The New Woman

New Woman Sections
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An icon of changing gender norms, the "new woman" first emerged in the late nineteenth century. Less constrained by Victorian norms and domesticity than previous generations, the new woman had greater freedom to pursue public roles and even flaunt her "sex appeal," a term coined in the 1920s and linked with the emergence of the new woman. She challenged conventional gender roles and met with hostility from men and women who objected to women's public presence and supposed decline in morality. Expressing autonomy and individuality, the new woman represented the tendency of young women at the turn of the century to reject their mothers' ways in favor of new, modern choices.

What was "new" about women in the early twentieth century? The most prominent change was their increased presence in the public arena. Whereas the lives of most nineteenth-century women - especially middle-class women but also domestic servants and slaves - tended to revolve around home life, modern women ventured into jobs, politics, and culture outside the domestic realm. They did not do so, however, on equal terms with men; women remained economically and politically subordinate to men in the early twentieth century. They did not do so without struggle either. Conservative forces in society, including churches and such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, vehemently opposed women's new roles. Others who supported change, such as Progressive Era reformers and suffragists, also criticized the new woman for her disinterest in politics and careers in favor of the world of commercial entertainment.

Although many women participated in expanding women's public roles, women accepted and pressed for change in varying degrees. The symbol of the new woman was a conglomeration of aspects of many different women from across the nation who lived between the 1890s and the 1920s. Among them were glamorous performers, female athletes, "working girls" employed in city factories and rural textile mills, middle-class daughters entering higher education and professions formerly closed to women, and reformers involved in women's clubs, settlement houses, trade unions, and suffrage.

 
Prohibtion Immigration Restriction & The KKK The New Woman The Scopes Trial

The New Woman | Image & Lifestyle | Work, Education, and Reform | Sexuality |
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