The New Woman

By the 1860s, changing ideas about women had gained sufficient currency that writers began to represent the modern woman as a new type. In 1868, the Saturday Review published an attack on the modern woman by Eliza Lynn Linton called "The Girl of the Period." The article captured the popular imagination, stimulating much controversy. The phrase "The Girl of the Period" caught on, and writers talked of "The Dangerous Woman of the Period," "A Wife of the Period," "Poetry of the Period," even "The Cigar of the Period."

Novelists in the last decade of the century began representing the "new woman" as a character type. The term was coined in 1894 by the novelist Sarah Grand, and the literary type emerged at about the same time. The most famous example is Sue Bridehead in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure (1896). Another example is George Gissing's The Odd Women (1893), or women without husbands. Gissing's novel traces the fortunes of five "odd women," who must make their own living. One of them, Mary Barfoot, uses her modest inheritance to train women for work in offices and persuade them of the importance of a women's revolution.


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