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THE NEW WOMAN

In 1874 Sarah Grand coined the phrase “New Woman”. The New Woman was intelligent, educated, emancipated, independent, self-supporting and an icon. The phrase included female radicals from the middle class as well as factory and office workers.

Her role was an integral part of creating complex social changes such as the consolidation of women’s rights and overcoming masculine supremacy. It paralleled increased feminisation of the labor force, divorce legislature, education single motherhood, sanitation and epidemiology – and female consumer culture.

But just like suffragettes, the New Woman was a tempting object of ridicule in both press and popular fiction. She was generally middle class. The most popular portrayal of this disgraceful female was riding a bicycle in bloomers while smoking a cigarette.

The public couldn’t make up its mind. She was oversexed undersexed or same sex. While smoking that cigarette, bicycle propped against a convenient wall, she derided motherhood and eschewed all feminine attributes. She definitely refused to take care of her man, for if she had one, he was subservient and an object of derision.

Watch for Lavinia, coming soon. She and her sisters are not only ardent cyclists, but they each own a business – and a successful business, at that!

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