Now-vanished, but worthy of a revival (at least in spirit) Victorian girls' activity-game as chronicled by Lina & Amelia Beard, in The American Girl's Handy-Book.

Way back in the day when families depended on wild hickory, as well as chest-, beech-, and black walnuts, as food in the winter months, as well as many more affluent families, it was considered a genteel amusement for young ladies to go out in groups, often unchaperoned, and gather baskets full from the surrounding forests. The first one who fills their basket, or gets a certain amount in a given time period, is the Little Brown Squirrel, given a symbolic badge (made of waxed nuts, gold paint, and a cloth ribbon in the book, Edith Wharton fans can imagine it coming from Tiffany's) and dubbed the Queen of the Afternoon.

Now, then. Here's the interesting part. With power comes responsibility. Let me say it again. With power comes responsibility. And let me shout it loud: With power comes responsibility. This means that although it's up to the LBS to make command decisions for the rest of the group (Mrs. Beard quaintly suggests "how and where to cross a stream", for instance, but you can easily imagine other challenges) she's supposed to do what she thinks the rest of the group will like, until the end of the party.

It would be an interesting exercise in reality TV-in-life to try this with a group of contemporary girls of the age (9-12) suggested for this activity. Even having replaced the "nuts" with something more identifiable (hidden foil-wrapped balls, perhaps?) could the average ego-stroked, hierarchalized preteen deal with actual leadership, as opposed to a infantilized fantasy royalty?

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