The New Woman was a feminist ideal that emerged in the late nineteenth century and had a profound influence on feminism well into the twentieth century. The term “New Woman” was coined by writer Sarah Grand in her article “The New Aspect of the Woman Question,” published in the North American Review in March 1894. The term was further popularized by British-American writer Henry James, to describe the growth in the number of feminist, educated, independent career women in Europe and the United States. Independence was not simply a matter of the mind: it also involved physical changes in activity and dress, as activities such as bicycling expanded women’s ability to engage with a broader more active world. The New Woman pushed the limits set by male-dominated society, especially as modeled in the plays of Norwegian Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906).
From the Sodus Record, Friday September 17th, 1897
AT THE PLAY.
The New Woman or The Spirit of the Age at Sodus Opera House on Friday night last was a success from every standpoint.
The extreme heat of the day kept many away. But at 8:30 when the curtain was rung up, there were about two hundred and fifty in the reserved seats. An appreciative audience, however, if small.
Mrs. Smith Ordway as Judge Wigfall, was grand in her conception of the dignity and majesty of a Judge, and the decisive letter of the law. She spoke clearly and distinctly. Her judicial robes were well displayed and her scorn of mankind in general was extremely well-rendered.
Mrs. Arthur Barber was intensely interesting as the female tax collector. She figured and argued well, but proposed better. The temping bait of one hundred thousand dollars she held out as an inducement to Mr. Carberry to marry, and spend on a wedding tour, was flatly and furiously declined.
Miss Eda Pulver as Victorine, the Judge’s daughter, portrayed a very sweet, lovable, kissable Miss. She cried well, sang better, and made an offer of marriage in the dizziest manner possible. She was, as her Mama Judge declared, “too lazy for law- too giddy for church- and far too pretty for a family doctor.” So she must either “get married or be sent to Congress.”
Miss Carrie Young must have had hours of practice, to give such a passionate, feminine, declarative rendition of the New Woman, as Wolverine Wigfall, the Judge’s Husband’s sister. She launched out clear, full, free. She was just what an ardent supporter of women’s rights should be – a thorough-up-to-date woman of the new emancipation. In the duel scene she shows how fearless women can grow of pistols, and how determined even in the face of death. Her speech before the female legislature at Albany was teeming with wit and brilliancy.
Miss Minnie Grannis looked pretty and tempting as the maid who took care of the little Judge Wigfall.
Judge Wigfall’s Husband was presented by C.W. Mills.
Gaylord D. Hulett was the returned “Chinese Tea Merchant”, spoke as became one in his predicament, when two women proposed and both claimed his hand. It was a warm situation. “Extreme youth, inexperience, poor health, and so soon,” were all in vain. But “sending to Paris for his trousseau, and a proper church-wedding” turned the scales. He married Victorine, as old batchelors always select the young, charming and tender.
The interruption of George Knapp, and Charles Young produced much merriment. Selling home papers came natural to them.
Mrs. S.D. Hillman is to be congratulated on the success of the comedy. She has superintended its production before, and many of its attractive features were from tints of her own past experience.
It netted the church about $40.00.
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