The Girls of Central High Series   

The Girls of Central High Series
by Gertrude W. Morrison

Laura had not won her nickname of "Mother Wit" for nothing.  She had inventiveness; likewise she had a sane and sensible way of looking at almost any mysterious happening.  She did not get scared as Nellie did, or ignore a surprising thing as Jess did.

                                       —page 147, The Girls of Central High in Camp

This Stratemeyer Syndicate series was published by Grosset and Dunlap in hardcover with dust jacket from 1914 to 1919.  The series was later reprinted by Goldsmith and World Syndicate with different cover art.  Although credited to Gertrude W. Morrison, the actual author is W. Bert Foster.
Titles in the Girls of Central High Series:

  1. The Girls of Central High, 1914
  2. The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna, 1914
  3. The Girls of Central High at Basketball, 1914
  4. The Girls of Central High on the Stage, 1914
  5. The Girls of Central High on Track and Field, 1914
  6. The Girls of Central High in Camp, 1915
  7. The Girls of Central High Aiding the Red Cross, 1919

This series is primarily an adventure series with a small amount of mystery.  The first book focuses on the formation of a girls' athletic association and upcoming interschool competitions.  Laura Belding is the most important character and is known as "Mother Wit" for her solutions to any problem that confronts the group.  Laura's friends are Clara "Bobby" Hargrew who is an incorrigible tomboy; Josephine "Jess" Morse who is the daughter of an impoverished writer; mischievous identical twins Dora and Dorothy Lockwood; and Nellie Agnew, the doctor's daughter.  The different characters each play important roles in various books in the series.

The girls have several important foils.  The most formidable one is Miss Grace G. Carrington, assistant principal of Central High.  Miss Carrington disapproves of all school athletics and generally everything else that the girls like to do.  Miss Carrington baits the girls, especially outspoken Bobby Hargrew, and then punishes them by forbidding them to compete in the school activities.

The two other foils are Hester "Hessie" Grimes who is extremely nasty to the other girls and plays in such an unsportsmanlike fashion as to cause the girls to repeatedly lose games against other schools.  Hessie has one friend, Lily Peddleton.  Lily wears too much rouge and thinks very highly of herself.

The series has much humor, most of which centers around Prettyman "Purt" Sweet.  Purt is a glorified dandy who speaks in a very affected fashion and is the victim of many practical jokes.  From pages 72-73 in The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna, a thread from Purt's splendid new red sash has been fastened to the wheel of the car without his knowledge and is unraveling rapidly:

"What do you suppose is the matter with all these people?" demanded the unconscious Purt.  "I never did see the like.  Weally!  It's too ridiculous!"

"That's what it is!" laughed Bobby.

"Why!" exclaimed Purt, "they weally seem to see something about us to laugh at!  What can it be?"

"Must be you, Purt," said one of the boys.

"Widiculous!  There is nothing about me to laugh at, dear boy."

"Huh!" grunted his schoolmate.  "You're one big laugh all the time, Pretty, only you don't know it!"

Dust Jacket Gallery
  #1 The Girls of Central High
             Or, Rivals for all Honors
Laura Belding and her friends, Clara "Bobby" Hargrew, and Josephine "Jess" Morse eagerly anticipate the formation of a girls' athletic association at Central High School.  As the girls await the start of an organizational meeting, Bobby Hargrew fools around with a lit punk-stick in the principal's office as a practical joke.  Bobby is caught by Miss Carrington and is reprimanded.  A few minutes later, a fire breaks out in the office!

Miss Carrington accuses Bobby of carelessly throwing the punk-stick in the trash, thereby starting the fire.  Bobby staunchly maintains her innocence, but Laura is the only person who believes her.  Bobby is forbidden to participate in the after-school athletics.  Laura admonishes Bobby to behave well and to try to figure out how the fire did start—the girls desperately need her participation in athletics!

The Girls of Central High
Laura, Jess, and several other friends are fortunate to be selected to join the school's secret society, the M.O.R.'s.  During the initiation a cruel prank is played on Laura.  Laura's ingenuity enables her later to unveil the culprit, and in turn use the information to help Bobby.  Later, Laura discovers the true cause of the fire, and Bobby is finally able to participate in athletics.
  #2 The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna
             Or, The Crew That Won
The disappearance of Billy Long has baffled the entire town of Centerport.  Billy Long was last seen outside of Stresch & Potter's store helping some strange men take measurements.  A short time later the business was robbed!  Since Billy was seen shortly before the robbery, he is suspected to be involved!

Billy's friends insist that Billy is not the type of boy who would help stage a robbery, but still the rumors persist and Billy is nowhere to be found.  Billy's friends search the area in hope of finding a clue.

Dora and Dorothy Lockwood have a serious problem of their own when their Aunt Dora visits them.  Aunt Dora insists that the girls are being raised wrong and that her namesake, Dora, must come to live with her.  As the girls wish not to be separated, they make certain that Aunt Dora cannot tell them apart.

The Girls of Central High at Lake Luna
In the end, Billy Long is found and proves his innocence.  Dora and Dorothy gain new respect for Aunt Dora, who comes to their rescue when they are accused of unsportsmanlike behavior.  The girls both offer to visit Aunt Dora, but she insists that they stay home and that they are good girls after all.
  #3 The Girls of Central High at Basketball
             Or, The Great Gymnasium Mystery
If only Hessie Grimes could control her temper!  The girls have a splendid basketball team at Central High, but Hessie's bad temper repeatedly causes the girls to lose games.  Finally, the girls have had enough and request that she be removed from the team.

Hessie, tough girl that she is, takes the blow hard and seethingly declares that she hates all of the girls.  Matters worsen after someone breaks into the gymnasium and trashes it!  Hessie is the logical suspect, and soon Hessie finds that she has not even one friend left at school.

Hessie is headstrong and does whatever she wants.  Without a license, she takes her father's new car and drives around in the country.  Hessie's recklessness puts her in the path of a wildfire, and she rescues a burned man.  Together, Hessie and Mr. Billson drive around to 37 farms, warning the residents to flee.  Hessie refuses to let her name be put in the newspaper.

The Girls of Central High at Basketball
Later, Hessie has an opportunity to help a youngster who needs a blood transfusion, and Hessie's donation saves the boy's life.  Around this time, the girls learn of Hessie's good deeds and also reach the conclusion that they have no hope of winning the league trophy without Hessie's help.  Hessie is invited back to the team, and she and the other girls reach a new understanding.  Incidentally, the true gymnasium vandal is found and punished.
  #4 The Girls of Central High on the Stage
             Or, The Play That Took the Prize
Josephine Morse and her mother need money more than anything!  Josephine's mother is a writer, but her work is so irregular that the family is frequently behind on their bills.  The Morses reach a crisis when Jess is denied additional credit at the grocer, and on the same day, the landlord unfeelingly announces a rental increase.

Jess is excited when she learns of the M.O.R.'s contest—the girl who submits the best play will win a prize of $200!  What that money would mean!  Jess works hard on her play and waits nervously, hardly daring to hope that she has a chance at the prize.

A number of other people learn of the Morses' troubles through gossip, and Mrs. Prentice offers the Morses a cottage for rent at a slightly lower price than they were paying.  Mrs. Morse also obtains part-time work as the social writer for the newspaper.

The Girls of Central High on the Stage
Meanwhile, Lily Pendleton keeps company with flashy Mr. Pizotti; Laura Belding is certain that the man is somehow attempting to swindle Lily, but how to prove it?  In time, Jess learns that she has won the contest, and Lily is saved from an embarrassing situation.
  #5 The Girls of Central High on Track and Field
             Or, The Girl Champions of the School League
As a group of Central High girls hike in the woods, a gypsy girl is seen running, pursued by a man and a vicious-looking dog.  Soon after, the girls stumble into the gypsy camp.  A gypsy woman tricks the girls into revealing that they saw the girl, and the gypsies threaten the girls.  Fortunately, a farmer drives along on the nearby road, and the girls escape.

The gypsy girl is spotted again by Bobby Hargrew and others, and reveals that her name is Margit Salgo.  Margit is looking for a Central High teacher whose name is on a card that her gypsy captors possess.  Apparently this teacher has a connection to Margit's family.  Margit cannot read English and only knows that the teacher's name contains 18 letters.  Bobby deduces that the teacher is Miss Grace Gee Carrington!  Eventually, Margit begins attending Central High under the sponsorship of Miss Carrington.  Neither Margit nor Miss Carrington explain their connection.

The Girls of Central High on Track and Field
The gypsies continue to harass Margit as the interclass athletic competion approaches.  A jealous senior, Lou Potter, wants Margit out of the way so that she can compete in Margit's place.  Lou speaks to the gypsies and pays them to get Margit out of the way on the day of the competition.  It is only through Eve Sitz's quick thought and action that Margit is found in time to compete, and the gypsies are finally brought to justice.
  #6 The Girls of Central High in Camp
             Or, The Old Professor's Secret
Laura Belding and her five closest friends plan to spend part of their summer camping on Acorn Island in Lake Dunkirk.  Professor Dimp, who normally shows little interest in what the students do, overhears their plan and warns them away from the island.  The girls are mystified—why does "Old Dimple" care?

Lily Pendleton greatly desires to go with the other girls on the camping trip, especially since her crush, Purt Sweet, is going with the boys.  Laura and her friends have little liking for Lil and have no intention of taking her until Mrs. Belding promises Lil's mother that can Lil can go.  The girls must make the best of a bad situation.

A maid, "Lonesome Liz," is hired at the insistence of Lil's mother.  The group sets up camp and all goes well until Liz becomes frightened, insisting that a ghost haunts the camp!  Laura futilely tries to convince Liz that there is nothing to fear.

The Girls of Central High in Camp
Soon, it becomes apparent that a prowler is responsible for scaring Liz, and later, Liz acts mysteriously.  In time, the girls unexpectedly stumble upon Professor Dimp, who is disguised as a fisherman.  Professor Dimp holds the key to the mystery of the prowler, and once the girls learn the truth, they help right a wrong.
  #7 The Girls of Central High Aiding the Red Cross
             Or, Amateur Theatricals for a Worthy Cause
While balancing her father's books, Laura finds a bill printed as a $50 bill on one side and as a $100 bill on the other.  Mr. Belding insists that Chet make up the difference as he was the one who accepted the bill as payment.  Shortly, Laura and Chet leave the store and witness an automobile run down a man!  Chet insists that the injured man is the one who palmed the odd bill.  Chet can do nothing, since the man is badly injured and suffers from amnesia.

In the meantime, Laura becomes acquainted with Janet Steele, a girl who works for the Red Cross.  The Girls of Central High decide to perform a play to benefit the Red Cross.  All goes well, except Miss Carrington tries to interfere at every turn as she disapproves of the play that is chosen.

Purt Sweet is suspected of driving the car that ran down the man in the street.  Purt insists that he is innocent, but refuses to reveal his whereabouts at the time of the accident.  What is Purt hiding?

The Girls of Central High Aiding the Red Cross
It is Laura's quick mind that uncovers what Purt is hiding and discovers who was driving the car that hit the stranger.  Additionally, Laura brilliantly deduces the true identity of the strange man and helps bring happiness to Janet Steele's family.
Back to Main Page