The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies
Present in photography, artwork, fiction, drama, and popular journalism, the New Woman was a familiar presence in late-Victorian Britain. By analyzing the journalistic portrayal of the New Woman and the construction of a negative femininity by those authors who opposed her and the values she represented, this essay draws from that popularity and presence. I argue that Victorians who disagreed with the political and social ramifications of the New Woman participated in discourse communities or communities of practice. These discourse communities portrayed the New Woman as one who was first, competitive rather than cooperative, and second, a mythical, unnatural creature. These labeling practices illustrate the gender roles to which one part of late-Victorian society subscribed and established a dichotomy between women who continued to perform admirably, according to stereotypical desires of the Victorian woman, and those who challenged those perceptions of femininity. By villainizing the New Woman, such writers encouraged readers to fear advances in women’s rights and to adhere to what they saw as traditional gender roles. Grounded in a rhetorical approach to print culture of the fin-de-siècle, this essay suggests avenues of further research on the New Woman as she was portrayed in journalism, as well as elucidating some of the expectations and fears of British femininity at the turn of the twentieth century.
“The Dangerous ‘New Woman’ in the Victorian Press: ‘blind alike to maiden modesty and maternal dignity.’” The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies 4 (Spring 2012). http://www.thelatchkey.org/Latchkey4/essay/Nielsen.htm