Linda M. Scott’s chapter from her book ¬Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism, Reading the Popular Image as well as Kathryn Kish Sklar’s article Hull House in the 1890’s: A community of Women Reformers cover the main theme of the New Woman as Club Woman and Social Reformer. Found in both articles is the way in which the New Women emerged in society. Scott’s chapter examines how the publicity and social construction of the Gibson Girl played an influential role on the daily lives of the women who viewed her, while Sklar’s article explores how Hull House played as a tool to socially and economically integrate women into society.
To begin, Scott’s article Reading the Popular Image argues that there are many ways and factors that can affect the meaning of an image of a New Woman. One argument that Scott presents is the importance of context to fully understand the picture so to not jump to conclusions. Scott uses the example of editorial context in the Life magazine to point out that the pictures, while on the surface may have a negative connotation attached to it, turns out to be quite positive and supportive. Scott also notes that new technologies emerged around 1890 allowed new “thoughts and significations” through pictures. She finishes her chapter by examining how the Gibson girl affected women individually as well as groups of women.
To elaborate, Scott argues that as a picture interpreter, we must make a distinction between the “ideal and the real,” to understand the true meaning of an image. She argues how the Gibson Girl and the American Girl were two idealised visions of modern beauty and femininity which made women to try to be like them. These two girls became markers of their decade, known as “girls of the period” and embodied “American spirit.” Scott even goes as far as claiming that the American Girl is pertinent to all decades; even today, women want to be like her. Scott concludes that in order to understand a picture with its entirety, it is essential to look at how the picture was produced and how they were incorporated into society and the public’s reaction.
To continue, Sklar’s article Hull House in the 1890’s: A community of Women Reformers looks at New Women and argues that in this settlement house women created new friendship and this essentially empowered women as social activists. She argues that women who resided in Hull House were able to emerge as New Women socially as well as economically. Sklar argues that the residents could draw on “mutual support at the same time that they were encouraged to pursue their own distinct goals.” Sklar demonstrate that these women were empowered and motivated in many different ways to serve the community. She uses as an example how these women formed a female community to reach out to immigrants as well as working women.
When we look at the sources that both the authors used, at first glance we can see that Scott’s chapter article is full of...