“Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism,” wrote American journalist and women’s rights advocate Margaret Fuller in 1843, “there is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman... Nature provides exceptions to every rule.” (((Margaret Fuller, Jeffrey Steele, The Essential Margaret Fuller, Page 310, American Women Writers, 1992))). Her statement during the mid-nineteenth-century was symptomatic of the changing dynamics of the traditional household and workplace in Western Europe and North America as a result of rapid industrialisation, and improvements in education and medical standards. This essay will discuss how women who took part in this transformation and ventured into the workplace – usually in low-skilled labour jobs - were represented in artwork between 1750 and 1900. Based on the visual analysis of François Millet’s The Gleaners (1857, fig. 1), Gustave Courbet’s The Grain Sifters (1854, fig. 2) and Edgar Degas’ The Ironers (1884, fig.3), I will explain how working women were characterised as sexually available and overworked.
Many modern-day scholars, like feminist Janet Horowitz Murray [REFERENCE: Murray, Janet Horowitz (1982). Strong-Minded Women and Other Lost Voices from Nineteenth-Century England. New york: Pantheon Books. p. 179], say the perceived ideal position of women in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century was away from activities associated with public life, such as factories or politics, and more concerned with private endeavours such as maintaining the household and being a good mother. Although social historian Regina Markell Morantz has argued [REFERENCE: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3786765?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103167342113] that the overwhelming ma...
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...y 32, no. 1 (1972): 219-240.
Lipton, Eunice, and Edgar Degas. Looking into Degas: uneasy images of women and modern life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
Markell Morantz, Regina . "Making Women Modern: Middle Class Women and Health Reform in 19th Century America." Journal of Social History 10, no. 4 (1977): 490-507.
Murray, Janet Horowitz. Strong-minded women: and other lost voices from nineteenth-century England. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982.
Nochlin, Linda. Representing women. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.
Quest for the past. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association, 1984.
Sayer, Karen. Women of the fields: representations of rural women in the nineteenth century. Manchester: Manchester University Press ;, 1995.
"World Wheat Supplies 1865-1913." Princeton . http://www.princeton.edu/rpds/papers/WP_12.pdf (accessed September 12, 2013).
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