It’s been a while since I’ve bought any new Ladybird books. Partly because I was trying to save money, but also partly because they just weren’t to be found in local charity shops at a reasonable place. I’ve been travelling around the country a lot more recently though, and in doing so discovering new charity shops, and more Ladybird books!
The whole of Ladybird Tuesday started with me featuring a book from series 606B, People at Work, when I wrote about In a Hotel. Since then though I’ve gone on and actually featured quite a few of this series, and it remains one of my absolute favourites.
Fire fighting has changed quite a bit since 1962 when The Fireman was first published. For starters, I’m pretty sure that “firefighter” is the term used nowadays. As with so many books from the People at Work series, The Fireman is full of sexism. Not only, as the title suggests, does it only feature men in the fire fighting roles, but it also includes what is probably one of the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it!) lines in a Ladybird book. When talking about when the fire engines have left the station and the leader keeps in touch with the station by radio, there is this absolute gem:
The radio operator, at the fire station, is sometimes a girl.
There you have it. Not only is there the suggestion that a “girl” could never possibly be a radio operator out in the field somewhere. Heaven forbid. But, also she is referred to as a “girl”.
Looking at the accompanying illustration I’m pretty sure that they’re not talking about someone of school age here. So, what is wrong with calling them a woman? Could it possibly be because they have to be looked down on in some way due to their gender?
Setting aside the sexism that was rife in Ladybird books of that period, The Fireman is actually quite a charming look back in history at what the fire service was like back in the 1960s here in the UK. Things have obviously changed and progressed, but I kind of like these little historical snapshots if you know what I mean.