Sisterhood And Social Conscience: The Emergence And Evolution Of The Feminist New Woman In Selected American Fiction, 1864--1933

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The origin and development of the New Woman character-type in late nineteenth, early twentieth century American fiction can be traced to various reforms then current--especially the woman's movement. By asserting her independence socially, politically, and economically, the New Woman, usually a member of the middle class, tried to escape the role of the traditional domestic woman. In her endeavors the fictional New Woman emulated her historical progenitors, who were conscious of the exploitation of women by patriarchy and who helped women of the lower class.In addition to presenting a discussion of feminist New Women who failed to achieve a harmonious balance between the public and private spheres and so become mired in domesticity, this dissertation explores the role of the New Woman as a social feminist before World War I and the role of the New Woman as an individualist from World War I to the early thirties. It is clear that the social feminist's commitment to organized reform outweighed that of the individualist who was more concerned with her own or other women's private causes. In all, fifteen works of fiction are discussed.The Depression, the disintegration of the organized women's rights movement following the passage of woman's suffrage, and a conservative political environment all contributed to diminishing feminist influences in this country by the early forties. Consequently, the New Woman character-type in American fiction suffered a similar demise.


Women's Studies; Literature, American

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