The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894-1930

The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894-1930

The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894-1930

The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894-1930

Synopsis

In North America between 1894 and 1930, the rise of the "New Woman" sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world. As she demanded a public voice as well as private fulfillment through work, education, and politics, American journalists debated and defined her. Who was she and where did she come from? Was she to be celebrated as the agent of progress or reviled as a traitor to the traditional family? Over time, the dominant version of the American New Woman became typified as white, educated, and middle class: the suffragist, progressive reformer, and bloomer-wearing bicyclist. By the 1920s, the jazz-dancing flapper epitomized her. Yet she also had many other faces.

Excerpt

Although scholars disagree as to when the phrase New Woman was coined, the 1894 exchange between British writers Sarah Grand and Ouida in the North American Review certainly brought it into general circulation. Immediately, the New Woman sparked debate on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world. Who was she and where did she come from? What did she represent? Would she last? Was she to be celebrated as the agent and sign of progress or reviled as a traitor to the traditional family and by extension her race? Whether the American New Woman signified a suffragist, progressive reformer, prohibitionist, or flapper, her emergence signaled a tidal change in women's roles. Although women of previous generations had seemed to be comfortingly fixed as abundant, selfless Nature, by the turn of the twentieth century, as increasing numbers of women demanded a public voice and private fulfillment through work, education, and political engagement, women, like their male counterparts, seemed to be evolving. The rise of the American New Woman represents one of the most significant cultural shifts of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and in this anthology I have striven to represent the variable web of her development through print culture artifacts published from 1894 to 1930. These texts reveal the sometimes paradoxical but always impassioned appeals inspired by the New Woman during one of the most important eras in the history of the feminist movement.

But evolving to what? Was woman realizing her distinctiveness from man by developing her inherent altruism, or was she demonstrating her similarity to man in her desire for meaningful work? Was she more concerned with the goals of mass political movements or her own personal self-expression? Was she invested in progressive social change, revolutionary upheaval, self-indulgence, personal freedom, or what to our contemporary perspective appear as frightening programs of social engineering? In the documents I have assembled here, the New Woman represents all of these contradictory positions and more: suffragist, prohibitionist, clubwoman, college girl, American girl, socialist, capitalist, anarchist, pickpocket, bicyclist, barren spinster, mannish woman, outdoor girl, birth-control advocate, modern girl, eugenicist, flapper, blues woman, lesbian, and vamp. She is conceived differently in . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.