The New Woman By Krzakowski, Caroline Z.
A historical figure as well as a literary phenomenon, the New Woman was named in 1894 in an exchange between ‘Ouida’ (Marie Louise de la Ramée) and Sarah Grand in the pages of the New American Review. The New Woman was a ubiquitous presence in fin-de-siècle literature and journalism concerned with debates about the ‘woman question’, and influenced twentieth-century ideas about feminism and gender. The New Woman novel, with its mapping of female psychological space and emphasis on female consciousness, shaped modernist fiction.
New Women were often political activists as well as writers, and agitated for reform on political and domestic questions. Most New Woman fiction rejects aestheticism in favor of realism; it deals with sexuality with a frankness that departed from Victorian codes of propriety and takes up issues such as suffrage, marriage, domestic violence, and the emancipation of women. In its realism, New Woman fiction departs from the aestheticism of the period, although some writers, like George Egerton (Mary Chavelita Dunne Bright), used the techniques of aestheticism to examine women’s experience.