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Linda Scott's Reading the Popular Image and Kathryn Kish Sklar's Hull House in the 1890’s

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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, ...

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...mer. I believe that both articles shed a positive light on the emergence of the New Woman in all areas of society; including socially, economically and publicly. Though Scott’s chapter, readers can see how women were influenced by publicities and how they took those messages and brought them into their own daily lives. Through Sklar’s article, readers can see how women, even as early as 1890 could play a pivotal role in the community and having their choice of their role in society.

Works Cited

Scott, Linda M. “Reading the Popular Image.” In Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.

Sklar, Kathryn Kish. “Hull House in the 1890’s: A Community of Women Reformers.” In Women and Power in American History, 3rd edition, edited by Kathryn Kish Skylar and Thomas Dublin, 184- 195. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2009.
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