New women, new novels: feminism and early modernism by Ann Ardis

By Ann Ardis

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She asks simply and only for freedom to make out of her own life the highest that can be made, and to develop her own individuality as seems to her the wisest and the best. 23 Notably, however, Smith, Caird, and other New Women do not en- Page 19 dorse Bebel's class-based millenialism. " While recognizing the need for such radical social change, they question the adequacy of the class-based model of social analysis to explain gender and the history of gender relations. Moreover, they fear that bourgeois society's exploitation of women will be continued under a Socialist regime.

Why should they not? These ancient dames with "whiskin" beards about their "mou's," withered and unsightly, worn out, and no longer women in desirableness or beautywhy should they not take to the habits of men? . When, after dinner, our young married women and husbandless girls, despising the old distinctions and trampling underfoot the time-honored conventions of former generations, "light up" with the men, they are simply assimilating themselves to this old Sally and that ancient Betty down in the dales and mountain hamlets; or to the stalward cohort of pitbrow women for whom sex has no aesthetic distinctions.

Because their authors choose not to view art as a sphere of cultural activity separate from the realm of politics and history, these narratives refuse to be discrete. They do not want to be read singly or separately; moreover, they choose not to be silent about the intertextual debate in which they participate. Because these narratives also resist classification as either popular or high art fiction, their commercial success was very threatening to the critical establishment at the turn of the century.

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