Beyond the Gibson Girl: Reimagining the American New Woman, 1895-1915

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University of Illinois Press, Oct 1, 2010 - Literary Criticism - 248 pages
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Challenging monolithic images of the New Woman as white, well-educated, and politically progressive, this study focuses on important regional, ethnic, and sociopolitical differences in the use of the New Woman trope at the turn of the twentieth century. Using Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls" as a point of departure, Martha H. Patterson explores how writers such as Pauline Hopkins, Margaret Murray Washington, Sui Sin Far, Mary Johnston, Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather challenged and redeployed the New Woman image in light of other "new" conceptions: the "New Negro Woman," the "New Ethics," the "New South," and the "New China."

As she appears in these writers' works, the New Woman both promises and threatens to effect sociopolitical change as a consumer, an instigator of evolutionary and economic development, and, for writers of color, an icon of successful assimilation into dominant Anglo-American culture. Examining a diverse array of cultural products, Patterson shows how the seemingly celebratory term of the New Woman becomes a trope not only of progressive reform, consumer power, transgressive femininity, modern energy, and modern cure, but also of racial and ethnic taxonomies, social Darwinist struggle, imperialist ambition, assimilationist pressures, and modern decay.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Selling the American New Woman as Gibson Girl
27
2 Margaret Murray Washington Pauline Hopkins and the New Negro Woman
50
3 Incorporating the New Woman in Edith Whartons The Custom of the Country
80
4 Sui Sin Far and the Wisdom of the New
102
5 Mary Johnston Ellen Glasgow and the Evolutionary Logic of Progressive Reform
125
6 Willa Cather and the Fluid Mechanics of the New Woman
152
Conclusion
179
Notes
187
Bibliography
205
Index
221
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About the author (2010)

Martha H. Patterson is an associate professor of English at McKendree University, Lebanon, Illinois.

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