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Growing Girls (1949)


Main image of Growing Girls (1949)
35mm, black and white, 12 mins
DirectorWinifred Holmes
Production CompanyFilm Producers Guild
ProducerOswald Skilbeck
ScriptWinifred Holmes
NarratorWinifred Holmes

The changes girls can expect in their bodies as they reach adolescence, and practical advice for dealing with them.

Show full synopsis

After several farmyard analogies featuring chicks and calves, the well-spoken narrator and director of the film, Winifred Holmes, considers the subject of girls and how they reach adulthood and readiness for the "important job of motherhood".

A grammar school biology teacher, Lavinia Higson, was the educational adviser on the film. She wrote a piece in the film magazine Imagery about the film's aim of illuminating the major changes in adolescence in girls, "which, if unexplained, may cause great mental perturbation, resulting in a wrong outlook on sex and marriage".

The film portrays adolescence as a happy and active time, showing young girls engaged in healthy recreations such as hockey and swimming. Having shown their youthful bodies in action, the changes the girls can expect are shown by means of drawings of the developing body. The internal changes are then considered by means of illustrations and animated diagrams, notably an egg on its route from the ovary and out of the body, resulting in menstruation.

The film's sponsor, Southalls, was a sanitary wear manufacturing company, and this is reflected in the prominence of 'sanitary pads' in the film. The importance of hygiene is emphasised in the detailed description of the use of sanitary pads and their correct disposal - by means of burning or in a special closet (also made by Southalls), though the likelihood of these options in a typical home is not clear. And some of the advice seems less than convincing nowadays - such as the importance of menstruating girls keeping their feet dry.

Winifred Holmes was a journalist, filmmaker and poet who also worked as a producer of talks for the BBC Home Service and for many years was a leading figure in the Women's Council. Her first husband was J.B. Holmes, also a documentary filmmaker, who directed The People At No. 19 (1949).

Growing Girls was awarded first prize at the Venice Film Festival (Physiology category) in 1949 and the film was distributed free of charge to schools, youth clubs and Women's Institutes.

Ros Cranston

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Growing up (6:25)
2. Practical advice (5:17)
Complete film (12:09)
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