In my latest novel Tiffany Girl, the main character Flossie Jayne is a New Woman in New York City at the turn of the century. Women like her, New Women, who chose to leave the comfort of their family homes before marriage to get a job and support themselves, were considered unconventional by some, and downright crazy by others. Back then, a woman’s nirvana was, supposedly, to marry and devote her life to keeping up her home and raising her family.
But some women wanted more than that. They wanted to control the wages they earned, forge their own paths and establish themselves as contributing members to society. That’s not to say SAHMs were not contributing members to society. The very fact that they were raising the next generation of government officials, inventors, scientists, etc, make them some of the biggest contributors to society there ever were--and still are! But today, we have a choice about whether or not we want to be a SAHM. And if we do--or don’t--we also get to choose if, when, and how we’d like to work or volunteer outside the home. We aren’t told/forced into specific tasks men have chosen for us.
When I was researching the New Women, I was amazed at the uphill battle those gals had. If I could talk to them today, I’d certainly give them a hearty “you go girl!” Still, the New Woman’s path wasn’t for everyone. I often try to imagine whether I would have been a New Woman myself, and honestly, I’m not sure. I like to think I’d have had the courage to strike out on my own, but with the pressures of society, the overwhelming opposition the New Women faced, and the deplorable working conditions they endured, it would have been an awfully big challenge.
It’s such fun to imagine what our lives would have been like in the past! I guess that’s why I write and read historicals and why I enjoy tracing family genealogies. What about you? Do you think you would have been a New Woman?
If you had become one, do you think your family would have approved?
What do you think your life have looked like if you’d gone against family and society? (I just realized you’re now getting a glimpse of some of the questions I asked myself when I plotted out Tiffany Girl!)