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Beyond the Gibson Girl

Reimagining the American New Woman, 1895-1915

Martha H. Patterson

Publication Year: 2005

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." 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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

This book has had such a long gestation that it is difficult now to acknowledge properly the impetus for its origins, but I would like to begin by thanking my mentors at the University of Iowa: Linda Kerber, Kim Marra, Teresa Mangum, Kathleen Diffley, and Tom Lutz. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-26

Christened in 1894 during a debate between Sarah Grand and Ouida in the North American Review, the New Woman immediately inspired censure and applause on both sides of the Atlantic. Within the dominant white press, she was either what her detractors called an unattractive, browbeating usurper of traditionally masculine roles, ...

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1. Selling the American New Woman as Gibson Girl

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pp. 27-49

Single, white, affluent, politically and socially progressive, highly educated, and athletic, the dominant version of the New Woman was a liminal figure between the Victorian woman and the flapper, a “pioneer [of] new roles” able to “insist upon a rightful place within the genteel world” (Smith-Rosenberg 245). ...

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2. Margaret Murray Washington, Pauline Hopkins, and the New Negro Woman

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pp. 50-79

On April 3, 1901, Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt—socialist, suffragist, and settlement worker—described in her journal the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Booker T. Washington at New York City’s Social Reform Club: “they both are especially noted for their common sense. Mrs. Washington is lighter than he and has beautiful features, arched brows, blue (?) eyes, ...

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3. Incorporating the New Woman in Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country

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pp. 80-101

Written during the course of Wharton’s break with her husband Teddy, her affair with Morton Fullerton, the sale of her beloved home, growing tension with her long-time publisher, Scribner’s, and just after the financial crash of 1907, The Custom of the Country (1913) reflects Wharton’s own marital, domestic, and financial anxiety.1 ...

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4. Sui Sin Far and the Wisdom of the New

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pp. 102-124

“With her quaint manners and old-fashioned mode of life, she carries our minds back to times almost as ancient as the earth we live on. She is a bit of olden Oriental coloring amidst our modern Western lights and shades; and though her years be few, she is yet a relic of antiquity” (59). So Sui Seen Far begins “The Chinese Woman in America” (1897), ...

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5. Mary Johnston, Ellen Glasgow, and the Evolutionary Logic of Progressive Reform

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pp. 125-151

By 1913, the writing careers of Mary Johnston and Ellen Glasgow were firmly established. Johnston’s historical romances To Have and to Hold, Audrey, Sir Mortimer, Lewis Rand, and The Long Roll had appeared on the best-sellers’ lists in 1900, 1902, 1904, 1908, and 1911 respectively. Glasgow’s realist work did not meet quite as much popular success ...

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6. Willa Cather and the Fluid Mechanics of the New Woman

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pp. 152-178

On November 16, 1895, in a column on the current literary scene for the Lincoln Courier, Willa Cather praises Henry James as “that mighty master of language and keen student of human actions” but wishes he would write “about modern society, about ‘degeneracy’ and the new woman and all the rest of it” (World 275). ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 179-186

In 1905, Charles Dana Gibson made a dramatic life change. Fearing that his staple pen-and-ink drawings would give way to the more exciting world of color—Remington, Parrish, and Frost had already made the transition—Gibson relinquished both his lucrative contracts with Collier’s and Life and his future book …

Notes

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pp. 187-204

Bibliography

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pp. 205-220

Index

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pp. 221-230


E-ISBN-13: 9780252092107
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030178

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • American fiction -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Feminist fiction, American -- History and criticism.
  • American fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Feminism and literature -- United States.
  • Women and literature -- United States.
  • African American women in literature.
  • Women in literature.
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