By Hayley Billet
In today’s literary canon, it is not uncommon for the unconventional female characters to be the heroes of their own stories. In the late nineteenth century however, her story did not end in her favor. While the new woman, a transgressive figure who fought for women’s rights by defying traditional feminine ideals, was represented in Victorian literature, she was heavily criticized for her carefree lifestyle and rebellious behavior. By the stories’ end, the new woman meets her demise, leading to the belief that she is deemed unfit for survival in the Victorian era.
This is most prominent in Henry James’ Daisy Miller and Ella D’Arcy’s The Pleasure-Pilgrim. Daisy and Lulie, the main female characters and new women, are killed off near the end of their stories. While the survival of the new woman looked grim, she was revived and given a second chance at the beginning of the twentieth century through Cicely Hamilton’s play How the Vote was Won, and Marion Bernstein’s poems Women’s Rights and Wrongs, and A Dream. Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim illustrate the death of the new woman and the inevitability that she will not survive in Victorian society, while Hamilton and Bernstein highlight the evolution of the new woman years later and alter the course of the new woman’s unavoidable death. The new woman has been present in many Victorian literary texts, but she was far from the heroine of her own stories.
Hristina Aslimoska writes that the new woman is “Independent, free-spirited, educated and uninterested in marriage and children, the figure of the New Woman threatened the conventional ideals of the Victorian woman and exerted a powerful influence upon feminism in the twentieth century” (68). The new woman challenges conventional societal norms. Daisy Miller and Lulie Thayer, the main female characters in The Pleasure-Pilgrim and Daisy Miller, represent new women because they fit the very mold that Aslimoska discusses. They do not represent the typical Victorian ideal and what is expected of women their age. Rather, they challenge these traditional values and express themselves in a way only new women would. They are independent, rebellious, free-spirited, and uninterested in settling down with their respective suitors. Other characters in the stories criticize their behavior since it is a way of life that is completely new to them. Because it is different, they view it as unethical and wrong. Daisy and Lulie acted against the Victorian ideal and presented themselves in a confident way, showing that they were very capable of taking care of themselves.
While the new woman, a transgressive figure who fought for women’s rights by defying traditional feminine ideals, was represented in Victorian literature, she was heavily criticized for her carefree lifestyle and rebellious behavior.
When we first meet Daisy and Lulie, it is clear straight away that they are different. Daisy says in her first conversation with Winterbourne “I have more friends in New York than in Schenectady— more gentlemen friends; and more young lady friends too” (James 19), she also adds proudly that she has always had “… a great deal of gentlemen’s society” (20). We can clearly see that Daisy is a new woman due to her many male friends and suitors, something that was seen as unconventional for women at the time. Winterbourne’s first impression of Daisy is that she is captivatingly different, and he finds himself drawn to her because of this. His discussion of her helps us see that she does in fact distance herself from the traditional ideals of Victorian women, “Never, indeed, since he had grown old enough to appreciate things, had he encountered a young American girl of so pronounced a type as this. Certainly, she was very charming, but how deucedly sociable!” (20). Daisy is undeniably different from the traditional woman, the beginning of her story shows us that she is the exact opposite of obedient, she is a new woman.
Lulie seems plain but compellingly charming and different to Campbell. The difference in the introductions of her and Daisy is that Lulie does not say anything that makes the readers believe she is a new woman, instead, it is represented by her appearance and mannerisms. When they first meet, Campbell’s first impression of Lulie is that her fashion choice was “extravagant” (D’Arcy 265). During their first conversation, Campbell also observes that “Her charm was something subtle, out-of-the-common, in defiance of all known rules of beauty” (267). Lulie’s flirtatious nature sets her apart from the traditional Victorian ideal, “She raised her eyelids the least little bit as she looked at him, and such a warm and friendly gaze shot out” (266), Lulie is clearly a new woman because of this playful behavior, unconventional for women at the time. Campbell notes that she is pretty in a strange and different way, unlike the traditional mold of Victorian women. His observations of Lulie help us see that because she acts in such an innocently seductive manner (that undeniably works on Campbell), she is distancing herself from the conventional Victorian ideals and solidifying herself as a new woman.
Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim are not narrated through the perspectives of Daisy and Lulie. Instead, their stories are told through the eyes of their possible male suitors, both of whom strictly enforce the traditional Victorian ideal. Still, they are drawn to Daisy and Lulie for their rebellious behavior and unrestrained lifestyle. They interchange between judging the girls based on the observations of those around them and becoming fascinated by their behavior as free-spirited women. Had the story been told by Daisy or Lulie, I think we would have gotten a more liberating story, but because the stories of Daisy and Lulie are told by Campbell and Winterbourne, we see society’s disapproval of the new woman and its need to dispose of them for fear of further disobedience.
The main difference between Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim is Winterbourne’s treatment of Daisy and Campbell’s treatment of Lulie. Both men admit their feelings for these new women. However, Campbell is convinced by Mayne to reject Lulie’s feelings for her and not reciprocate her feelings, fearing he will be just another name added to her list of affairs. In response to her expressing her love for him, he wonders “to how many men you have not already said the same thing” (D’Arcy 274). This exposes what he knows of her previous exploits. Winterbourne remains conflicted about Daisy’s behavior, even after she presents a new suitor, Giovanelli. Winterbourne takes it upon himself to help her conform to the traditional role of women during the Victorian era, something Daisy objects to and continues to question in terms of its significance. Daisy objects to Winterbourne’s claims that she should not go to meet Giovanelli alone, feeling as though she is being controlled, ““I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do.” “I think you have made a mistake,” said Winterbourne. “You should sometimes listen to a gentleman—the right one”” (James 73). Winterbourne’s attempts to change Daisy’s mind are useless, as Daisy chooses to not listen to him and continue her free-spirited adventures.
Daisy and Lulie are both American. Both are described as being flirtatious and are looked down upon because American women had garnered a reputation for their seemingly wild behavior. After he meets Lulie, Campbell is unsure what to make of Lulie because she is American, “But the sense of incongruity vanished with the intonation of her first phrase, which told him she was an American. He had no standards for American conduct” (D’Arcy 265). Campbell and Winterbourne are warned by Mrs. Walker and Mayne to stay away from Daisy and Lulie, for they will become just another suitor in the girls’ long list of previous exploits. Mayne also does a good job of blowing these assumptions out of proportion, in one instance claiming that Lulie has “… a fiancé in every capital of Europe probably” (273). This further pins Campbell and Lulie at odds with each other. Interestingly, it is never proven that the girls had in fact engaged in numerous affairs with other men, it is only speculated and believed by everyone who opposes the new women’s behavior. The fact that Daisy and Lulie were American adds to these speculations and assumptions.
It’s also interesting to point out that while Daisy and Lulie are notoriously labelled as flirts (mainly made accompanying the knowledge that they are American), it is never truly proven if they did indeed have a long list of previous suitors, rather, it is merely implied. Lulie does briefly acknowledge this in her discussion with Campbell near the end of The Pleasure- Pilgrim, however, she only talks about a very small number of suitors and young men she has known that have taken her out (D’Arcy 281). Daisy is only seen with one other suitor throughout her story, but Winterbourne’s first impression of Daisy is that she may be “… a coquette; he was sure she had a spirit of her own; but in her bright, sweet, superficial little visage there was no mockery, no irony” (James 14). Winterbourne sensed that this was simply a role that Daisy played perfectly. However, Daisy says near the end of the story “Besides, I don’t go round so much” (104). Daisy and Lulie, aware of their reputations, paid them no mind, letting others form their own opinions of them and not caring what their minds came up with, even if it was mostly false information.
Daisy and Lulie maintain the feminine ideal while at the same time challenging it, much to the disapproval of others. Winterbourne’s aunt takes an instant disliking to Daisy and her family, deeming them “common” (James 27). While Daisy doesn’t like this impression, she is not afraid of the fact of that Winterbourne’s aunt does not want to meet her, exclaiming:
“‘She doesn’t want to know me!’ she said suddenly.”
“Why don’t you say so? You needn’t be afraid. I’m not afraid!” (35).
Mayne even calls Lulie a new woman when discussing her being a flirt, “Perhaps this girl has constituted herself the Nemesis for her sex, and goes about seeing how many masculine hearts she can break, by way of revenge. Or can it be that she is simply the newest development of the New Woman—…“ (D’Arcy 271). We can see from this excerpt that Mayne looks down on the new women, calling Lulie the “… Nemesis for her sex” (271). He thinks of the new woman as spiteful beings who break the hearts of men for revenge. In this excerpt, he is assuring Campbell that he is doing the right thing by rejecting Lulie’s affections. The characters who disapprove of Daisy and Lulie and their actions try to convince Campbell and Winterbourne that the girls are not right for them and that they’d be better off pursuing a woman who fits the Victorian ideal. These are the characters that disapprove of the new woman, and subsequently they attempt to persuade Campbell and Winterbourne to end their fixations on Daisy and Lulie.
The new woman has been present in many Victorian literary texts, but she was far from the heroine of her own stories.
This does not stop Daisy from challenging Victorian feminine ideals by firing back at those who criticize them. She seeks to challenge the lifestyle of Victorian women. When arguing about her flirting with other men with Winterbourne, who says that other people do not understand that sort of behavior, their conversation takes an interesting turn when Daisy fires back “I thought they understood nothing else!” exclaimed Daisy. “Not in young unmarried women.” “It seems to me much more proper in young unmarried women than in old married ones,” Daisy declared” (James 90). Daisy is challenging the ideal, claiming it should be more acceptable for young unmarried women to flirt than married women. She is asking why people look down on a young unmarried woman who flirts as opposed to an old married woman who flirts?
Daisy and Lulie challenge the conventionalities of men and women as well as the ideals of marriage. Enes Kavak writes that “In short stories, heroines are exhausted of male mind’s limitations” (Kavak 1042). We see these limitations in Winterbourne’s and Campbell’s narrations. Because they cannot comprehend why Daisy and Lulie act the way they do, we get a story that revolves around their attempts at understanding the girls instead of a story about the liberated and positive side of being a new woman. Kavak also writes that the new woman attacks the traditional ideals of marriage (1042). Both Daisy and Lulie do not see marriage as the most important thing in their life, or a life goal for that matter.
Sarah E. Maier elaborates on the ideal of marriage. She writes that D’Arcy rejected the idea that the “… ultimate fate for an ‘ideal’ woman is marriage” (40). Lulie and Daisy reject this too. This is a topic that they toy with, something unheard of for women of their time. Lulie was engaged, but this engagement would end should she find and fall in love with someone better. Lulie explains her broken engagement to Campbell after he asks about her fiancé’s reaction, “Oh he won’t mind. He knows I only got engaged because he worried so. And it was always understood between us that I was to be free if I ever met any one I liked better” (D’Arcy 277). This shows that Lulie’s perception of marriage does not match that of Victorian ideals. Daisy teases Winterbourne with the idea that she is engaged, and we later find out that she never was.
Their exchange shows Daisy’s teasing with the idea of marriage:
“‘I AM engaged.’… Winterbourne looked at her; he had stopped laughing.”
“‘You don’t believe!’ She added.”
“He was silent a moment; and then,‘Yes, I believe it,’he said.”
“‘Oh, no, you don’t!’ she answered. ‘Well, then—I am not!’” (James 106).
These quotations show that Daisy and Lulie reject the traditional ideal of marriage. They do not take it seriously and are not interested in the prospect of getting married, wanting to stick with their free-spirited lifestyle.
These observations prove that Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim are undeniably similar, but the biggest similarity between the two stories is one that I have not gotten to yet, the deaths of Daisy and Lulie. Daisy dies from an illness, “… a terrible case case of the fever” (James 114). She falls ill after venturing out late at night with Giovanelli, to Winterbourne’s dismay. Even in death, Daisy is ridiculed for her behavior, “Winterbourne stood there beside it, with a number of other mourners, a number larger than the scandal excited by the young lady’s career would have led you to expect” (114). Giovanelli reasons that she was “most innocent” (114). Daisy’s death results in the story’s rather abrupt ending, in which Winterbourne admits that his pursuit of Daisy was a mistake, and he returns to Geneva in pursuit of a foreign woman.
Lulie dies by suicide in a final attempt to prove her love for Campbell. After he rejects her declaration of love yet again, he claims the only way he would believe she loves him is if she would shoot herself with a pistol. Lulie takes this seriously, “‘And suppose I were to,’ she asked lightly, ‘would you believe me then?’” (D’Arcy 281). After her death, Campbell is still unable to tell if Lulie had in fact loved him. He listens to two very opposite views, from Mayne and Lulie’s sister. Lulie’s sister reasons that she did love him and when she found out that he would not return her love, she didn’t want to live anymore (282). Mayne has a different interpretation however, thinking that the flirtatious role she has been playing deserved a spectacular finale, and declaring, “She was the most consummate little actress I ever met” (282). This statement shows that Lulie’s death was a part of the role she had to keep playing. I think Lulie killed herself simply to prove her point to the man who wouldn’t listen to her.
Rather, they challenge these traditional values and express themselves in a way only new women would. They are independent, rebellious, free-spirited, and uninterested in settling down with their respective suitors.
Daisy and Lulie were the main focus of these stories, not Winterbourne and Campbell. James and D’Arcy illustrate this point by ending their stories rather quickly after the girls have died. The stories are about the new woman and the reception she receives from those around her. After her death, her story ends and so do James’ and D’Arcy’s narratives. Daisy and Lulie’s opinions on society reflect that of their authors. Their deaths are more or less swept under the rug, and life returns to normal shortly thereafter. Winterbourne is able to move on without so much as a backwards glance, and Campbell is still unsure of Lulie’s true feelings, though her suicide made it quite clear.
While they are transgressive feminist texts, Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim end in a way that reflects the fact that James and D’Arcy could not picture a future where the new woman exists. It is the finale to these stories that bring about several questions. I think the reason for these very abrupt deaths is that James and D’Arcy are showing that the new woman cannot survive in the Victorian era. Their erratic behavior does not fit into the Victorian ideal of how a woman should act. Because of this behavior and negative reactions to it, it is believed that the new woman cannot exist in the future. When the Victorian era ends, so will the new woman. The predictions of the death of the new women’s movement in reality are mirrored in literature, when Daisy and Lulie die, so do the hopes of the new woman’s survival going into the twentieth century. It’s also interesting to point out that Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim both end with the downplaying of Daisy and Lulie’s deaths, as if they didn’t matter or their deaths do not count because they were not respectable women. Therefore, they include this in their stories, adding a touch of reality to their conclusions. Believing that the death of the new woman is inevitable, they incorporated their true feelings of this subject into their stories.
Daisy and Lulie illustrate the new definition of women that authors have tried to nail down. Daisy’s death seems to be a lesson, or punishment for her acts of disobedience (Aslimoska 69). Lulie’s death is the final straw in her attempts to prove her feelings for Campbell. Lulie’s death, further elaborated on by Maier, shows that “Lulie cannot survive Campbell’s rejection because it would reinforce the denial of her sexuality, so she kills herself with a gunshot to the heart in the presence of Campbell. Conversely, the image of her suicide reinforces society’s condemnation of the sexually free woman” (43). Lulie’s death signifies that the new woman cannot survive in a society that won’t support their actions.
Aslimoska writes that Daisy’s characterization seems like a call “… for a discussion of the double moral standards applied to gender roles” (74). This statement helps us see that Daisy’s social status is not presented with negative reception due to James’ resentment toward the new women’s movement, rather, he brings attention to the fact that women are more socially restricted than men (74). By killing Daisy off at the end of the story, James is exhibiting the fact that the new woman cannot survive Victorian society if they will not be accepted by others. Aslimoska argues that Daisy can be seen as the hero of her story because not once does Daisy express regret toward her decision to go out with a man late at night, nor does she express any desire to change her ways to become like the other women of her time (80). Daisy is punished for her actions, her death signifying a warning to readers to conform to their gender roles (81). In the end, we can clearly see that Daisy’s death represents “… the lack of readiness of the current European societies to approve and integrate her ideals” (82). Indeed, the last line of Aslimoska’s article speaks volumes to society’s disapproval and rejection of the new woman. Daisy and Lulie are just two female characters representing how important it is that the new woman exists. Their deaths show that the new woman has not died in vain, she has made an immense impact on literature.
Maier also explains that there was a power struggle between the new woman and men in the Victorian era, further highlighting why the new woman could not have survived due to the massive backlash she received from her male counterparts. In relation to Lulie and Campbell, Maier writes: “Any relinquishing of power by men to women represents changes in society which men fear. There is a desire by both sexes for power: women wish to claim power for themselves and men wish to maintain the majority of power by controlling women” (43). It is possible that Campbell was intimidated by Lulie’s confident behavior, fearing that he would be the weaker sex in their relationship. The information on Lulie’s previous exploits provided by Mayne also influenced Campbell’s rejections. Because of this struggle for power, D’Arcy demonstrates the superiority of male dominance, something the new woman is not sturdy or strong enough to conquer. Lulie’s suicide represents the new woman’s knowledge of this inevitable fact. Because she is a new woman, Maier adds, “Lulie must die: she represents a new morality and an acknowledgement of female power which the male-biased society cannot comprehend or allow but she cannot subordinate her sexuality to Campbell’s control as it would deny her right to individual desire” (46).
Daisy and Lulie challenge the conventionalities of men and women as well as the ideals of marriage.
Lulie and Daisy could not have survived upper-class society’s views towards new women. They were talked about and scorned even in death. Their deaths could very well have represented an escape for new women, if they could not succeed in reality, perhaps their deaths would speak volumes to how unjust Victorian society is towards all women. Tola and Dayo Odubajo use novelist Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles to discuss their views of the new woman in literature. They conclude that Tess’ death “… ironically freed her soul from an unjust, unfriendly, and hypocritical world” (9233). A similar perspective can be applied to the deaths of Daisy and Lulie. Based on the abrupt endings, we can see that because of the response to Daisy and Lulie’s deaths they would not have been respected or succeed as new women in Victorian society. All of these women were criticized for their behavior and did not fit into Victorian society.
Their deaths can be seen as their escape and liberation from a society that does not approve of their actions. This is evident in the short scenes that take place after their deaths. The quote concerning Daisy’s death that I have mentioned previously speaks to this notion, “Winterbourne stood there beside it, with a number of other mourners, a number larger than the scandal excited by the young lady’s career would have led you to expect” (James 114). Daisy would have never been accepted by society, in death, she is able to remain free-spirited and rebellious. Lulie would have never been accepted by Campbell and would have led a life of misery. Her intentions are still questioned by Campbell, “When from a distance of time and place Campbell was at last able to look back with some degree of calmness on the catastrophe, the element in it which stung him most keenly was this: he could never convince himself that Lulie had really loved him after all” (D’Arcy 281-82). Campbell would never have accepted Lulie as a new woman, and she would live her life with much heartache. In death, she would be able to prove her point and remain satisfied with her pursuit of Campbell. This was not the performance of a “… consummate little actress …” (282), but the affirmation of a woman desperately in love.
Since both Daisy Miller and The Pleasure Pilgrim are narrated through the perspectives of Winterbourne and Campbell, we find their thoughts on Daisy and Lulie relatable to the overall view Victorian society would have on the new woman. They are interested in Daisy and Lulie, however their attitudes and opinions reflect that of Victorian culture, and therefore, we resent them and their treatment of the girls and find Daisy and Lulie’s deaths as a symbol for their freedom. They are breaking away from the societal bonds and norms that have constricted them. This is an interesting perspective because it shows that in death, the new woman has found her freedom and escape from a society that did not accept them. Daisy and Lulie never changed themselves for others. They see that they cannot survive Victorian society, but they can die as new women. Maier writes that The Pleasure-Pilgrim “… explores the dangers which society creates for women who do not conform to the ideal image” (39-40). It is this society that can cause the new woman to see death as the only freeing experience she will ever encounter. To Daisy and Lulie, these dangers are more stimulating than conforming to the Victorian female image.
While they are transgressive feminist texts, Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim end in a way that reflects the fact that James and D’Arcy could not picture a future where the new woman exists.
I do believe that James feels that the new woman needs to be praised for her free-spirit and bravery to express herself in a society that she feels is unsuitable for her. But because he knew how disrespected the new woman would be, he killed Daisy off as a message that the new woman needs to be respected as much as any other woman. Odubajo and Odubajo mention that Thomas Hardy “… condemns the social and sexual hypocrisy of the Victorians” (9231-9232), James mirrors this in Daisy Miller. I think he and D’Arcy wanted to show their societies how terribly they treat women, to the point that they feel as though death is the only way they can feel that they have succeeded. The clash between Daisy and the other characters in the story represents “James’s indications of social restrictions upon women and the double moral standards” (Aslimoska 74). By killing Daisy off at the end, James is bringing attention to the path he does not want society to take, keeping women as obedient and submissive as possible.
D’Arcy also brings attention to Victorian society’s disrespectful treatment of women. Lulie is damned to death since she expresses no desire to succumb to the obedient role of Victorian women (Maier 47). Maier also writes that “The comparison between the American New Woman and the English New Woman indicates, perhaps, D’Arcy’s desire for the New Woman movement to advance at a quicker pace in England” (46). This shows that in order to make her point, D’Arcy killed off Lulie in an attempt to get the new women’s movement moving along faster. By showing that the new woman cannot survive the society they are living in, D’Arcy “… emphasizes the need for change in a patriarchal system which explicitly restricts the freedom of the real woman” (47). The new woman cannot, and should not, be punished for simply expressing her desires for a more free and fulfilling life.
James and D’Arcy knew that because Daisy and Lulie were new women, they could not survive Victorian society. D’Arcy made her opinions on the need for the new women’s movement known, while James disgraced Victorian society for treating the new woman as an unwelcome guest who will only find her freedom in death. Daisy and Lulie’s deaths do in fact represent the only form of independence the new women could readily take advantage of without the judgement of others. This shows how dangerous the Victorian society really was for the new woman.
After the Victorian era, the new woman resurfaced, gaining much more power and more support from men and women alike. Near the time of the suffrage movement, the new women became a reinvigorated group, and this was reflected in the literature near the end of the Victorian era and the early twentieth century. The new woman was now represented in literature as a force to be reckoned with as they were now gaining the momentum that the new woman in the Victorian era did not have. They continued Daisy and Lulie’s carefree behavior, this time with more aggressiveness and determination, because they were now entering a generation where all women were beginning to realize their worth and right to the same advantages given to men for so many years. The new woman may have surfaced in the wrong era, but once she resurrected in the right era that needed her and supported her like never before, she became an unstoppable force.
James and D’Arcy were two of the many Victorian era writers who exposed the wrongfulness of their society’s treatment of women’s liberation and freedom. This resurrected the new woman for the next generation and showed that Daisy and Lulie have not died in vain. Cicely Hamilton’s play How the Vote was Won features an abundance of independent female characters who decide to live up to their role as women and demand support from their closet male relatives. Marion Bernstein’s short poems A Dream and Women’s Rights and Wrongs highlight the fact that women are at an extreme disadvantage compared to men. She calls out society for its treatment of women and argues that women are just as worthy as men and raises the question of when this will change.
How the Vote was Won, A Dream, and Women’s Rights and Wrongs are very satirical, but underneath the humor lies a message from the new woman. By exposing society for its unjust ways of treating women, this new era of women’s liberation proves to be a pivotal and unforgettable moment in time.
Since both Daisy Miller and The Pleasure Pilgrim are narrated through the perspectives of Winterbourne and Campbell, we find their thoughts on Daisy and Lulie relatable to the overall view Victorian society would have on the new woman.
How the Vote was Won features a wide array of female characters standing up for their rights. In their demands for the vote, these women go on strike and demand that their closet male relative provide them with a place to stay until they get the vote. Hamilton’s play provides us with many female characters who represent the new woman, instead of just one character that others look down upon. She also provides a character who shares the same opinions of the new woman with Mayne and Mrs. Costello, Horace Cole. Horace is not by any means a women’s rights activist, but changes his mind when his female relatives show up at his house. Here we see that the tables have turned. Daisy and Lulie were at a great disadvantage because they were the only female characters who represented the new woman, whereas in Hamilton’s play, the new women outweigh the men and others who do not support them. They are more confident than ever. They now have enough support to speak out and fight back against those who disapprove of their actions, something Daisy and Lulie did not succeed in. Hamilton’s play resurrects the new woman, with more power and strength than before. We see this liberation most evident in Aunt Lizzie’s speech concerning the men’s reactions to their march.
“That’s the sensible attitude, of course. It would be humiliating for them to confess that it was not until we held a pistol to their heads that they changed their minds. Well, at this minute I would rather be the man who has been our ally all along than the one who has been our enemy. It’s not the popular thing to be an “anti” anymore. Any man who tries to oppose us to-day is likely to be slung up to the nearest lamp-post.” (Hamilton 25)
This is an important quote because it greatly represents the theme of women’s liberation and carries a sense of aggressiveness and attitude. The women are no longer going to be the proper ladies they are expected to be, the kind of women that Daisy and Lulie rejected time and time again to no avail. This time, if the men do not agree, like they have before, the women will strike back with enough force and move the men aside as they march for the right to vote. This is the sort of aggression that would make Daisy and Lulie quite proud. They may have failed in their attempts at expressing themselves as new women in Victorian society, but the women in How the Vote was Won certainly will not.
How the Vote was Won undoubtedly shifts the new woman from being ostracized to being recognized for her bravery, something James and D’Arcy tried to bring out in the new woman. Horace, who would have been a respectable gentleman in Victorian literature, among the likes of Winterbourne and Campbell, is now perceived as presumptuous and inconsiderate. He believes that as long as a woman is in the care of a man, she does not need to think or speak for herself. This proves completely false as he begins to see the harsh reality his female relatives have to deal with.
Horace remains adamant about his opinions, even as the slew of female relatives continue to flood his home. They reason however, that their lives will remain nowhere near perfect if they keep living according to the rules Horace supports, that men do the talking for women. If they are well supported, there is no need to complain. However, Horace begins to realize their reality when his sister Agatha comes to stay with him and Ethel:
HORACE. All this sounds as if you had become a Suffragette! Oh, Agatha, I always thought you were a lady.
AGATHA. Yes, I was a lady—such a lady that at eighteen I was thrown upon the world, penniless, with no training whatever which fitted me to earn my own living. (Hamilton 15)
The characters who disapprove of Daisy and Lulie and their actions try to convince Campbell and Winterbourne that the girls are not right for them and that they’d be better off pursuing a woman who fits the Victorian ideal.
Agatha shows Horace that not everything was as it seemed. She is showing her brother that just because one presents herself as a lady does not mean that she will have the support a lady receives from a man. There is a great amount of sarcasm in Agatha’s response, claiming that yes, she was a lady, but so much so that she had to perform unladylike tasks, such as providing for herself and earning her own living. The women’s movement has been going on for decades, but the women are no longer quiet about it. Daisy and Lulie began acts of rebellion, but in a more subtle manner since they had very little support.
Molly, Horace’s niece, proves an interesting character and representation of the new woman. She is young, about twenty years old, and is around the same age that Daisy and Lulie were when their attempts at being new women were disgraced by others. Though they were present in different time periods, they all represent new women. However, Molly lives in a time that encourages women’s liberation, and she is quite similar to Daisy and Lulie for her erratic lifestyle. She challenges gender ideologies more aggressively than Daisy and Lulie and succeeded in her protests to marriage. Daisy and Lulie toyed with the idea of marriage, showing that it is not something that concerns new women, but Molly was more belligerent and adamant against marrying someone that she did not want to marry, while Daisy simply manipulated everyone’s impressions that she was going to marry Giovanelli. When we first meet Molly, she discusses her actions, which play into the theme of challenging gender ideologies:
MOLLY. Ah, yes; but you never liked my writing for money did you? You called me “sexless” once because I said that as long as I could support myself I didn’t feel an irresistible temptation to marry that awful little bounder Weekes.
ETHEL. Reginald Weekes! How can you call him a bounder! He was at Oxford.
MOLLY. Hullo, Auntie Ethel! I didn’t notice you. You’ll be glad to hear I haven’t brought much luggage—only a night-gown and some golf-clubs.
HORACE. I suppose this is a joke!
MOLLY. Well, of course that’s one way of looking at it. I’m not going to support myself any longer. I’m going to be a perfect lady and depend on my Uncle Horace—my nearest male relative—for the necessities of life. (A motor horn is heard outside.) Aren’t you glad that I am not going to write another scandalous book, or live in lodgings by myself! (Hamilton 17)
Their deaths show that the new woman has not died in vain, she has made an immense impact on literature.
Molly, the youngest character in the play, is a prime example of the new woman thriving in the new century. She is more or less living the life that Daisy and Lulie would have cherished had they not been weighed down by Victorian ideologies. In this century, Molly is free to be a new woman, fighting for women’s rights, writing scandalous book, and living on her own. Like James and D’Arcy, in this passage, Hamilton is expressing distaste toward the traditions of marriage. Molly’s claiming that since she can support herself and not let herself be forced into a marriage she has no desire of being in shows that she shares Daisy and Lulie’s opinions on marriage, it is unnecessary for the new woman.
Molly is also a representation of the time that has passed since James and D’Arcy introduced Victorian society to Daisy and Lulie. Now, Hamilton has resurrected the personas of Daisy and Lulie into another female character who is able to live her life openly as a new woman. Molly shows the progress that society has made in terms of accepting the new woman since Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim. Marion Bernstein adds to Cicely Hamilton’s play and imagines a society that has taken the new woman even further in her poem A Dream.
Bernstein begins her poem with the lines “I dreamt that the nineteenth century / Had entirely passed away, / And had given place to a more advanced / And very much brighter day” (Whitla and Shea 813). Here Bernstein is completely throwing out the Victorian ideals that had suffocated Daisy and Lulie and prompted their liberating deaths. Bernstein is also branching off of Molly and her female relative’s progress in How the Vote was Won, making her readers look to the distant future, one where women are in charge and no longer have to fight for their rights. Because women are now in possession of the jobs usually run by men, society is in a better working order.
Women are in control in this dream poem. Bernstein writes of this future with great optimism and pride, “There were female chiefs in the Cabinet, / (Much better than males I’m sure!) / And the Commons were three-parts feminine, / While the Lords were seen no more!” (Whitla and Shea 814). Bernstein is sure that if women were in charge, they would take better control of society than the men who had come before them. This certainly connects to women’s liberation, relating back to Aunt Lizzie’s liberated quote, “Any man who tries to oppose us to- day is likely to be slung up to the nearest lamp-post” (Hamilton 25). Both lines show the woman’s capability at taking over the positions of men and (quite possibly) doing a much better job than them. This also shows the progress of the new woman and her survival in the change of time and traditions. A society such as the one Bernstein talks about shows that the new woman is capable of surviving beyond the women’s movement.
Their deaths could very well have represented an escape for new women, if they could not succeed in reality, perhaps their deaths would speak volumes to how unjust Victorian society is towards all women.
Unlike Daisy and Lulie, the new woman is thriving in Hamilton’s play and Bernstein’s poetry, signifying that death is no longer the way for the new woman to feel liberated. This poem expresses the hope that the new woman will survive far into the future. Bernstein confesses that they are far from success in the women’s movement however with her closing lines “At this I felt sure there was some mistake, / It seemed such a strange idea! / My eyes opened wide, and that made me wake, / Now wasn’t the vision queer?” (Whitla and Shea 814). She thinks it rather foolish of her to imagine a society where women reign supreme over men. Though she hopes for a future like the one in her dream, Bernstein believes that the new women’s work is far from over.
In her poem Women’s Rights and Wrongs, Bernstein discusses the importance of the women’s suffrage movement and how it is vital that women take charge to ensure her survival. Bernstein begins “Pray, in what is wrong redressed, / But by conceding right? / And Woman Suffrage is the best / For which our sex can fight” (Whitla and Shea 811). She claims that the suffrage movement is the best way for women to fight for equality. These new women have a much greater purpose that was started by Daisy and Lulie. They began by asserting themselves as new women and refusing to change for anything or anyone. Time has passed and Hamilton’s play and Bernstein’s poetry brings attention to the suffrage movement. Now the new women’s goal is to fight for equal rights. Their roles as new women have been established, but now they must avert their attention to a greater cause.
Bernstein reasons that it is not the goal of the new women to overthrow the men and overpower them. Rather, they simply want to share equality and seek a common ground, “Our claims are oft misunderstood; / We would but share with man / The human right of doing good / In any way we can” (Whitla and Shea 811). Bernstein stresses the importance of women’s suffrage and that in order to find a common ground with men, they must share the same rights. Bernstein ends her poem by asserting “Why should we put our trust in men, / Who oft betray our cause? / Let women vote away their wrongs, / And vote for righteous laws” (811). This passage relates to Hamilton’s play as well. The women in How the Vote was Won share a common goal with Bernstein, they simply want the same rights and advantages already given to men.
Bernstein understands that the new women’s next obstacle is the fight for equality. She envisions the aftermath of the women’s movement in A Dream, and stresses the importance of the suffrage movement in Women’s Rights and Wrongs. In A Dream, Bernstein ends her poem by claiming that the women’s movement still has a long way to go and that her fight is far from over. In Women’s Rights and Wrongs she reasons that the new women simply want equality and ends her poem by asking that women be given their own voice instead of letting it be overshadowed by men. Bernstein’s poems show that the new woman is more important than ever in the women’s movement. She may have not succeeded in Victorian society, but she is stronger and needed more than ever in the new era.
Hamilton and Bernstein have revived the new woman and brought her to the forefront of the women’s movement, something James and D’Arcy were unable to do with Daisy and Lulie since they had little support from others. However, had the new woman not have been rejected in Victorian society, the next wave of new women may not have made a comeback stronger than before. Even though Daisy and Lulie could not have survived the challenging of gender ideologies in their societies, and although the hopes of the new woman’s survival died with Daisy and Lulie, that does not mean that future writers (both men and women) will not try to bring her back, and that does not mean that they will fail in these attempts. This was proved by Cicely Hamilton and Marion Bernstein.
The new woman was introduced in an era that did not want her to exist. But the necessity of her character was proven by the women’s movement as they fought for the right to vote.
The new woman was introduced in an era that did not want her to exist. But the necessity of her character was proven by the women’s movement as they fought for the right to vote. Bernstein stressed that it is important that the new woman remain in future societies and beyond. But thanks to her resurrection in the twentieth century, it is safe to say that she is not going to disappear anytime soon. Daisy and Lulie sparked the emergence and significance of the new woman. D’Arcy made her opinions on the need for the new women’s movement known, while James disgraced Victorian society for treating the new woman as an unwelcome guest who will only find her freedom in death. Bernstein and Hamilton resurrected the new woman, emphasizing the importance of her existence. Daisy Miller and The Pleasure-Pilgrim illustrate the death of the new woman and the inevitability that she will not survive in Victorian society, while Hamilton and Bernstein highlight the evolution of the new woman years later and alter the course of the new woman’s unavoidable death. The new woman was not viewed as the hero of her own story in Victorian society, instead she was viewed as a burden on society. However, readers sympathized with Daisy and Lulie, concluding that they existed in the wrong era. Hamilton and Bernstein resurrected her in the era of the women’s movement, showing that while Daisy and Lulie could not have survived Victorian society, they certainly would have thrived in the women’s movement era, this is shown to us through Molly’s character. Hamilton and Bernstein’s era has shown us that the new women are in fact the heroes, and had been all along.
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Hayley Billet is a graduate student in the M.A. English program.