Women in the 19th Century: Representations of Women in Literature and Art in the 19th Century
WOMEN IN THE 19TH CENTURY: REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN IN LITERATURE AND ART IN THE 19TH CENTURY
BARBARA EHRENREICH AND DEIRDRE ENGLISH (ESSAY DATE 1978)
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ANN DOUGLAS (ESSAY DATE 1988)
SOURCE: Douglas, Ann. "The Legacy of American Victorianism." In The Feminization of American Culture, pp. 7-13. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1988.
In the following excerpt, Douglas argues that in the nineteenth century, the vacuum left by the demise of Calvinist theology in America was filled by a feminizing sentiment that did little to empower women.
… Between 1820 and 1875,1 in the midst of the transformation of the American economy into the most powerfully aggressive capitalist system in the world, American culture seemed bent on establishing a perpetual Mother's Day. As the secular activities of American life were demonstrating their utter supremacy, religion became the message of America's official and conventional cultural life. This religion was hardly the Calvinism of the founders of the Bay Colony or that of New England's great eighteenth-century divines. It was a far cry, moreover, from the faith which at least imaginatively still engaged serious authors like Melville and Hawthorne.
Under "Calvinism" we can place much of what rigorous theology Protestant Americans have ever officially accepted. Until roughly 1820, this theological tradition was a chief, perhaps the chief, vehicle of intellectual and cultural activity in American life. The Calvinist tradition culminated in the Edwardsean school:2 most notably, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) and his friends and followers, Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), Joseph Bellamy (1719-90), and Nathaniel Emmons (1745-1840). The Edwardsean school has often been mythologized, but, whatever its very real faults, it undoubtedly constituted the most persuasive example of independent yet institutionalized thought to which our society has even temporarily given credence. Its members studied together; they trained, questioned, and defended one another. They exhibited with some consistency the intellectual rigor and imaginative precision difficult to achieve without collective effort, and certainly rare in more recent American annals.
For some time, roughly between 1740 and 1820, the rigor exhibited by the Edwardsean ministers seemed representative of the wider culture or at least welcomed by it. Edwardsean theology, however, outlived its popular support. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as in the twentieth, the vast majority of American Christians identified themselves as members of one of the various Protestant groups.3 Yet the differences between the Protestants of, say, 1800 and their descendants of 1875 and after are greater than the similarities. The everyday Protestant of 1800 subscribed to a rather complicated and rigidly defined body of dogma; attendance at a certain church had a markedly theological function. By 1875, American Protestants were much more likely to define their faith in terms of family morals, civic responsibility, and above all, in terms of the social function of churchgoing. Their actual creed was usually a liberal, even a sentimental one for which Edwards and his contemporaries would have felt scorn and horror. In an analogous way, Protestant churches over the same period shifted their emphasis from a primary concern with the doctrinal beliefs of their members to a preoccupation with numbers. In ecclesiastical and religious circles, attendance came to count for more than genuine adherence. Nothing could show better the late nineteenth-century Protestant Church's altered identity as an eager participant in the emerging consumer society than its obsession with popularity and its increasing disregard of intellectual issues.
The vitiation and near-disappearance of the Calvinist tradition have been sufficiently lamented, and perhaps insufficiently understood. The numerous historians and theologians of the last four decades who have recorded and mourned its loss themselves constitute an unofficial school which can loosely be termed "Neo-orthodox."4 In analyzing Calvinism's decline, however, they have not examined all the evidence at their disposal. They have provided important studies of the effects of the democratic experiment in a new and unsettled land, effects all tending to a liberal creed in theology as in politics: immigration on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, huge labor resources facilitating rapid urbanization and industrialization, amalgamation of diverse cultural heritages often at the level of their lowest common denominator. Yet they have neglected what might be called the social history of Calvinist theology. They have given scant consideration to the changing nature of the ministry as a profession or to the men who entered its ranks during the critical decades between 1820 and 1875. And they have overlooked another group central to the rituals of that Victorian sentimentalism that did so much to gut Calvinist orthodoxy: Little Eva's most ardent admirers, the active middle-class Protestant women whose supposedly limited intelligences liberal piety was in part designed to flatter. As if in fear of contamination, historians have ignored the claims of what Harriet Beecher Stowe astutely called "Pink and White Tyranny":5 the drive of nineteenth-century American women to gain power through the exploitation of their feminine identity as their society defined it.
These women did not hold offices or own businesses. They had little formal status in their culture, nor apparently did they seek it. They were not usually declared feminists or radical reformers. Increasingly exempt from the responsibilities of domestic industry, they were in a state of sociological transition. They comprised the bulk of educated churchgoers and the vast majority of the dependable reading public; in ever greater numbers, they edited magazines and wrote books for other women like themselves. They were becoming the prime consumers of American culture. As such they exerted an enormous influence on the chief male purveyors of that culture, the liberal, literate ministers and popular writers who were being read while Melville and Thoreau were ignored. These masculine groups, ministers and authors, occupied a precarious position in society. Writers had never received public support; ministers ceased to do so after 1833 when the "disestablishment" of the Protestant Church became officially complete in the United States. In very real ways, authors and clergymen were on the market; they could hardly afford to ignore their feminine customers and competitors.
What bound the minister and the lady together with the popular writer was their shared preoccupation with the lighter productions of the press; they wrote poetry, fiction, memoirs, sermons, and magazine pieces of every kind. What distinguished them from the writer, and made them uniquely central agents in the process of sentimentalization this book undertakes to explore, is the fact that their consuming interest in literature was relatively new. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the prominent Edwardsean minister, Nathaniel Emmons, returned a novel by Sir Walter Scott lent him by a friend with protestations of genuine horror. A scant fifty years later, serious ministers and orthodox professors of theology were making secular literature a concern and even an occupation. During the same period, women writers gradually flooded the market with their efforts. While a female author at the beginning of the nineteenth century was considered by definition an aberration from her sex, by its close she occupied an established if not a respected place. The Victorian lady and minister were joining, and changing, the literary scene.
Northeastern clergymen and middle-class literary women lacked power of any crudely tangible kind, and they were careful not to lay claim to it. Instead they wished to exert "influence," which they eulogized as a religious force.6 They were asking for nothing more than offhand attention, and not even much of that: "influence" was to be discreetly omnipresent and omnipotent. This was the suasion of moral and psychic nurture, and it had a good deal less to do with the faith of the past and a good deal more to do with the advertising industry of the future than its proponents would have liked to believe. They exerted their "influence" chiefly through literature which was just in the process of becoming a mass medium. The press offered them the chance they were seeking to be unobtrusive and everywhere at the same time. They inevitably confused theology with religiosity, religiosity with literature, and literature with self-justification. They understandably attempted to stabilize and advertise in their work the values that cast their recessive position in the most favorable light. Even as they took full advantage of the new commercial possibilities technological revolutions in printing had made possible, they exercised an enormously conservative influence on their society.
On a thematic level, they specialized in the domestic and religious concerns considered appropriate for members of their profession or sex. But content was not the most important aspect of their work, nor of its conservative impulse. Ministerial and feminine authors were as involved with the method of consumption as with the article consumed. Despite their often prolific output, they were in a curious sense more interested in the business of reading than in that of writing. Indeed, this book, while focused upon written sources, might be described in one sense as a study of readers and of those who shared and shaped their taste. Of course involvement and identification between authors and their readers was characteristically and broadly Victorian. Henry James could rebuke Anthony Trollope for his constant asides to the reader, for his casual admissions that he was making up a story to please an audience,7 but Trollope was in the majority. To ask a Victorian author, American or British, not to address his readers was a bit like asking a modern-day telecaster to ignore his viewers. Literature then, like television now, was in the early phase of intense self-consciousness characteristic of a new mass medium: the transactions between cultural buyer and seller, producer and consumer shaped both the content and the form. The American groups I am discussing, however, showed an extraordinary degree, even by Victorian standards, of market-oriented alertness to their customers. They had a great deal in common with them.
The well-educated intellectual minister of the eighteenth century read omnivorously, but the dense argumentative tracts he tackled forced him to think, not to "read" in our modern sense; metaphorically speaking, he was producing, not consuming. His mid-nineteenth-century descendant was likely to show a love of fiction and poetry and a distaste for polemical theology; he preferred "light" to "heavy" reading. By the same token, numerous observers remarked on the fact that countless young Victorian women spent much of their middle-class girlhoods prostrate on chaise longues with their heads buried in "worthless" novels. Their grandmothers, the critics insinuated, had spent their time studying the Bible and performing useful household chores. "Reading" in its new form was many things; among them it was an occupation for the unemployed, narcissistic self-education for those excluded from the harsh school of practical competition. Literary men of the cloth and middle-class women writers of the Victorian period knew from firsthand evidence that literature was functioning more and more as a form of leisure, a complicated mass dream-life in the busiest, most wide-awake society in the world. They could not be altogether ignorant that literature was revealing and supporting a special class, a class defined less by what its members produced than by what they consumed. When the minister and the lady put pen to paper, they had ever in their minds their reading counterparts; the small scale, the intimate scenes, the chatty tone of many of their works complement the presumably comfortable posture and domestic backdrop of their readers. They wrote not just to win adherents to their views, but to make converts to literature, to sustain and encourage the habit of reading itself.8 Inevitably more serious writers like Melville attempted alternately to re-educate, defy, and ignore a public addicted to the absorption of sentimental fare.
To suggest that problems of professional class or sexual status played a part in the creation and character of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American culture is not, hopefully, to suggest a conspiracy view of history. The ministers and women I am considering were intent on claiming culture as their peculiar property, one conferring on them a special duty and prerogative. They were rightly insecure about their position in the broader society; they sought to gain indirect and compensatory control. Yet they were not insincere, ill-intentioned, or simple-minded. It must be remembered how these people saw themselves, and with what reason: they were Christians reinterpreting their faith as best they could in terms of the needs of their society. Their conscious motives were good—even praiseworthy; their effects were not altogether bad. Under the sanction of sentimentalism, lady and clergyman were able to cross the cruel lines laid down by sexual stereotyping in ways that were clearly historically important and undoubtedly personally fulfilling. She could become aggressive, even angry, in the name of various holy causes; he could become gentle, even nurturing, for the sake of moral overseeing. Whatever their ambiguities of motivation, both believed they had a genuine redemptive mission in their society: to propagate the potentially matriarchal virtues of nurture, generosity, and acceptance; to create the "culture of the feelings" that John Stuart Mill was to find during the same period in Wordsworth.9 It is hardly altogether their fault that their efforts intensified sentimental rather than matriarchal values.
Moreover, whatever the errors of the sentimentalists, they paid for them. The losses sustained by the ministers and the women involved, as well as by the culture which was their arena, were enormous. The case of the ministers is clear-cut; they lost status and respect. The case of the women is equally painful, but more difficult to discuss, especially in the atmosphere of controversy that attends feminist argument today. I must add a personal note here. As I researched and wrote this book, I experienced a confusion which perhaps other women scholars have felt in recent years. I expected to find my fathers and my mothers; instead I discovered my fathers and my sisters. The best of the men had access to solutions, and occasionally inspiring ones, which I appropriate only with the anxiety and effort that attend genuine aspiration. The problems of the women correspond to mine with a frightening accuracy that seems to set us outside the processes of history; the answers of even the finest of them were often mine, and sometimes largely unacceptable to me. I am tempted to account my response socialization, if not treachery. Siding with the enemy. But I think that is wrong.
I have a respect for so-called "toughness," not as a good in itself, not isolated and reified as it so often is in male-dominated cultures, but as the necessary preservative for all virtues, even those of gentleness and generosity. My respect is deeply ingrained; my commitment to feminism requires that I explore it, not that I abjure it. Much more important, it does no good to shirk the fact that nineteenth-century American society tried to damage women like Harriet Beecher Stowe—and succeeded. It is undeniable that the oppressed preserved, and were intended to preserve, crucial values threatened in the larger culture. But it is equally true that no one would protest oppression with fervor or justification if it did not in part accomplish its object: the curtailment of the possibilities of growth for significant portions of a given community. Nineteenth-century American women were oppressed, and damaged; inevitably, the influence they exerted in turn on their society was not altogether beneficial. The cruelest aspect of the process of oppression is the logic by which it forces its objects to be oppressive in turn, to do the dirty work of their society in several senses. Melville put the matter well: weakness, or even "depravity in the oppressed is no apology for the oppressor; but rather an additional stigma to him, as being, in a large degree, the effect and not the cause of oppression."10 To view the victims of oppression simply as martyrs and heroes, however, undeniably heroic and martyred as they often were, is only to perpetuate the sentimental heresy I am attempting to study here.
I have been more interested in the effects than in the conscious motives of the women and ministers under consideration, for there is no better indication of their dilemma than the often wide and tragic divergence between the two. In the process of sentimentalization which they aided, many women and ministers espoused at least in theory to so-called passive virtues, admirable in themselves, and sorely needed in American life. They could not see to what alien uses their espousal might be put. Sentimentalism is a complex phenomenon. It asserts that the values a society's activity denies are precisely the ones it cherishes; it attempts to deal with the phenomenon of cultural bifurcation by the manipulation of nostalgia. Sentimentalism provides a way to protest a power to which one has already in part capitulated. It is a form of dragging one's heels. It always borders on dishonesty but it is a dishonesty for which there is no known substitute in a capitalist country. Many nineteenth-century Americans in the Northeast acted every day as if they believed that economic expansion, urbanization, and industrialization represented the greatest good. It is to their credit that they indirectly acknowledged that the pursuit of these "masculine" goals meant damaging, perhaps losing, another good, one they increasingly included under the "feminine" ideal. Yet the fact remains that their regret was calculated not to interfere with their actions. We remember that Little Eva's beautiful death, which Stowe presents as part of a protest against slavery, in no way hinders the working of that system. The minister and the lady were appointed by their society as the champions of sensibility. They were in the position of contestants in a fixed fight: they had agreed to put on a convincing show, and to lose. The fakery involved was finally crippling for all concerned.
The sentimentalization of theological and secular culture was an inevitable part of the self-evasion of a society both committed to laissez-faire industrial expansion and disturbed by its consequences. America, impelled by economic and social developments of international scope, abandoned its theological modes of thought at the same time its European counterparts abandoned theirs; it lacked, however, the means they possessed to create substitutes. American culture, younger and less formed than that of any European country, had not yet developed sufficiently rich and diversified secular traditions to serve as carriers for its ongoing intellectual life. The pressures for self-rationalization of the crudest kind were overpowering in a country propelled so rapidly toward industrial capitalism with so little cultural context to slow or complicate its course; sentimentalism provided the inevitable rationalization of the economic order.
In the modernization of American culture that began in the Victorian period, some basic law of dialectical motion was disrupted, unfulfilled, perhaps disproved. Calvinism was a great faith, with great limitations: it was repressive, authoritarian, dogmatic, patriarchal to an extreme. Its demise was inevitable, and in some real sense, welcome. Yet it deserved, and elsewhere and at other times found, great opponents. One could argue that the logical antagonist of Calvinism was a fully humanistic, historically minded romanticism. Exponents of such romanticism appeared in mid-nineteenth-century America—one thinks particularly of Margaret Fuller and Herman Melville—but they were rare. In America, for economic and social reasons, Calvinism was largely defeated by an anti-intellectual sentimentalism purveyed by men and women whose victory did not achieve their finest goals; America lost its male-dominated theological tradition without gaining a comprehensive feminism or an adequately modernized religious sensibility. It is crucial that I be as clear here as I can. The tragedy of nineteenth-century northeastern society is not the demise of Calvinist patriarchal structures, but rather the failure of a viable, sexually diversified culture to replace them. "Feminization" inevitably guaranteed, not simply the loss of the finest values contained in Calvinism, but the continuation of male hegemony in different guises. The triumph of the "feminizing," sentimental forces that would generate mass culture redefined and perhaps limited the possibilities for change in American society. Sentimentalism, with its tendency to obfuscate the visible dynamics of development, heralded the cultural sprawl that has increasingly characterized post-Victorian life.
- I hope the reasons I have chosen this period (1820-75) as the crucial one for the development of Victorian sentimentalism in the Northeast will become clear in the course of this book. Recent historical opinion has minimized the importance of the Civil War as a crucial dividing line for American culture. I will make just a few further points here. First, the period 1820-1875 includes the initial commercialization of culture, most notably the revolution in printing and the rise of nationally circulated magazines. Second, the most important work of the leading figures in the sentimentalization process seems to appear and, more significantly, to receive its highest valuation during these years. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, for example, who was born late in the period (1844), produces her most characteristic work, The Gates Ajar, in 1868; thereafter, she repeats herself and receives steadily less critical attention and praise until her death in 1911. Third, the period marks the time when the majority of Protestants in the Northeast changed from a strict to a "liberal" creed and when the Protestant Church forged its relationship with the newly commercialized culture: both changes are still in force today. In Chapter Three, I try to break the period into smaller, defined units. In Chapter Seven, I discuss its culmination in the early 1870s with the late work of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
- In discussing what I am calling Calvinism, the older Protestant tradition of the Northeast, I am focusing throughout this study on its eighteenth-rather than its seventeenth-century New England exponents not because the former were greater than the latter but because it was the word the ministerial and feminine groups I am studying most commonly employed to describe the older, sterner creed of their forebears.
- Martin Marty, in the "Foreword" to Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America (New York, 1970), notes: "today seven out of ten citizens identify themselves as Protestants" (n.p.).
- For an excellent introduction to Neo-orthodoxy, see Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of American People (New Haven and London, 1972), pp. 932-48, and Martin E. Marty, op. cit., pp. 233-43. For the most astute Neo-orthodox analysis of the American religious tradition, see Francis Miller, Wilhelm Pauck, and H. Richard Niebuhr, The Church Against the World (Chicago, 1935), and H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Demonationalism (New York, 1929). Scholars like Perry Miller, who might be seen as the head of "Neo-Orthodox" historiography, did not necessarily share the religious beliefs of those they studied, or of the Neo-orthodox theologians (the Niebuhr brothers, Paul Tillich, and others) who began to write in the 1920s. But they are "Neo-orthodox" in the sense that they admire the Calvinist tradition and regret its passing.
- This is the title of a novel published by Stowe in 1871.
My understanding of "influence" and how it functioned foe the clerical and feminine groups under discussion was shaped by the work of Sigmund Freud and Heinz Kohut on narcissism as well as by the theories of a number of sociologists. I came to feel that, while Protestant ministers had been part of an elite group, they were increasingly joining middle-class women and becoming part of a special subculture. Such subculture groups, past and present, evince certain inherent patterns. Most simply, one might say that society forces members of a subculture at any moment of intersection with the larger culture into a constant, simplified, and often demeaning process of self-identification. The minister between 1820 and 1875 was beginning to experience the enforced self-simplification women had long known. In 1820 the statement "I am a minister" had a series of possible precise connotations, theological and political. By 1875, the statement meant what it does today: it connotes vague church-bound efforts at "goodness." "I am a housewife," millions of American women have been explaining implicitly and explicitly for the last hundred and fifty years; yet, the term "housewife" is imprecise and obfuscating to an extreme. Surely that was (and is) as much difference between tending a childless urban apartment and running a fully populated farm household as there was between practicing law and selling merchandise. Yet just at the period when women were increasingly adopting a punitively generalized mode of self-description, men were labeling themselves in ever more specialized terms. The all-inclusive designation "lady" slowly gave way over the nineteenth century to the equally blank-check appellation "housewife." In contrast, the polite term "gentleman" had no real successor; it fragmented into a thousand parts, personal, political, and professional. Why have not men identified themselves by an equally adequate, or inadequate, catchall phrase such as "breadwinner"? Quite obviously, because society expresses its greater esteem for masculine occupations by honoring them with a highly differentiated nomenclature.
Naturally, those belonging to a subculture will themselves be preoccupied with who they are, often in equally simplistic terms. They will struggle obsessively, repetitiously, and monotonously to deal with the burden of self-dislike implied and imposed by their society apparently low evaluation of them. In a sense, they will be forced into some version of narcissism, by which I mean to suggest not only a psychological process but a sociological and even a political one. Narcissism is best defined not as exaggerated self-esteem but as a refusal to judge the self by alien, objective means, a willed inability to allow the world to play its customary role in the business of self-evaluation. Heinz Kohut has explained lucidly the causes for development of narcissism: "Being threatened in the maintenance of a cohesive self because in early life … [the narcissist is] lacking in adequate confirming responses … from the environment, [he] turns to self-stimulation in order to retain [his] … precarious cohesion." The narcissist must always by definition be self-taught, because the world's lessons are inevitably unacceptable to his ego. He is committed not only to an underestimation of the facts, but, in Freud's words, to an "over-estimation of the power of wishes and mental processes … a belief in the magical virtue of words and a method of dealing with the outer world—the art of magic." Narcissism can necessitate the replacement of society by the self, reality by literature. See Heinz Kohut, "Thoughts on Narcissism and Narcissistic Rage," a paper delivered as the A. A. Brill Lecture of the New York Psychoanalytic Society on November 30, 1971; Sigmund Freud, "On Narcissism: An Introduction" in A General Selection from the Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. John Rickman, M. D. (New York, 1957), p. 106. For a definition of minority groups, see Helen Mayer Hacker, "Women as a Minority Group," Bobbs-Merrill Reprint Series in the Social Sciences, 5-108. The ministry had constituted in the past what Suzanne Keller calls a "strategic elite"; see Suzanne Keller, Beyond the Ruling Elite: Strategic Elites in Modern Society (New York, 1963).
- See Henry James, "Anthony Trollope," in The Future of the Novel: Essays on the Art of Fiction, ed. Leon Edel (New York, 1956), pp. 247-8.
- There are many interesting studies of this aspect of the reading phenomenon. Works that particularly stimulated my thinking are the "Introduction" in The Oven Birds: American Women on Womanhood 1820-1920, ed. Gail Parker (New York, 1972), pp. 1-56; Roland Barthes, The Pleasures of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York, 1975); and Raymond Williams, "Base and Superstructure in Marxists Cultural Theory," New Left Review 82 (1973), especially 12-16.
- I am indebted for my understanding of the positive side of sentimentalism to the superb study by Elaine Showalter, The Female Tradition in the English Novel: From Charlotte Brontë to Doris Lessing (Princeton, 1976). For the J. S. Mill reference, see The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill (New York, n.d.), pp. 103-17.
- Herman Melville, White-Jacket, or the World in a Manof-War (New York, 1967), p. 141.
WHITNEY CHADWICK (ESSAY DATE 1990)
SOURCE: Chadwick, Whitney. "Separate But Unequal: Woman's Sphere and the New Art." In Women, Art, and Society, pp. 210-35. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1990.
In the following essay, Chadwick describes how late-nineteenth century art by American women, often influenced by French art and society, reflected changes in women's perceptions of how their social roles should be defined.
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 represented a milestone in women's struggles to achieve public visibility in American cultural life. Approximately one tenth of the works of art in the United States section were by women, more than in any other country's display. Emily Sartain of Philadelphia received a Centennial gold medal, the only one awarded to a woman, for a painting called The Reproof (now lost). Sartain's painting was displayed in the United States section, but the exhibition also boasted a Women's Pavilion with over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space devoted to the work of almost 1500 women from at least 13 countries.
Presided over by Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, Benjamin Franklin's great-grand-daughter and an experienced community leader, the Women's Centennial Executive Committee had raised over $150,000 amid considerable controversy. The building's existence as a segregated display area had been contested from the beginning. "It would, in my opinion," wrote the Director of Grounds, "be in every respect better for them to occupy a building exclusively their own and devoted to women's work alone." To others, the presence of a separate exhibition facility for women at the Exposition signaled an institutionalizing of women's productions in isolation from those of men. Sensitive to the implications of exhibiting women's art only in relation to other areas of feminine creative activity, and angered because no attention was given to women's wages and working conditions, radical feminists refused to participate. "The Pavilion was not a true exhibit of women's art," declared Elizabeth Cady Stanton, because it did not include samples of objects made by women in factories owned by men. Ironically, the building became both the most powerful and conspicuous symbol of the women's movement for equal rights and the most visible indication of woman's separate status.
The Pavilion's eclectic and controversial exhibits included furniture, weaving, laundry appliances, embroideries, educational and scientific exhibitions, and sculpture, painting, and photography, as well as engravings. Jenny Brownscombe, a graduate of Cooper Union and one of the first members of the Art Students' League of New York sent examples of the genre subjects she drew for Harper's Weekly. Among the many paintings by women were the landscapes of Mary Kollock, Sophia Ann Towne Darrah, and Annie C. Shaw; the still-lifes of Fidelia Bridges and Virginia and Henrietta Granberry; drawings of old New York by Eliza Greatorex; historical subjects by Ida Waugh and Elizabeth C. Gardner; and portraits by Anna Lea Merritt. The Philadelphia sculptor Blanche Nevins sent plaster casts of an Eve and a Cinderella; Florence Freeman offered a small bust. Foley and Whitney sent bas-reliefs and statuettes, and Whitney also provided a bronze cast of the Roma, a bronze head of an old peasant woman asleep, and a fountain for the center of the Horticulture Hall.
The lumping together of fine arts, industrial arts, and handicrafts, and of the work of professional and amateur artists implicitly equated the work of all women on the basis of gender alone. Critics were quick to challenge the displays for their lack of "quality" and women once again found themselves confronting universalizing definitions of "women's" production in a gender-segregated world.
In 1876 Louisa May Alcott, using the proceeds from her writing to pay for her sister's European art education, sent May to Paris for further study. May Alcott's copies of Turner's paintings had won Ruskin's praise in London and she was determined to succeed as an artist. Her letters home describe a comfortable lifestyle with a supportive group of female art students sharing meals and encouraging each other's ambitions. The woman they most admired in Paris was Mary Cassatt, who with several other women painters became the first women to align themselves with a stylistically radical movement.
Cassatt (1844-1926), daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman, became a student at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1861, taking her place among a number of dedicated women students which eventually included Alice Barber Stephens, Catherine A. Drinker, Susan MacDowell Eakins, Anna Sellers, Cecilia Beaux, and Anna Klumpke. By 1866, she was settled in Paris where she was soon joined by the rest of her family. Her teas were a mecca for younger women, she was generous with introductions and advice, and her professional commitment was an inspiration to the young students. "Miss Cassatt was charming as usual in two shades of brown satin and rep," wrote May Alcott to her family in Concord, "being very lively and a woman of real genius, she will be a first-class light as soon as her pictures get a little circulated and known, for they are handled in a masterly way, with a touch of strength one seldom finds coming from a woman's fingers."
Alcott's comments reveal the conflicts still facing the woman artist caught within an ideology of sexual difference which gave the privilege to male expression and often forced women to choose between marriage and a career. These conflicts make up Louisa May Alcott's short novella Diana and Persis (written in 1879 but only recently published). The novel's female characters were modeled on herself and her sister, and on their friends among the White Marmorean Flock. One chapter is titled "Puck" in reference to Hosmer's successful piece. Alcott explores the connections between art, politics, spinsterhood, and the female community. Persis, a young painter funded by her family to study abroad, wins minor recognition in the Paris art world (where May Alcott had a still-life accepted in the Salon of 1877). Devotion to her art and devotion to home and family are her consuming passions, but after first choosing art, Persis discovers that as a True Woman she cannot deny her feelings and her desire for domestic life. May/Persis demanded the right both to marital happiness and artistic success, but her expectations ran counter to the structures of patriarchal nineteenth-century society. She loudly proclaims her allegiance to an earlier, heroic generation of female artists like Rosa Bonheur, but in the end her choice of marriage limits her options as an artist.
ON THE SUBJECT OF…
ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER (1858-1964)
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, born into slavery, overcame the political, social, and economic obstacles imposed upon her because of her gender, race, and economic circumstances, and became a pioneering—and often controversial—figure in the struggle for African American rights in the late nineteenth century. A longtime educator, Cooper earned a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1925. She expressed the personal beliefs reflected in her political and social activism and in her dedication as an educator in her well-known collection of essays, A Voice from the South (1892). In this work, which received both critical and popular acclaim upon its publication, Cooper examines the chronic American afflictions of racism and sexism, carefully delineating the African American woman's situation in the 1890s.
In "Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race" Cooper argues that African American people will not be able to overcome the burden of slavery until black men acknowledge their connection with black women. She argues that women provide a unique sensibility to social and political circles, despite being barred from those arenas. Cooper claims that the sense of duty and community felt in American society stems directly from female influence, and by not acknowledging these traits and debts men limit how far that society can progress. As an active participant in the feminist movement in the 1900s, Cooper took issue with the racism rampant within the movement, and in her essay "Woman Versus the Indian" Cooper points out that feminist ideals and missions for changing the situation for women would not be complete until fundamental rights and opportunities had been extended to all women—regardless of race, religion, or creed. She was one of the first writers to argue for this more "global" feminist perspective.
During the years when Cassatt, May Alcott, and other young women flocked to Paris for study, the city itself was undergoing dramatic changes. The rebuilding of Paris by Baron Haussmann and Napoleon III in the 1850s and 1860s physically transformed the city. T. J. Clark, Eunice Lipton, Griselda Pollock, and others have ably demonstrated the evolution of a new social matrix as artists and writers, prostitutes and the new bourgeoisie were drawn into the streets and parks, the cafés and restaurants. Baudelaire's call for an art of modern life emphasizing the fleeting and transitory moment, and the fugitive sensation was embodied in the contemporary focus and realist approach of Degas's and Manet's paintings, in the broken brushstrokes and fleeting gestures of Impressionism, and in the poetic imagery of the flâneur, that exclusively masculine figure who moved about the new public arenas of the city relishing its spectacles.
The collapse of the Second Empire in 1870 and the establishment of the Third Republic in 1875 produced an increasingly democratized middle-class culture. By the 1870s, an active consuming public thronged the boulevards, department stores, and international expositions. The painters later known as the Impressionists—Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Mary Cassatt, and others—produced their own version of modernity, but their stylistic innovations and their new subject-matter must be seen in the larger context of a restructuring of public and private spheres.
In "Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity," Pollock maps the new spaces of masculinity and femininity and articulates the differences "socially, economically, subjectively" between being a woman and being a man in Paris at the end of the century. Some women were drawn to Impressionism precisely because the new painting legitimized the subject-matter of domestic social life of which women had intimate knowledge, even as they were excluded from imagery of the bourgeois social sphere of the boulevard, café, and dance hall. Recent feminist scholarship has focused on the fact that, as upper-class women, Morisot and Cassatt did not have access to the easy exchange of ideas about painting which took place among male artists in the studio and the café. Yet despite Morisot's inability to join her male colleagues at the Café Guerbois, the Morisots were regulars at Manet's Thursday evening soirées, where they met and talked with other painters and critics. Likewise, Cassatt and Degas regularly exchanged ideas about painting. And there is considerable evidence to suggest that Impressionism was equally an expression of the bourgeois family as a defense against the threat of rapid urbanization and rapid industrialization: domestic interiors, private gardens, seaside resorts. Although Morisot's access to public sites was limited, critics of the time appear not to have ranked the subject-matter of her work in any way differently from that of her male colleagues, though most of them agreed that her presentation of it was more "agreeable."
Work now being done on the social meanings produced by Impressionist paintings suggests a complex relationship between the new painting and the new middle-class family (to which most of the Impressionists belonged). Moreover, the decision to work en plein air and to forego the historical subjects, with the complex studio setups and multiple models they required, transformed the relationship between the painter's daily life and his or her studio life; this aspect of Impressionism deserves more study for it profoundly shaped women's relationship to the movement.
During the earlier nineteenth century, academic painters in France often maintained studios in, or near, their homes, but it was the decision to paint scenes of everyday life that moved the easel into the drawing room. Visiting Mme. Manet, Morisot's mother is able to offer a commentary on Manet's painting-in-progress of Eva Gonzales, as the women sit in the studio while Manet works. When Degas sketches in the Morisot garden after lunch, Mme. Morisot provides her own critique; "Monsieur Degas has made a sketch of Yves, that I find indifferent; he chatted all the time he was doing it.…""Your life must be charming at this moment," Edmé Morisot wrote enviously to her sister in 1869, "to talk with Monsieur Degas while watching him draw, to laugh with Manet, to philosophize with Puvis."
Recent publications by Pollock, Tamar Garb, Kathleen Adler, and other feminist art historians have exhaustively documented the work of women Impressionists in relationship to the new painting. Tracing the constraints placed on women like Cassatt, Morisot, Gonzales, and Marie Bracquemond by the social ideologies of bourgeois culture, they have explored the development of their work and isolated their specific contributions to the imagery of Impressionism.
Berthe Morisot numbered Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and Monet among her friends. Written about by Emile Zola and Stéphane Mallarmé, among others, she was described in 1877 by the critic for Le Temps as the "one real Impressionist in this group." Yet until the appearance of revisionist art histories, and the first major retrospective of her work in 1987, art historians almost exclusively framed her work within the structures of her associations with male painters. There is no evidence that Morisot, or Cassatt, were patronized by their painter friends. Yet they moved in an artistic circle in which the threat of women was never entirely silenced. "I consider women writers, lawyers, and politicians (such as George Sand, Mme. Adam and other bores) as monsters and nothing but five-legged calves," declared Renoir. "The woman artist is merely ridiculous, but I am in favor of the female singer and dancer." Renoir's comment divides women by class and occupation. Working-class women are admired for entertaining men; professional women with public roles are seen as usurpers of male authority or destroyers of domestic harmony, as they were earlier pictured in Honoré Daumier's lithograph The Blue Stockings (1844). The modern feminist movement in France, launched in 1866 by Maria Deraismes and Léon Richer, organized the first international congress on women's rights in 1878, at the height of Impressionism, but Impressionist painting records no traces of this aspect of contemporary life. Nor does it acknowledge the increasing numbers of middle-class women who were seeking training and employment outside the home (in 1866, there were 2,768,000 women employed in non-agricultural jobs in France) for Impressionism presents us with few images of women at work outside the domestic environment.
Morisot and Cassatt's ability to sustain professional lives and negotiate relationships of some parity with their male colleagues was class specific. Morisot's marriage to Manet's brother Eugène, and her family's wealth and continuing support were factors in her success; Cassatt's role as an unmarried daughter carried with it time-consuming domestic responsibilities, but it also provided the secure network of relationships from which she drew her art. Bracquemond (1841-1916), on the other hand, did not come from a prosperous, cultured family and enjoyed no such support. Marriage to the engraver Félix Bracquemond in 1869 provided an introduction into artistic circles, but his jealousy of her work inhibited her development and today she is the least well-known of the women Impressionists.
The Paris of the Third Republic offered a variety of artists' societies and exhibition venues from the official Salon to the Union des Femmes Artistes which, shaped by Rosa Bonheur's example, conducted an annual Salon des Femmes. Women Impressionists related to these exhibitions in varying ways. Gonzales, a friend and pupil of Manet's who had studied at the Chaplin atelier, exhibited only at the official salons. Her Little Soldier (1870), influenced by the straightforward realism of Manet's The Fifer (1866), was exhibited at the Salon of 1870. Bracquemond and Cassatt exhibited with the Impressionists from 1876. Morisot, on the other hand, was one of the original members of the group, exhibited with them in 1874, and continued to participate in every exhibition save the one held in 1878, the year her daughter was born. She was also included in the group's auction at the Hôtel Drouot in 1875, where her painting, Interior (now called Young Woman With a Mirror, c. 1875), brought 480 francs, the highest price paid for any painting.
Born in 1841, the youngest of three daughters of a wealthy French civil servant, Morisot and her sister Edme displayed an early talent for drawing. Their second teacher, Joseph Guichard, was moved to warn Mme. Morisot of the implications of such precocious talent; "Considering the characters of your daughters, my teaching will not endow them with minor drawing room accomplishments, they will become painters. Do you realize what this means? In the upper-class milieu to which you belong, this will be revolutionary, I might say almost catastrophic." Further instruction by Corot and Oudinot strengthened the naturalism of their work and the two sisters exhibited together in four successive salons beginning in 1864. Edmé's marriage to a naval officer in 1869 ended her professional life, a fact she lamented in letters to her sister. Despite the support of her family, and that of her husband Eugène Manet, whom she married in 1874, Morisot's letters frequently express her own hesitations and doubts about her work. "This painting, this work that you mourn for," she wrote to Edmé in 1869 shortly after the latter's wedding, "is the cause of many griefs and many troubles."
Morisot's subjects, like those of Gonzales, Cassatt, Bracquemond, and their male colleagues, were drawn from everyday life. The casual immediacy, lack of sentimentality, and feathery brushstrokes of paintings like Catching Butterflies (1873), Summer's Day (1879), and Mother and Sister of the Artist (1870) meld contemporary subjects with the Impressionist desire to capture the transitory effects of life. Gonzales's Pink Morning, a pastel of 1874, is typical of her many interiors with women, while Marie Bracquemond sited many of her works in the family garden, perhaps a secure spot in her troubled life.
Morisot and Cassatt met around 1878, probably through Degas who encouraged Cassatt to exhibit with the Impressionists after the painting she submitted to the Salon was rejected. "At last I could work with complete independence without concerning myself with the eventual judgment of a jury," she later said. "I already knew who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas. I hated conventional art. I began to live." Cassatt had been exhibiting for more than ten years when she joined the Impressionist group. Like Morisot, her subjects evolved within the boundaries of her sex and class. Prevented from asking men other than family members to pose, limited in their access to the public life of the café and boulevard, both women concentrated on aspects of modern domestic life. Pollock has ably demonstrated how Morisot's and Cassatt's paintings demarcate the spaces of masculinity and femininity through their spatial compressions and their juxtapositions of differing spatial systems. Long considered a painter of unproblematic depictions of mothers and children, Cassatt in fact brought an incisive eye to bear on the rituals and gestures through which femininity is constructed and signified: crocheting, embroidering, knitting, attending children, visiting, taking tea.
The intellectual concentration and self-contained focus of Cassatt's depiction of her mother in Reading "Le Figaro" (1883) is now understood as relating more directly to representations of the intellectual life of men like Cézanne's Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne Reading L'Evènement (1866) than to the history of representations of women. Her painting of her sister Lydia driving a trap, Woman and Child Driving (1879), may be unique in late nineteenth-century French painting in depicting a woman doing the driving while a coachman sits idly by; and her many paintings of women and children, though influenced by Correggio's madonnas and children which she greatly admired, are less universalized depictions of maternity than responses to the specific ways that social class is reproduced through the family.
Paintings like Morisot's Psyche (1876) and Cassatt's Mother and Child (c. 1905) return to the conventional association of women and mirrors. The private daily rituals of women at their toilette were a popular subject for painters in the 1870s and 1880s. Morisot's Psyche, with its double-play on the mythological tale of Venus's son Cupid who fell in love with a mortal and on the French term for mirror, or psyché, turns on the adolescent woman's contemplation of her own image. Garb and Adler have pointed out that, as there are no representations of men bathing and dressing, we must assume that although symbolic associations with Venus and Vanitas are abandoned, such paintings nevertheless perpetuate notions of vanity as "natural" to women. Yet Morisot's painting is a deeply sympathetic representation of self-awareness and awakening sexuality, while Cassatt's painting emphasizes the role of the mirror in inculcating an idea of femininity as something mediated through observation.
The complex and gendered organization of a subject is brilliantly articulated in Cassatt's Woman in Black at the Opera (1880). The subject of the ball, concert, or opera was a popular one among the Impressionists and one in which event and audience could be collapsed into the same spectacle. Cassatt, however, suppresses details of the event in order to concentrate on the figure of a young woman in black. Intent on the opera, she focuses her glass on the stage. But in this public world, she herself has become part of the spectacle, and the object of the gaze of a man in the balcony who turns his glasses on her.
Issues of public and private space, and amateur and professional production, also reshaped the design fields during the second half of the nineteenth century. The new focus on the middle-class home, and the self-sufficient world which it signified, is central to the reform of the decorative arts in England and America. Here also, women played a considerable, if complicated role.
There were markedly more women in the design fields by the 1860s as a result of institutionalized arts education for women. By 1870, Hannah Barlow, trained at the Lambeth School of Art and Design in London and one of the first and most important art pottery decorators, was producing freelance designs for Doulton Pottery. The surge of interest in art pottery was sparked by the efforts of the two most famous ceramic firms in Britain—Minton and Doulton—to produce hand-crafted ware on a large commercial scale for middle-class homes. Commercial production, however, was organized around traditional divisions of labor. While male designers received credit for their designs for china surfaces, the painters, usually female and often working and artisan class, remained anonymous. At the same time, the popularity of china painting as a hobby for upper-class women grew rapidly, becoming an amateur craze after 1870.
A similar situation prevailed in the production of professional secular embroidery. The Royal School of Art Needlework was founded in 1872 to provide suitable employment for gentlewomen and to revive the craft of ornamental needlework. By 1875, with Queen Victoria as its patron and Lady Marion Alford its vice-president, the school's embroidery department was producing crewel work from designs by leaders in the Arts and Crafts Movement like Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and Walter Crane.
The first major exhibition of work from the Royal School of Art Needlework took place at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 where its success launched the craft revival in America. Between 1876 and 1891, when new facilities opened at Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago with an exhibition borrowed from Toynbee Hall—London's center for the application of Arts and Crafts theory to improving the lives of the urban poor—large numbers of women contributed to the reform of design.
At the heart of the Arts and Crafts Movement, as it came to be known in Britain and America, was a pre-industrial medieval ideal of a fusion of the designer and the maker. Revolting against the anonymous authorship and shoddy craftsman-ship of industrially produced goods, William Morris dreamed of a socialist utopia in which individuals were not alienated from their labor. The origins of the Movement in Britain lay in nineteenth-century medieval revivals like Gothic, but the spirit of rural craft collaboratives which Morris envisioned belonged to the nineteenth century's idealization of a rural way of life fast giving way to industrialization and urbanization. Wishing to make art available to everyone, and to unite artists, designers, and craftworkers around the ideals of craftsmanship, good design, and the renewed dignity of labor, Morris dreamed of setting up small workshops and countrywide organizations which could revive dying traditions like lace-making and crewel embroidery.
Morris anticipated a day when the sexual division of labor within the arts would vanish and even domestic life would be equably shared by the sexes. Anthea Callen's Women Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement (1979) elaborates another reality—the gradual evolution of an entirely traditional sexual division of labor within the Movement itself, with women staffing the embroidery workshops and men conducting the business and serving as named designers. Above all, Callen emphasizes, it was men who evolved the Movement's philosophy, articulated its goals, and organized the major aspects of its production.
Women, primarily family or friends of Morris and his colleagues, were involved in the Morris firm itself from the beginning. In the 1850s, Morris and his wife Jane had revived the lost art of crewel embroidery by studying and "unpicking" old examples (an undertaking which has generally been credited to Morris alone). Morris then left the production of embroideries in medieval techniques to his wife and her sister Elizabeth. In 1885, Morris placed his daughter May in charge of the embroidery workshop. Georgiana Burne-Jones, the wife of Edward Burne-Jones, was also soon involved in embroidery and wood engraving while Charles Faulkner's sisters, Kate and Lucy, painted tiles, executed embroidery and, Kate at least, designed wallpaper. Apart from the embroidery section, however, the Morris firm employed few women in its workshops and the general involvement of women was heavily weighted in the direction of traditionally "feminine" undertakings like lace and needlework.
In addition to embroidery designed by Morris, Burne-Jones, and Crane and executed at the Royal School of Art Needlework, the decorative arts displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 included Doulton pottery, Ernest Chaplet's "Limoges" glazes, and Japanese-influenced proto-Art Nouveau ceramics. Ceramics and embroidery had the greatest impact on American women.
The American Arts and Crafts Movement was more stylistic than ideological (with the exception of Gustav Stickley and Elbert Hubbard's ideal of a return to the simple, community life of preindustrial America). Yet it provided many middle-class women with a socially respectable and humanitarian outlet for their artistic productions. Candace Wheeler, a wealthy and progressive New Yorker, was impressed by the embroideries of Morris and Company. Struck by the fact that needlework could have financial value, "for it meant the conversion of the common and inalienable heritage of feminine skill in the use of the needle into a means of art expression and pecuniary profit," she envisioned a society similar to the Royal Society of Art Needlework which would organize the sale of needlework, china painting, and other crafts, by women who needed income. Between 1877 and 1883, Wheeler organized the Society of Decorative Art of New York City and worked with Tiffany in setting up a company called Associated Artists, in which she was in charge of textiles, embroidery, tapestry, and needlework, while Tiffany took charge of glass design. By 1883, she was running an enormously successful textile company composed entirely of women and producing printed silks and large-scale tapestries.
The display of china painting by members of the Cincinnati Pottery Club at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition represented the vanguard of a surprising number of American women who went on to professional careers in the field of art pottery, despite the fact that women's involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement began with socially prominent women wishing to perfect their skills as an accomplishment.
Among the many visitors to the ceramics display was Mary Louise McLaughlin (1847-1939) of Cincinnati, whose experiments with reproducing the underglaze slip decoration on Haviland faience pieces became the prototype for art pottery decoration in the United States for the next quarter century. Women, many of whom began as amateur china painters, were behind the formation of the Newcomb, Pauline, Robineau, and other American art potteries. McLaughlin's rival was Maria Longworth Nichols (later Storer, 1849-1932), who had also begun experimenting with underglaze techniques at the Dallas Pottery in Cincinnati after the Philadelphia Exposition. In 1879, Nicholas Longworth offered his daughter premises of her own and the Rookwood Pottery was founded in the Spring of 1880.
Her family's wealth, her father's long history of artistic patronage, and her own social standing in Cincinnati made possible Nichols's increasing professionalism. Her work was viewed as both morally and artistically charitable for she "follows the traditions of her family in devotion to the wellbeing and advancement of her native place." She herself summarized her objective as "my own gratification" rather than the employment of needy women; perhaps not surprisingly, most of the early Rookwood pieces were produced by amateurs. In 1881, Nichols began the Rookwood School of Pottery Decoration. Two years later, she employed her old friend, William Watts Taylor, to take over the administration and organization of the pottery. Taylor, who had little sympathy for lady amateurs, soon closed the school as a pretext for evicting the amateurs, who were then largely replaced by men.
Despite its labor practices, which included a division between designer and decorator that became the model for most art potteries, the Rook-wood Pottery played a formative role in the development of art pottery in America, winning a gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. The full history of women's involvement in the art pottery movement, including the Cincinnati women's training centers and art clubs, remains to be written. What little we know of the careers of Mary McLaughlin, Mary Sheerer, the Overbeck sisters, Pauline Jacobus, and Adelaide Robineau offers tantalizing evidence of a female presence in the American Arts and Crafts Movement which extended to other areas of production as well. Intimately connected with women's roles as domestic and social reformers, the art pottery movement also represented a move by American middle-class women to professionalize the decorative arts.
By the time the World's Columbian Exposition (or World's Fair) opened in Chicago in 1893, American women had evolved a new sense of identity and purpose. Goals and strategies varied widely among feminists, and there were still many women not involved in the struggle for equal rights and the vote, but representatives of all groups came together to organize a woman's building intended to prove that women's achievements were equal to those of men. "The World's Columbian Exposition has afforded woman an unprecedented opportunity to present to the world a justification of her claim to be placed on complete equality with man," stated the preface to the official edition of Art and Handicraft in the Woman's Building, edited by Maud Howe Elliott.
The direction of the Woman's Building was in the hands of Mrs. Palmer Potter, a wealthy Chicago art collector, and her 117-member Board of Lady Managers. Palmer herself did not advocate equal rights for women, but her belief in women's potential was characteristic of mainstream middle-class feminism at the time. Although women had made great strides in education, art training, and social organizing, they still lacked the vote. And they remained caught between the demands of careers and motherhood, struggling continually against the limitations placed on them by the social category of femininity, against the trivializing of their work in relation to that of men, and against the mythologizing of its "otherness."
Elliott's description of the Woman's Building, designed by Sophia G. Hayden, a young graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology architecture and design program, expressed her own acceptance of the ideology of separate spheres; "At that time [the first half of the nineteenth century] the highest praise that could be given to any woman's work was the criticism that it might be easily mistaken for a man's. Today we recognize that the more womanly a woman's work is the stronger it is. In Mr. Henry Van Brunt's appreciative account of Miss Hayden's work, the writer points out that it is essentially feminine in quality, as it should be. If sweetness and light were ever expressed in architecture, we find them in Miss Hayden's building." Sweetness and light are not, however, the criteria generally applied to architecture and Hayden's building, in fact, was admirably suited to the Neoclassical Beaux-Arts style which dominated the Fair's buildings.
The tensions underlying Elliott's and Van Brunt's comments were felt throughout the exposition, nowhere more keenly than in the Woman's Building. In 1889, tension was already evident between the Woman's Department, which had as one of its goals the building of a women's exhibition space, and the Queen Isabella Society, a suffragist group which did not want a segregated women's exhibition. The divisions between the various factions involved in the Woman's Building make a complex chapter in the history of late nineteenth-century American feminism. Nevertheless, women's creative presence was more powerfully felt in Chicago in 1893 than at any other time in the country's history.
The Board of Lady Managers had solicited historical and contemporary artifacts from around the world with the intention of demonstrating that women "were the originators of most of the industrial arts," having been the original makers of household goods, baskets, and clothing. Ethno-graphic displays sent by the Smithsonian Institutiondocumented women's work in the form of embroidery, textiles, and basketry from American Indian, Eskimo, Polynesian, and African tribes. Women's contributions to industries from sheepshearing and raising silkworms to patents for household aids were included and the Women's Library, organized by the women of New York, included seven thousand volumes written by women around the world. Frederick Keppel, a well-known print dealer, provided 138 prints by women etchers and engravers from the late Renaissance to the present, including Diana Ghisi, Elisabetta Sirani, Geertruid Roghman, Maria Cosway, Marie de Medici, Angelica Kauffmann, Caroline Watson, Marie Bracquemond, Rosa Bonheur, Anna Lea Merritt, and Mary Cassatt. Visitors to the Woman's Building passed beneath murals of Primitive Woman and Modern Woman executed by Mary McMonnies and Cassatt.
Some professional women continued to resist exhibiting alongside amateurs in a building that included everything from household goods to embroidery, and others wished to exhibit with men in the Fine Arts Building. The result of the segregation and the wide range of amateur and professional production, wrote one critic, was a "gorgeous wealth of mediocrity." Although the Metropolitan Museum declined a request to send Bonheur's Horse Fair, the fine arts exhibition in the Woman's Building included works by respected artists like Cecilia Beaux, Vinnie Ream Hoxie, and Edmonia Lewis, as well as cat paintings by a seventy-two-year old Belgian artist named Henrietta Ronner and two paintings of dogs by Queen Victoria. Elizabeth Thompson's Quatre Bras and Anna Klumpke's Portrait of Miss M.D. were displayed, along with busts by Anne Whitney and Adelaide McFayden Johnson of prominent women in the suffrage, women's, and temperance movements. The largest exhibitions at the Fair were from women's craft associations in Britain. Rookwood Pottery and the Cincinnati Pottery Club were also well represented.
In the end, despite the unevenness of its displays and the critics' argument that mediocrity was the only possible result when "femininity was the first requisite and merit a secondary consideration," the Woman's Building overwhelmed visitors by the sheer magnitude and ambition of its displays. The building summed up women's past achievements, and made visible the multiple ways they had renegotiated the ideology of separate spheres, but the future belonged to a new generation and a new century. Mrs. Palmer's speech at the opening of the building did not ignore the fact that, by 1893, radical American women perceived the ideology of separate spheres as a male invention and a male response to feared competition in the work place.
By 1893, a new female heroine had emerged in the popular literary imagination, though her presence is barely recorded in painting. The novels of Grant Allen, Thomas Hardy, and George Gissing present female heroines who were in direct conflict with the traditional values of conservative society. Flaunting convention, the New Woman drinks, smokes, reads books, and leads a healthy athletic life. The photographer Frances Benjamin Johnson (1864-1952) burlesqued her delightfully in a self-portrait photograph and she is the subject of Albert Morrow's 1897 poster, The New Woman, for Punch. Also in 1897, the Ladies Home Journal serialized six illustrations by Alice Barber Stephens which collectively outlined the facets of new womanhood. Along with The Woman in Religion, The Woman in the Home, and The Beauty of Motherhood, they included The Woman in Business, The Woman in Society, and The American Girl in Summer. By 1900, feminists were demanding not just voting rights for women, but their right to higher education and the right to earn an income, and the modern woman had appeared.
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition: Wanda M. Corn, "Women Building History," in American Women Artists: 1830-1930, pp. 26-34; Judith Paine, "The Women's Pavilion of 1876," Feminist Art Journal (Winter 1975-1976), pp. 5-12; Elizabeth Cady Stanton's response is quoted on p. 11.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: The Pennsylvania Academy and Its Women 1850-1920 (exh. cat., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1973), essay by Christine Jones Huber.
Susan MacDowell Eakins: Thomas Eakins, Susan MacDowell Eakins, Elizabeth MacDowell Kenton (exh. cat., North Cross School, Roanoke, Virginia, 1977); Louise Lippincott "Thomas Eakins in the Academy," In This Academy (Washington, D.C., 1976); Susan MacDowell Eakins: 1851-1938 (exh. cat., The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1973), essays by Seymour Adelman and Susan Casteras.
May Alcott: Caroline Ticknor, May Alcott: A Memoir (Boston, 1927); Alcott's description of Cassatt is on p. 152; see also Sarah Elbert, A Hunger for Home: Louisa May Alcott and Little Women(Philadelphia, 1984); Nina Auerbach, Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (Cambridge, Mass.,1978).
Women and Impressionism: Eunice Lipton, Looking Into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1986); Tamar Garb, Women Impressionists (Oxford, 1986); Charles Moffett et al., The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886 (Oxford, 1986); John Rewald, The History of Impressionism (New York, 1973); Theresa Ann Gronberg, "Femmes de Brasserie," Art History (vol. 7, September 1984), pp. 329-44; Norma Broude, "Degas's 'Misogyny'" in Broude and Garrard, Feminism and Art History, pp. 247-69; Griselda Pollock, "Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity," Vision and Difference, pp. 50-90.
Mary Cassatt: Griselda Pollock, Mary Cassatt (New York, 1980); Adelyn Breeskin, The Graphic Work of Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1948); Breeskin, Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings (Washington, D.C. 1970); Nancy Hale, Mary Cassatt (New York, 1975); John D. Kysela, "Mary Cassatt's Mystery Mural and the World's Fair of 1893," Art Quarterly (vol. 19, 1966), pp. 129-45; F. Sweet, Miss Mary Cassatt: Impressionist from Pennsylvania (Norman, Ok., 1966); Susan Fillin-Yeh, "Mary Cassatt's Images of Women," Art Journal (vol. 35, Summer 1976), pp. 359-63; Cassatt's remarks about painting are quoted in Pollock, Mary Cassatt, p. 9.
Berthe Morisot: Berthe Morisot: Impressionist (exh. cat., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1987), essays by Charles F. Stuckey and William P. Scott; Kathleen Adler and Tamar Garb, Berthe Morisot (Ithaca, N.Y., 1987); Mme. Morisot and Edmé are quoted in Denis Rouart, ed., The Correspondence of Berthe Morisot (New York, 1957), p. 35; M. L. Bataille and G. Wildenstein, Berthe Morisot: Catalogue des peintures, pastels et aquarelles (Paris, 1961); Leila Kinney, "Genre: A Social Contract?," Art Journal (vol. 46, Winter 1987), pp. 267-77; Linda Nochlin, "Morisot's Wet Nurse: The Construction of Work and Leisure in Impressionist Painting," Women, Art, and Power, pp. 37-56; Renoir's remarks about professional women are in Renoir (exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987), p. 15.
Eva Gonzales: François Mathey, Six femme peintres (Paris, 1931); Salons de la Vie Moderne: Catalogue des peintures et pastels de Eva Gonzales (Paris, 1885).
The Arts and Crafts Movement: Anthea Callen, Women Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement 1870-1914 (New York, 1979); Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present (London, 1984); Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, Arts and Crafts in Britain and America (New York, 1978); The Subversive Stitch; Candace Wheeler is quoted in A Woman's Touch, p. 36.
Art pottery: Paul Evans, Art Pottery of the United States: An Encyclopedia of Producers and Their Marks (New York, 1974).
World's Columbian Exposition: Jeanne Madeline Weimann, The Fair Women: The Story of the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893 (Chicago, 1981).