Picturing Modern Womanhood: Suffragettes, Flappers, and Other New Women in American Art, 1910-1940

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The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed dramatic changes in American society in general and women’s lives in particular. Many women gained new educational, occupational, and political opportunities, while also enjoying unprecedented social and sexual freedoms. Their experiences challenged traditional gender hierarchies and long-held assumptions about female nature. The so-called New Woman embodied modern femininity and proliferated in the pictorial arts during this period. By surveying various permutations of the New Woman—including the ardent suffragette, the liberated flapper, the independent worker, and the gender-bending artist—this lecture explores the shifting and often conflicted attitudes about modern womanhood in the United States.