The New Woman

From Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz -- Online Notes For The Book

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The concept of the “new woman” is examined in GLENNA MATTHEWS, THE RISE OF PUBLIC WOMAN, WOMAN’S POWER AND WOMAN’S PLACE IN THE UNITED STATES, 1630-1970 (1992); CARROLL SMITH-ROSENBERG, DISORDERLY CONDUCT: VISIONS OF GENDER IN VICTORIAN AMERICA (1985) (stressing that the new woman was a revolutionary demographic: an independent, single, adventurous woman). JEAN V. MATTHEWS, THE RISE OF THE NEW WOMAN: THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT IN AMERICA, 1875-1930 (2003) is a popular historical account. An accessible synthesis of “new woman” writings is in SARA EVANS, BORN FOR LIBERTY: A HISTORY OF WOMEN IN AMERICA (1990). Anne Firor Scott, What, Then, is the American: This New Woman? 65 J. AM. HIST. 679 (1978) discusses the eighteenth century use of the phrase. Martha H. Patterson, in BEYOND THE GIBSON GIRL: REIMAGINING THE AMERICAN NEW WOMAN, 1895-1915 (2005) focuses on regional and ethnic differences in the use of the “new woman” term at the turn of the century, and how it signified a range of meanings, from progressive reform to social Darwinism.

CLARICE STASZ, JACK LONDON'S WOMEN (2001) has a chapter on the California version of the new women stressing their self-directed, athletic, outdoors-loving characteristics. On the same theme of London’s heroines and their strong adventurous natures, see Andrew J. Furer, Jack London’s New Woman: A Little Lady With a Big Stick, 22 STUDIES AM. FICT. 185 (1994). Furer also cites biographical writings showing that London was “an ardent feminist.” Id. at 206. The heroine of his first novel, DAUGHTER OF THE SNOWS (1902) was named Frona, and Foltz’s friend journalist Frona Wait was said to be the model for an independent, physically strong woman. For more on Wait, see On-Line Bibliographic Note: San Francisco Social Life and Clara Foltz’s Circle.

Foltz often used the phrase “new woman” starting around 1890. To the Portia Club, she explained that the “new woman, God bless her, is here, if you only knew it.” S.F. CALL, Jan. 25, 1895. On another occasion she commented that the reason there was so much talk about the new woman after 1893 is that the Fair had stirred “unusual activity in thought.” In fact, she declared, the new woman “is the partner of the new man (and many of the new men are looking to her for a wife).” S.F. CALL, Apr. 1, 1896. In 1916, Foltz named her monthly magazine, The New American Woman. In "Let There Be Light," the first issue, Feb. 1916, at 5, she defined the new woman as seeking self-improvement and knowledge.

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