Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Deborah Morse

Committee Members

Suzanne Raitt

Simon Joyce

Kathrin Levitan


As the Victorian Era drew to a close, the New Woman period emerged in the 1890s. The corresponding literary works, products of the new realism movement and heated debate on female issues like the sexual double standard, critiqued women’s social realities. For example, New Woman heroines violate the Victorian social code in several ways, producing competing factions that reconstruct femininity, sex, and marriage. More traditional New Woman works approach the “woman question” in a conservative Victorian fashion, boasting female protagonists that resist marriage and, consequently, their social duty to reproduce. Conversely, this period also produced over-sexed characters that subvert norms through the opposite sexual extreme. In a period of transition and contradictory expectations for women, these works constituted a revolutionary surge in the feminist movement. The political arguments contained within the novels of the New Woman period show how female protagonists individually challenge the “social contract” yet collectively fail due to gender constraints brought about by the institutionalized, patriarchal model.

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