Thought out history women have proven to be not only present in society but also leading members. In the past more women may have been view as passive members but with time and grown women have shown history that there is a great and bright spark that has not yet been dim. During the Harlem Renaissance black women were trying to redefine themselves to all humanity and were also pushing the buriers of the color line. Women and men were re-examining their individual place in the black community as well as their place in the world. And if and when they came up against an idea or image that they disprove of them were going to do everything in their power to make it anew, change the times and move forward with the future.
In Beyond the Gibson Girl, Martha H. Patterson is trying to explore the foundation of this new inspiration called the New Woman. She is not limiting herself to the social, political and economics that the “New Woman” stood for but is interested in how she got there. Patterson wants to observe the “…both possibilities and pitfalls, change and status quo” (Beyond the Gibson Girl, pg.3) of the New Woman. Martha Patterson turned to women, such as, Margaret Murray Washington, Pauline Hopkins, Edith Wharton, Sui Sin Far and many more to show that this movement of the New Woman is not just in the white society but also present in the Black, Mexican, and Asian societies. Also Martha Patterson focuses on a few writers that show a “…multicultural and feminist literary studies” (Patterson, pg.26) that reflexes a different discourse for the New Woman but in addition a new physical image for woman during this time.
The term “Gibson Girl” was coined because of the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Charles Gibson was known for his paintings, cartoons and drawings of women during the suffrage movement. He usually painted woman with a specific body type, they were “tall, distant, elegant, and white, with a pert nose, voluminous upswept hair, corseted waist, and large bust.” (Patterson, pg. 28) Martha Patterson is challenging this idea of the New Woman’s image, by presenting more women from different backgrounds, different cultures and examining their writing’s, to prove this notion of Gibson girl incorrect.
Patterson describes Margaret Murray Washington in 1901 as a new woman changing to gain the social status of a Gibson Girl for several reasons. One reason was because she was trying to prove to middle class black women in this time it was possible to be an educated, Victorian woman and assimilate in the white world because they need to get their voices hear. Another reason Mrs.
Allison Berg wrote Mothering the Race: Women’s Narratives of Reproduction to help confront the truth about birthing and motherhood. She is trying to explain through works of fiction that the idea of maturity “….Served as forms of cultural intervention, even as they reproduced the racial and sexual ideologies….” (Mothering the Race: Women’s Narratives of Reproduction pg. 13) By this Berg means to address some of the issues women were having with their previous role in society. These questions were being raised during the suffrage movement, a political movement that would affect their social surrounding, and some of these questions are still being debate even today. A main conflict that was reflected on was: should woman become mothers because they have a desire inside them? Or because it is what their society wants and instruct them to do?
Allison Berg is discovering the truth about women and why they do indeed become mothers. If they do decide to give birth to a child, Berg feels these women, especial the New Negro Woman, need to do more then raise a child. They must raise a race; give their children the knowledge of the past, teach them self-love for their people, and help to develop the young minds of the next generation. So to Allison Berg the New Negro woman has a greater responsible not only to their children but to their race because she must improve the next generation.
During the Harlem Renaissance many black women were redefining blackness and the idea or image of beauty for black men and women. In Portraits of the New Negro Woman Cherene Sherrard-Johnson is trying to do just that, by establish a rebirth of self image that the black community was having. She is focusing on the Mulatta image, and turning it into an icon. Because of writers, such as, Cherene Sherrard-Johnson black women can start considering there skin color and race has a thing of beauty. In addition black women can now have another standard of beauty beside the negative images that were trained to them during slavery.
In Black Women Intellectuals: Strategies of Nation, Family, and Neighborhoods in the Works of Pauline Hopkins, Jessie Fauset, and Marita Bonner Carol Allen found that there were more women during 1880-1940 that were indeed not passive, as she had once thought, but they there active with their struggle for not only women’s rights but for the New Negro. Also Allen used the factors in Pauline Hopkins, Jessie Fauset, and Marita Bonner lives, such as, their nation, families, and neighborhoods as positives that help these women go father than they could.
During the New Negro movement historians observe many different changes in women. Many women developed into historical leaders and some of their thoughts and ideas are stilling being used today. Their ideas did change of time though, for example in the beginning they thought it was positive to be like a Gibson girl, but later they learn to create their own icon or image. Also women were questioning weather or not to have children for themselves or out of duty. Another change was domestic, women started to explore their sexualities and didn’t want to limit themselves or be tied down.
Even thou not all these different female leaders agree on the same ideas, and principles, they did agree to change the way black women were seen and hear. And even thou history is always changing, these women wanted to help add to those changes, to help better themselves and their people. To be able to disagree with one another and history was important to them, and many other people, because in the past they were not given that opportunity to declare who and what they were. Now in today’s world black women and women from other cultures can look back and use those women’s work to father the fight for equally and self-love of your skin color and race.