Juliana Horatia Ewing (née Gatty, 3 August 1841 – 13 May 1885) was an English writer of children’s literature. Her short story “The Brownies”, first published in 1865, gave Agnes Baden-Powell the idea and the name for the junior level of the Girl Guides, the brownies,[1] but that was not the only one of her stories to have an impact on real life. The Story of a Short Life (1885) inspired the child welfare reformer Grace Kimmins to start the Guild of the Poor Brave Things to help London children with disabilities, taking their motto of Laetus sorte mea (Happy in my lot) from her book.[2]

Personal life

Usually known as Julie, Juliana was born in the vicarage at Ecclesfield near Sheffield, the second of eight children of Alfred Gatty (1813–1903), Church of England clergyman, and his wife, Margaret Gatty, née Scott (1809–1873). She was educated largely by her mother, who was herself an author of children’s fiction and the founder of Aunt Judy’s MagazineBritish magazine for young people founded in 1866.,[1] published from 1866 until 1885.[3]

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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Much of Julie’s work made its first appearance in Aunt Judy’s Magazine, in which she often wrote as Aunt Judy herself. She grew up to become a devout Anglican, and was responsible for establishing the Ecclesfield village library. After her mother’s death Julie and her sister Horatia took over the editorship of Aunt Judy’s Magazine, but two years later Horatia became the sole editor.[1]

Critical reception

The biographer and children’s writer Roger Lancelyn Green has described Julie’s works as the “first outstanding child-novels” in English literature.[4] The author and poet E. Nesbit was another admirer of her work, which in the words of her biographer Susan Drain were “Realistic and rarely over-sentimental … and they retain their attraction for the reader who appreciates humour, country life, happy but interesting families, and a sensibility distinctly but not dismally Victorian.”[1]

See also