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Archive for April 2011

Education, Work, and Reform

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Urban women and “working girls” were among the growing visibility of changing gender norms. Throughout the 1930s, many women worked as domestic servants than any other job at that time, applying that the tradition was not overturned and women still engaged in conventional “house work”. Although the labor movement thrived in the early twentieth century, by 1920 a small fraction of women in the workforce had union jobs, and rarely did the movement take up issues of concern to working women or allow them to take a part in leadership roles. Wage labor immensely shaped women’s identities during a period of urbanization, industrialization, and commercialization.

With a bare minimum of power in the work field, working-class women felt nonetheless empowered by earning an income. This gave women the ability to be more independent.

Few in numbers, many women succeeded to make inroads into careers and education that had previously excluded to women. Women’s Christian Temperance Union began attending some of the more progressive colleges, but only in the twentieth-century women’s college enrollment became equal with men. Women became helpful in teaching, social-work, and nursing professions.

“The image of the new woman was usually single, but even married women help play a significant part in transforming gender roles. Such organizations as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs consolidated into national organizations and achieved greater prominence for women, especially married, middle-class women, in public activities. Women’s clubs, volunteer work, and women’s suffrage activism were not new in the early twentieth- century, but they were more visible to the public and more widespread. Reformers, educated women, and working girls together as individuals and groups forged new ground for women.(Clash of Cultures, Work and Education.)”

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Written by A New Generation of Women

April 28, 2011 at 2:38 am

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Demographic Changes

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Part of the contribution that helped change the new woman was the changes that were seen in demographic patterns. Single, urban women lived outside their parent’s home in working class areas and became able to earn their own wages and have less exposure to their parent’s supervision.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, changes among working-class women filtered into middle-class society such as cabarets and other  various types of performances, so that by the 1910s and 1920s, young middle-class women were wearing styles and engaging in behaviors that were known to be inappropriate to their parents’ generation. A contradiction of the new woman was that she flouted conventions while attaching to new standards of conformity within a rising peer culture.

Written by A New Generation of Women

April 28, 2011 at 2:11 am

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The “Flapper”

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By 1913, the “flapper” replaced the Gibson girl and became the new icon for women in the twentieth-century as the new woman. Drinking and smoking, dancing, exposing skin, were some of the traits that came with being a flapper girl. They were thin, flat-chested, and boyish-looking that defied old-fashioned norms. They took after theater’s “it” girls such as Bessie Smith and Clara Bow.

In the United States, popular contempt for prohibition was a factor in the rise of the flapper. Legal saloons and cabarets closed, back alley speakeasies became more popular. Jazz women who took on the look of the flapper were seen as reckless, independent, and attractive.

Flappers also began to work outside the home and challenging women’s traditional societal roles such as advocating voting and women’s rights. Eventually, dance styles came to follow that were considered shocking like the Charleston, Shimmy, Bunny Hug, and Black Bottom. Flappers were also considered a challenge to the Victorian gender roles. Increasingly, women discarded the old, rigid ideas of the roles and embraced consumerism and personal choice. Flappers became an artifact of larger social changes– women were able to vote in 1920 and religious society had been rocked by the Scopes Trial. Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, a liberal writer during the 20s, summed up the flapper as “truly modern”, “New Style” feminists who “admit that a full life calls for marriage and children” and also “are moved by an inescapable inner compulsion to be individuals in their own right.”

Written by A New Generation of Women

April 28, 2011 at 1:32 am

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The “Gibson Girl”

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Women’s changing appearance began to take after the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Corsets, frills, and petticoats were being discarded and the Gibson girl was spotted wearing a shirtwaist blouse with a long skirt that enabled her to play tennis or ride a bike. Athletic, flirtatious, and confident were just some of the qualities that a Gibson girl displayed. She was known to be from a working class or even an elite society. This look was not just depicted in pictures for white women, but African American women as well.

The inspiration for the Gibson girl was Charles’ very own wife Irene Langhorne. Irene and her sister, Nancy Langhorne, became the first women to serve as a member Parliament in the British House of Commons. They were models for Gibson and represented the feminine exemplary at the time.

Written by A New Generation of Women

April 28, 2011 at 12:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized