A Magazine of Her Own? Domesticity and Desire in the Woman's Magazine, 1800-1914

By Margaret Beetham | Go to book overview

8

THE NEW WOMAN AND THE NEW JOURNALISM
Who cuts her back hair off quite short
And put on clothes she didn't ought,
And apes a man in word and thought?
New Woman.
Who rides a cycle round the town,
In costume making all men frown
And otherwise acts like a clown?
New Woman.
Who's sweetest of the sweet, I say,
Because she throws not sex away,
Is always lady-like, yet gay?
True Woman.

(Entry to a competition to define the New Woman, Home Chat, 21 Sept. 1895:29)

'Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors and all the bachelors like married men.'

'Fin de siècle', murmured Sir Henry.

'Fin du globe', answered his hostess.

(Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, 186l, in Maine (ed.) 1948/1961:137)

The label 'New Woman' was instantly recognisable by 1895 when readers of Home Chat entered a competition to define her. 1 Since 'costume' was the crucial marker of sex, rejection of traditional female dress precipitated acute anxiety about all the differences maintained by the sexual norm. No wonder it was often diffused in a joke (Ardis 1990:11; Showalter 1991; Strachey 1986a). The label 'new', like other 1880s and 1890s terms for deviant women ('redundant', 'odd', 'wild' and 'revolting') was an attempt to pin down and therefore to control women and the meaning of sex/gender relations.

The 1880s and 1890s were also the decades of the 'New Journalism'. To contemporaries it seemed that in the press, as elsewhere in the culture, traditional

-115-

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