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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses how the changing social and political landscape in late nineteenth-century America led to the figure of the New Woman and, specifically, how realist writers responded to the contemporary debate about gender exemplified by this new ideal. In the early nineteenth century, the True Woman ideal dictated gender norms of middle-class propriety, but because of the efforts of women’s rights activists—and in part because of the changes wrought by the Civil War—women gained more access to education, work, and the political arena via the suffrage movement. Widely read white novelists did not necessarily depict more politically engaged, professional women because of these changes, but they did explore the dehumanization and tragedy that attended conventional marriages. African American writers explored the role of women of color within the racial uplift movement as well as the women’s rights movement, revising the New Woman ideal to account for their black identity.

Keywords: suffrage, racial uplift, New Woman, True Woman, education, feminism, realism

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