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.