books! Wally is my favourite too – I crack up on the inside just hearing the name! I love his tone of voice I hear in my head but I struggle to read aloud what he says in the right tone, so no one else ‘gets’ how funny he is. I’m glad I’ve found someone else who likes him as much as I do!


  4. Hello Jess,

    I have loved this series for a long time, and my sister has just started reading them. A hearty amen to you! Norah is an amazing character. I remember wishing after I had read the series that I had an older brother, because Jim and Norah, they truly loved each other. They didnt seem to quarrel. They got along as best friends.
    I think a girl shouldnt hide herself from dirt, but she should get in there and live in it. Great point about the Proverbs 31 woman, she definatly shows those attributes, she works hard.

    It hurts to say it, but I think I would agree with you that she is better than Anne Shirley. (The best part is she is Australian!)

    Now I feel an urge to go re-read all those books. *sigh*


    1. Hi Meggie
      Gah – so glad to find another fellow Billabong lover! I want to re-read the first ones again (I’ve just read the last ten or so this year – Captain Jim onwards) I love Jim and Norah’s friendship; I have a pretty good relationship with my big brother (and little sister and brother) but the books challenge me to build a special and better relationship with all my siblings!


  5. Thanks for ur article. My daughter is 12, and has always berm a strong reader, and finding good books for her to read, has always been a challenge. Very interested in the Billabong series, and will endeavor to ‘find’ some somehow. There is a website that has some of them called Australian used homeschool books…..thanks again for ur post :))

    1. Hi there
      Thanks for your comment! I’m sure your daughter would enjoy them… sometimes they seem a bit slow, but I like slower books, and they pick up at the climax of the story.


  6. “She liked being a girl, but was practical, enthusiastic, and ready to get hot and sweaty helping with the station’s work.” ….. Norah sounds SO MUCH LIKE ME!!
    Some of my friends eyes pop out when I tell them about some stuff I do and they are amazed that the girl they talk to on a Sunday after church who is all ‘dressed pretty’ had been pulling lambs, fencing, chainsawing or milking cows just the day before!! LOL!
    But… I LOVE IT! And, as someone had previously mentioned… the Proverbs 31 Woman was willing to get her hands dirty and work… I believe that there is so much beauty in a woman who is willing… just willing to serve and do everything to bring God glory!!

    Yep, so I’m all for girls getting their hands dirty… but be pretty and girly too!!


    1. Hi Emily,
      Thanks for commenting! That’s funny how you are all dressed up on Sunday but in your everyday are doing really hard work! 🙂 I am learning to roll up my sleeves and live in the reality of dirty, sweaty, tiring, but rewarding, work that God provides!

      God bless,

  7. Hi Jessica!
    I don’t know if you remember me, but I am the American girl that came to teen camp this past GFA conference. It was great meeting you and your family there. I was so excited when I found out that you were in the blogging world too!!!
    I hope you are doing well.

    1. Hi Ellen! I absolutely remember you – it was great to meet you and get to know you. Thanks for answering all my America questions. 😉 I was so excited to learn you had a blog, too!
      Keep in touch!
      Love, Jess

  8. Whoo! What a pleasure it is to find younger generation enjoying the Billabong series!! I stayed in a B & B a few years ago where the owner had a dozen or more other titles – first editions – written by Mary Grant Bruce. Though they made an interesting read they were not as interesting as the Billabong folk. Jess have you read ‘Golden Fiddles’ lately? For your friends info this is one of Mary Grant Bruces’s books that was reprinted more recently than any of the Billabong books and a very good read.- was also made into a mini series in Australia probably back in the seventies (you will have this I know Jess!) . Happy reading from Ham’G

    1. Hi Ham’G! Thanks for your comment! I’ve read Golden Fiddles maybe twice but not for years. I have seen the movie and loved it – I love old Australian movies because they have the best accents. Maybe I will read the book again sometime!


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