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‘Nothing But Foolscap and Ink’: Inventing the New Woman

  • Talia Schaffer
Chapter

Abstract

Did the New Woman really exist? The question is not quite as naive as it seems. Of course the fin de siècle saw real women who agitated for greater autonomy in everything from etiquette to employment. While there were some prominent leaders — women like Mona Caird, Lady Jeune, and Sarah Grand — most of the women associated with the new movement lived a much humbler life. Working as clerks, typists, teachers, college students, journalists, or perhaps even shopgirls, they often lived in painfully spartan flats, struggling to earn enough money for genteel gowns and living primarily on bread and tea. They walked without chaperones, carried their own latchkeys, bicycled, and the more daring ones smoked cigarettes, cut their hair, or wore divided skirts and plain costume in accordance with the principles of rational dress.1 These women rarely described themselves as ‘New Women’; that is a modern usage.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Evelyn March Phillips, ‘The Working Lady in London’, offers a fascinating account of working women’s struggles to find adequate housing and food (The Fortnightly Review 58 (1892), 193–203).Google Scholar
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    Cited in Ann Ardis: New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism ( New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990 ), 13.Google Scholar
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    Ellen Jordan, ‘The Christening of the New Woman: May 1894’, Victorian Newsletter 63 (Spring 1983): 19–21.Google Scholar
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    Sarah Grand, ‘The New Aspect of the Woman Question’, North American Review 158 (March 1894): 270.Google Scholar
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    David Rubinstein, Before the Suffragettes: Women’s Emancipation in the 1890’s, ( New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986 ), 15–16.Google Scholar
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    Nina Auerbach: Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982 ).Google Scholar
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    All biographical information in this paragraph comes from Eileen Bigland: The Passionate Victorian ( London: Jarrolds, 1950 );Google Scholar
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  18. 21.
    Quoted in Ardis 13. Elizabeth Rachel Chapman, Marriage Questions in Modern Fiction ( London: John Lane, 1897 ).Google Scholar
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  23. 24.
    Interestingly, Punch could ‘never be quiet’ either; it used almost exactly the same ditty thirty years earlier to make fun of Mary Braddon (11 April 1863, 154).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Talia Schaffer

There are no affiliations available

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