The Autonomy of the New Woman

Aline Szold’s “Maternity” appeared in volume 12 of The Yellow Book

Aline Szold, “Maternity”

The Yellow Book challenged the Victorian response to the figure of the New Woman. This New Woman existed as a threat to women’s occupation of the domestic sphere by suggesting that women could exercise autonomy within and outside of domesticity. Societal stereotypes feared the New Woman as one who performed a sacrilegious control over her body: society saw the New Woman as a figure who encouraged infanticide, abortion, and single life. On the contrary, New Woman fiction propagated the New Woman figure as an autonomous, independent figure who had control in both the public and domestic sphere.

Aline Szold’s “Maternity” does well to deconstruct the stereotypes around the New Woman figure while also granting autonomy to the female figure. In “Maternity”, Szold depicts a woman nursing her child. Szold conflates the domestic act of motherhood with the New Woman figure by way of the exposure of the female body. Szold places the New Woman within the domestic sphere and shows her performing motherhood, thus eliminating the stereotypes of the New Woman as apart from the domestic sphere. Instead, Szold makes the New Woman a part of the domestic sphere but shows her performing an autonomy over her body. In “Maternity”, the New Woman exposes her femininity and exposes her body to the public sphere by not concealing her body or the act of nursing. Szold asserts that the New Woman can autonomously and simultaneously occupy both the public and domestic spheres.

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