Angela Brazil was born in Lancashire on the 30th of November 1868 to parents Clarence Brazil and Angelica McKinnel and was the youngest of their four children. The family moved around the Lancashire area for Clarence Brazil's work as a mill manager and then into the Manchester area. In later years, after her father's death, they moved to the Conwy Valley in Wales. In 1911, Brazil finally relocated and settled in Coventry, keeping house for her brother and later being joined by her sister.
It is said that Angela's mother, Angelica had a large impact and influence in her young life. In a break with the tradition of the Victorian era in which Angela and her sister Amy grew up, their mother was very involved in their upbringing and encouraged their interest in things such as music and literature. This fostered a love which would stay with Angela for life, as it is known that she was widely read and was a collector of early children's fiction, as well as an author in her own right.
Brazil was educated from the age of four in different establishments, notably The Turrets in Wallesey, a small private school and later at the girls' school Ellerslie, in Malvern, where she eventually boarded. She also later attended art school in London along with her sister.
Angela dabbled with writing in her pre-teen years when she co-wrote and produced a 'magazine' with her close friend Leila. There was then some success with magazine articles she had published whilst she was living in Wales. She was heavily influenced and enthralled by the mythology and fairy folklore she found there. Her first book was published in 1899 and was a series of four plays for children 'The Mischievous Brownie', which also incorporated her love of the fantastical.
It wasn't until she was in her thirties that Brazil started writing seriously for children, however, with 1904 seeing the release of her first children's novel, A Terrible Tomboy, which is thought to be autobiographical, based on adventures she shared growing up with Leila.
For most though, Angela Brazil is synonymous with the genre of Girls School Stories and although she by no means invented it, she certainly exerted great influence on the direction it would eventually take. It moved away from the educational and academic style, intended to teach moral values, more to pure entertainment for young girls. 'The Fortunes of Philippa' (1907) is seen as her first novel specifically in the Girls' School Stories category. Brazil wrote using the perspective of the pupils at a girls' boarding school, detailing their life, friendships, and boisterous fun that they are part of, which would have no doubt amused and pleased her readers. Perhaps her popularity stemmed from the girls who were reading the stories being able to relate more to these characters than to earlier school stories, which were for their instruction.
Unlike other later writers such as Enid Blyton and Elinor Brent-Dyer who used a 'series' style approach, writing a collection of books about the same school and pupils, Brazil wrote upwards of 50 novels about boarding school life, but only a few of them 'overlapping' in this sense.
It appears that her novels, although seen by some as formulaic, also reflected the changing opinions and attitudes of the time towards girls' education and their greater social freedoms after events like the Great War. In fact, some of Brazil's novels were banned and even burned in some schools, as the teachers and those in authority viewed them as a bad influence on young girls' minds. This, however, did not affect Angela Brazil's popularity with her target audience.
Throughout her writing career, Brazil also wrote many short stories which were published in such publications as Little Folks (one of her own favourites from childhood), Blackie's Girl's Annual and other anthologies.
The author died in March 1947, while living in Coventry.
Contributed by Joanne
(Published 11th May 2022)