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Kit Uses Her Head

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Kit Uses Her Head is part of the Short Stories collections, focusing on Kit Kittredge. It was released in Kit's Short Story Collection and never released as a single volume.


Only in Kit Uses Her Head

Story Summary

Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling are walking home from school. They are all very excited about an announcement their teacher has made about a weekly newspaper. They are all trying to decide on an article to write about and ask Ruthie's input, however she can't speak due to a sore throat. Kit also points out a rash on her neck. Though Ruthie wasn't feeling well, she still came to Kit's house faithfully. Two boarders, Miss Hart and Miss Finney are nurses, and the minute they see Ruthie, and examine her. Kit, Stirling, and Ruthie are quickly diagnosed with scarlet fever, a very serious illness.


The children being inspected.

Doctors are quickly called in the midst of utter confusion. With the doctor comes a commanding, tall women. As Stirling, Ruthie, and Kit are officially diagnosed, the chaos surges, until the women who accompanied the doctor shouts for quiet. Nurse Bergstrom, the woman, is from the Cincinnati Public Health Department and puts the house under quarantine. The children must be in a sickroom for six weeks, with no contact from anyone, except Miss Bergstrom and Mrs. Kittredge. Ruthie will stay with the Kittredges so two houses don't have to be quarantined. Nurse Bergstrom quickly takes over the situation. The hallway is blocked off, with the borders upstairs camping out in the living room. The Kittredges can use their bedroom, but only if they use a ladder outside. As the arrangements are made, the nurse announces that there is a heavy fine for anyone who breaches the conditions of quarantine.

The pillow fight.

The children are content for a few days, but quickly become bored. Soon, though, they get very tired from the medicine and sickness, with less time to play. Kit manages to type up an article on President Roosevelt, an idea the children discussed from the beginning. However, when she gives it to her mother to take to school, Nurse Bergstrom immediately crumples it up and burns it, so as to not spread the sickness.

After a few days, when the children start feeling better, Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling are found jumping on the beds, singing, and having pillow fights, much to the great chagrin of Nurse Bergstrom. Another day, Kit, Ruthie and Stirling were playing Tarzan. They were standing on the doorknob, and holding the tops of the doors and swinging back and forth through the porch. At this point, Nurse Bergstrom is very upset.

Their mother lectures them slightly and asks them to settle down. She also brings letters their classmates have sent them. After reading the letters, Kit and Ruthie and Stirling decide to write back and even draw pictures on the letters back to their classmates, though the letters will be burned anyway.

The three children being quiet.

After writing many letters of advice, they made an article titled "10 Fun Things to Do in Quarantine (When You Feel Well Enough!)." Stirling draws pictures, and Kit and Ruthie take turns typing, and were all very proud of their work. However, when Nurse Bergstrom comes in to clean, she gathers all the papers and walks out the door, much to the kids' dismay.

When Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling return to school, their classmates enthusiastically welcome them. And, much to their shock, they see their letter of advice publishes on the first page of the newspaper! After school, the children race home to question Nurse Bergstrom, who re-typed and traced every page, because she saw how much work and time they had spent on it. The children comment this must be because she was happy they were "using their heads-for heavens sake" as opposed to playing Tarzan.

Meet The Author

Valerie Tripp shares that writing Kit is especially fun for her as Kit's family and friends remind Valerie of her own family and friends. Aunt Millie is like her mother, Charlie is like her husband, Ruthie is a lot like her childhood best friend, Stirling was like her daughter, and Kit was like her friend.

Looking Back: Quarantine!

Discusses the treatment of scarlet fever during the 1930s. Topics covered:

  • Precautions people had to undertake to deal with scarlet fever, with patients being quarantined in order to stop the illness from spreading.
  • Quarantine being the main tool people used to stop dangerous diseases from spreading, with violating quarantine rules being against the law.
  • The differences in symptoms between scarlet fever and strep throat, despite the cause between both illnesses being the same type of bacteria.
  • Helen Poulsen, a young girl who was quarantined in her bedroom with her brother in 1932, and the various activities she did to help pass the time.
  • Lack of knowledge people had about the spread of scarlet fever, with everything the patients touched having to be burned or sanitized.
  • The discovery of penicillin in 1920, though it wouldn't be until World War II that it was used medically and was proven to cure various diseases.
  • Health effects from not treating scarlet fever, with blindness not being one of them, despite what had happened to Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister.
  • The progresses of medical science aiding in proving medication for scarlet fever and the discontinuation of six week quarantines.

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