A Woman’s Paradise on Earth: The Rise of the Department Store Essay

A Woman’s Paradise on Earth: The Rise of the Department Store Essay

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A woman’s heaven on Earth became the department store in 1838 in Paris. The department store became a haven where women of the wealthy middle class and the Bourgeois could spend their free time there and feel safe, much like they did at church. It also became an expansion of a woman’s sphere in both her work life and in public. But since the department store was first erected, it begs the burning question: why would the women of Paris feel safe in the department stores? Why would the lower middle-class girls work in the department stores where the hours were long and the salary was minimal? The department stores changed the way women were viewed in both society and by each other because they became “modern women” rather the “traditional women” that they’d been seen as before.
In his novel, The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola published in 1883, Zola said that the department store was a “giant fairground display, as if the shop was bursting and throwing its surplus stock out into the street” (Zola, and Nelson 5). The department store in Zola’s novel was based off Le Bon Marche, founded by Aristide Boucicaut in 1838 and it became the most famous department store in Paris. By 1852, Le Bon Marche or “the good market” offered a wide variety of goods under one roof that were sold at fixed prices, low markup and there was a guarantee for exchanges, and refunds.
The department store was known for selling goods at fixed prices and even the store workers were given a “percentage on the smallest bit of material, the smallest article they sold: a system which had caused a revolution in the drapery trade by creating among the assistants a struggle for survival from which the employers reaped the benefit” (Zola, and Nelson 35). The managers...

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...e consumed everything in its path, it also started a revolution among the women in Paris. Women began to think of themselves as queens in a kingdom that catered just to them—a kingdom of low priced goods. The women of Paris became seduced by the department stores and it launched a new wave upon the populace for both the female costumers and the young girls who worked in the department stores. Women began to become more modern and that would launch the stores into the future, where there would a major department store in every city in the world that catered to people of all classes and genders. The department store was “burning like a beacon, it alone seemed to be the light and life of the city” according to Zola in his novel (Zola, and Nelson 28).

Works Cited
Zola, Emile, and Brian Nelson. The Ladies’ Paradise. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1995. Print.

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