In January of 1896 the editors of Godey’s Lady’s Book produced an issue focused on the changing roles of women in American life. Articles included The Association for the Advancement of Women, A Woman’s Heart, Your Majesties, The New Woman, Athletically Considered, Women Inventors, The New Woman in Office, Artists in Their Studios, The Vassar Students’ Aid Society, Talks by Successful Women, and A Record of Realities
The excerpts below are from one of the most comprehensive articles, The New Woman in Office by Joseph Dana Miller. Mr. Miller gathered information from all over the country about female office holders and male reaction to women in these new roles.
The New Woman in Office
Ignore it as we will, deplore it as we may, the status of woman in society is undergoing, by the action of irrepressible forces, an astonishing and formidable change. Conservatism may frown upon the advance of woman into the domain of politics and government, but it can no more effectually bar her entrance into these fields than it can oppose itself successfully to the action of winds and tides.
The “new woman,” as she is called—a term which, outside of the caricaturist’s imagination, may be defined to mean a woman who entertains unconventional ideas of womanly independence and woman’s relation to society—feels that she is man’s helpmate in more than one sense, and whether as wife or spinster, has an interest in what goes on outside the household. She contends, with much show of reason, that exclusive devotion to the duties of, wifehood and maternity narrows her intellectual activities, and makes of her a merely sensitory animal. It is sometimes said that there is no insuperable objection to the entrance of unmarried women into political fields, but I think that statistics will confirm my present impression, which is, that more than half the women in public life to-day are married.