Challenging monolithic images of the New Woman as white,
well-educated, and politically progressive, this study focuses on
important regional, ethnic, and sociopolitical differences in the
use of the New Woman trope at the turn of the twentieth century.
Using Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls" as a point of departure,
Martha H. Patterson explores how writers such as Pauline Hopkins,
Margaret Murray Washington, Sui Sin Far, Mary Johnston, Edith
Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather challenged and redeployed
the New Woman image in light of other "new" conceptions: the "New
Negro Woman," the "New Ethics," the "New South," and the "New
China."_x000B__x000B_As she appears in these writers' works, the
New Woman both promises and threatens to effect sociopolitical
change as a consumer, an instigator of evolutionary and economic
development, and, for writers of color, an icon of successful
assimilation into dominant Anglo-American culture. Examining a
diverse array of cultural products, Patterson shows how the
seemingly celebratory term of the New Woman becomes a trope not
only of progressive reform, consumer power, transgressive
femininity, modern energy, and modern cure, but also of racial and
ethnic taxonomies, social Darwinist struggle, imperialist ambition,
assimilationist pressures, and modern decay.
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