Women of America 1634-2007 - History

Women of America 1634-2007 - History

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Women of America 1634-2007 - History

Click on images above for more information on The New Woman.

An icon of changing gender norms, the "new woman" first emerged in the late nineteenth century. Less constrained by Victorian norms and domesticity than previous generations, the new woman had greater freedom to pursue public roles and even flaunt her "sex appeal," a term coined in the 1920s and linked with the emergence of the new woman. She challenged conventional gender roles and met with hostility from men and women who objected to women's public presence and supposed decline in morality. Expressing autonomy and individuality, the new woman represented the tendency of young women at the turn of the century to reject their mothers' ways in favor of new, modern choices.

What was "new" about women in the early twentieth century? The most prominent change was their increased presence in the public arena. Whereas the lives of most nineteenth-century women - especially middle-class women but also domestic servants and slaves - tended to revolve around home life, modern women ventured into jobs, politics, and culture outside the domestic realm. They did not do so, however, on equal terms with men women remained economically and politically subordinate to men in the early twentieth century. They did not do so without struggle either. Conservative forces in society, including churches and such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, vehemently opposed women's new roles. Others who supported change, such as Progressive Era reformers and suffragists, also criticized the new woman for her disinterest in politics and careers in favor of the world of commercial entertainment.

Although many women participated in expanding women's public roles, women accepted and pressed for change in varying degrees. The symbol of the new woman was a conglomeration of aspects of many different women from across the nation who lived between the 1890s and the 1920s. Among them were glamorous performers, female athletes, "working girls" employed in city factories and rural textile mills, middle-class daughters entering higher education and professions formerly closed to women, and reformers involved in women's clubs, settlement houses, trade unions, and suffrage.

Anne Hutchinson

Puritan leaders called Anne Hutchinson and her supporters Antinomians—individuals opposed to the rule of law. Puritans saw her as a challenge to their male-dominated society. Tried for sedition, she was also exiled as a danger to the colony. She lived in Rhode Island for a time and then moved to New Amsterdam, where she was killed in 1643 during a conflict between settlers and Native Americans.

Anne Marbury was born in Alford England, in July 1591, the daughter of Francis Marbury, a deacon at Christ Church in Cambridge. Anne’s father believed that most of the ministers in the Church of England hadn’t received the proper training for their position, and he said so. He was promptly arrested and spent a year in jail for his subversive words of dissent. But he wasn’t deterred, and he was arrested several more times.

So it Is no surprise that Anne developed an interest in religion and theology when she was very young, and she wasn’t afraid to ask questions about faith and the Church. Anne was home-schooled, and read from her father’s library, where she found there were as many questions about faith as there were answers. In 1605, she moved with her family to London.

At the age of 21, Anne married Will Hutchinson, a prosperous cloth merchant. They returned to Alford, and Anne took on the role of housewife and mother. The couple considered themselves part of the Puritan movement, and they followed the teachings of the Puritan preacher John Cotton.

Anne bore 15 children and learned midwifery, a skill that entitled a woman to special respect and esteem. She also maintained her interest in theology. At a time when Puritans could not worship freely in England, they chose to follow the Reverend Cotton when he emigrated to Boston in 1633.

Anne and William and their children were among the 200 passengers who arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the Griffen in the fall of 1634, in search of a place where they could worship freely. The Hutchinsons bought a house in Boston and a 600-acre farm. Anne received a warm welcome at first. Bostonians appreciated her skill as a midwife.

Bible Study
When the men of her church formed Bible study groups after church, Anne invited her female friends and neighbors to her home to discuss the Bible and the teachings of the local ministers. These ministers taught their parishioners that they could only find God by following the teachings of the Bible, and that only they—the ministers—could interpret the Bible correctly.

The Puritans interpretation of freedom of religion meant only that they would tolerate the neighboring colonies and their freedom to worship in any way they saw fit. John Winthrop and the rest of the founders dreamt of a settlement where freedom to worship meant you did not think or do unless you were acting in accordance to the strictest interpretation of the Bible. The freedom to worship, yes, but not the freedom to think.

America’s First Female Religious Leader
At her meetings, Anne stated that she believed anyone could communicate directly with God—without the help of ministers or the Bible. Anne, who was very intelligent at a time when women were not encouraged to develop their minds, was soon offering her views on a variety of topics.

Her meetings became very popular, and soon men began to support her—important men like Sir Henry Vane, who would later be elected governor of the colony. An eloquent speaker, she began to draw large crowds of women and men.

By the summer of 1636, the Puritans began to view her as a threat. Small women’s prayer groups were allowed by law, but large groups listening to the teachings and opinions of one individual leader were considered disorderly. The Puritans believed that women should obey men at all times, and that they should be forbidden to teach religion.

As her following grew, the magistrates decided that she was a dangerous woman who must be stopped. The laws of Massachusetts Bay were based on biblical teachings, and the colony’s leaders took seriously Paul’s commandment that women be silent in public meetings. But Anne’s supporters insisted that her meetings were private gatherings.

On Trial for Heresy
In August of 1637, Anne Hutchinson was condemned by a conference of ministers. She was charged her with sedition for undermining the authority of the ministers and heresy for expressing religious beliefs that were different from those of the colony’s religious leaders.

She was then tried by the General Court, the first female defendant in a Massachusetts court. Though she was 47, pregnant, and exhausted, she stood tall in the courtroom and bravely faced her accusers—forty-nine well-educated and powerful leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, presided over by Governor John Winthrop. There was no lawyer to defend her.

For nearly all of the first day of her trial, Winthrop was the only accuser who spoke. Hutchinson, he said, had held meetings that were “not tolerable” in the sight of God, and she had stepped beyond the bounds of what was allowed for women.

But she used the Bible and the men’s own words to skillfully defend herself. She stated that holding meetings in the home to discuss religion had been a common Puritan practice in England. She told them that God had spoken to her directly, and that only God could be her judge. This infuriated the Puritans—God would not speak to a woman!

But in the end, the verdict was against her. She was banished from—forced to leave—Massachusetts Bay Colony on March 22, 1638, and labeled a woman not fit for our society.

With her family and 60 followers, Anne left for the more tolerant Providence Plantation in Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams. She lived first at Aquidneck, Rhode Island.

In September 1638, Governor John Winthrop noted in his journal that Anne Hutchinson had delivered a stillborn, misshapen child. In the seventeenth century, stillborn children and children with birth defects were called monstrous births, and were believed to represent either God’s displeasure or the devil’s influence over the mother.

After her husband died, Anne moved to Long Island in New Amsterdam, where she and five of her children were killed in an Indian raid during an attack by Native Americans in September 1643.

America’s First Women’s Rights Activist
Anne Marbury Hutchinson was brought down by the contemporary mores surrounding the role of women in Puritan society. She had not succeeded in changing the laws of her time, but her courageous actions helped set the stage for an America in which religious freedom became a reality.

In 1922, a statue was erected in front of the State House in Boston. It depicts Anne Hutchinson and her daughter Susannah, the only survivor of the Native American conflict in which her mother and siblings died. In 1945, the legislature voted to revoke Anne’s banishment.

Anne Hutchinson Memorial
The inscription reads:
In Memory of
Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Baptized at Alford
Lincolnshire England
20 – July 1595 (sic)
Killed by the Indians
At East Chester New York 1643
Courageous Exponent
Of Civil Liberty
And Religious Toleration

Today Anne Hutchinson is remembered as the first American woman to fight publicly for religious freedom and for women’s rights—a brave and principled woman who had the courage to speak her mind freely in a male hierarchy that allowed women no voice.

As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway.


Design and construction Edit

The memorial is located in the Hemicycle, the ceremonial entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery. [3] Originally, the cemetery had three gates: The Treasury Gate at the intersection of Porter Avenue and Patton Drive (now Eisenhower Drive) the McClellan Gate at the intersection of McClellan Drive and Patton Drive and the Sheridan Gate, where Custis Walk intersected Sherman Avenue south of what is now L'Enfant Drive. Although the McClellan and Sheridan gates had columns topped by a pediment, these were not much different from a gate found in any large cemetery.

The Hemicycle was built to create a ceremonial gate, and to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington (the first President of the United States and American Revolutionary War hero). A number of public improvements and memorials were planned for construction in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to celebrate the bicentennial of Washington's birth. [4] Among these were Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Mount Vernon Memorial Parkway (now known as the George Washington Memorial Parkway). [5] To link the Virginia landing of the bridge with Arlington National Cemetery, a wide avenue known as Memorial Avenue was constructed and a new entrance to the cemetery planned to replace the old entrances at the McClellan Gate and Sheridan Gate. [6] (Expansion of the cemetery toward the Potomac River in 1971 left the McClellan Gate deep inside Arlington, and no longer functional as a ceremonial gateway. [7] The Sheridan Gate was dismantled and placed in outdoor storage. [8] )

In 1924, Congress appropriated $1 million to construct Memorial Avenue and the Hemicycle. [9] The architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White won the competition to build Arlington Memorial Bridge as well as the new ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. William Mitchell Kendall, an associate in the firm, designed the Hemicycle. [10] In May 1927, Kendall presented designs for the Hemicycle and "Avenue of Heroes" connecting the west terminus of the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the main gate of Arlington. [11] He proposed the following:

This abrupt change of grade suggests the creating here of the chief memorial entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery. A plaza has been shown here in part excavated out of the hill, whence lead to the north and to the south roads respectively to and from the Mansion. The western end of the plaza is bounded by a semicircular retaining wall 30 feet in height and 225 feet in diameter. This retaining wall will be decorated with niches, pilasters, and tablets bearing inscriptions. Access is provided to the terrace surmounting the retaining wall, whence an all-embracing view of the parkway may be obtained. [12]

The United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), which has statutory authority to approve the design of structures on federal property in the D.C. metro area, approved the Hemicycle's design in May 1928. [13]

To connect the Hemicycle to Arlington Memorial Bridge, a new ceremonial avenue was also approved. Originally called the "Avenue of Heroes," but later and officially named "Memorial Avenue". [14] the roadway was designed by Commission of Fine Arts member Ferruccio Vitale and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. [15] Work began on Memorial Avenue in early January 1930. [16]

The CFA reviewed and approved the plans for the Hemicycle in September 1930. [17] Bids for the Hemicycle's granite were advertised in February 1931, [18] and awarded on March 4. The North Carolina Granite Co. supplied the granite for the facing, the New England Granite Works provided the granite for the balustrades, and the granite for the pylons and gate houses came from the John Swenson Granite Co. The New England Granite Co. constructed the curbs in the plaza and the concrete stairs. Work on the Hemicycle began on July 1, 1931. [19] By April 1932, Memorial Avenue was largely complete but there were delays in paving it. There were also delays in completing the Boundary Channel Bridge, the short structure that bridged the narrow channel of the Potomac River between Columbia Island and the Virginia shoreline. The tracks of the Rosslyn Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad were to be moved and lowered into a 20-foot (6.1 m) trench to avoid an at-grade crossing with Memorial Avenue. [20] But this project was delayed as well. [21]

The new ceremonial entry to Arlington was carved from the hillside that culminates in Arlington House. [22] The Hemicycle was constructed of reinforced concrete, [23] and faced with granite quarried at Mount Airy, North Carolina. [24] [25]

The Hemicycle was informally dedicated by President Herbert Hoover on January 16, 1932. [26] [27] Its total cost was $900,000, [19] of which $500,000 went toward the purchase of granite. [18] The formal dedication occurred on April 9. Colonel Ulysses S. Grant III, executive director of the Arlington Memorial Bridge Commission and an officer in the Corps of Engineers, formally opened Memorial Avenue and the Boundary Channel Bridge. (Memorial Avenue was only 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and unpaved, but the Corps was working to have it widened to 60 feet (18 m) and have it paved by July 1.) [28]

The Hemicycle almost did not get finished. With the Great Depression worsening, the United States House of Representatives deleted all fiscal year 1933 funding for the project. This put the Hemicycle's completion and the paving of Memorial Avenue on hold. [29] Ten months later, the CFA met to discuss what to do about the Hemicycle should no more funds be forthcoming. [30]

Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as President of the United States in March 1933. Convinced that massive federal spending on public works was essential not only to "prime the pump" of the economy but also to cut unemployment, Roosevelt proposed passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The act contained $6 billion in public works spending. The act passed on June 13, 1933, and Roosevelt signed it into law on June 16. The Public Works Administration (PWA) was immediately established to disburse the funds appropriated by the act. The District of Columbia received a $3 million grant for road and bridge construction, and the city said on July 14 it would use a portion of these funds to finish the Hemicycle and Memorial Avenue. [31]

Work continued even after the Hemicycle was considered complete. In November 1934, 178 white oaks were planted in an informal alignment along Memorial Avenue. [32] It was not until September 1936 that the Washington Post reported that federal officials considered the Hemicycle "finished". The structure's fountain was in place, and the Hemicycle was now lit at night. Lighting had also been installed along Memorial Avenue, and holly trees and additional oaks had been planted along road. [33]

Description of the Hemicycle Edit

The Hemicycle is a Neoclassical [34] semicircle 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 226 feet (69 m) in diameter. [25] [26] As planned, it served as a retaining wall for the hill behind it. [35] In the center is an apse 20 feet (6.1 m) across and 30 feet (9.1 m) high. [3] [26] In total, the Hemicycle covers 4.2 acres (1.7 ha). [36] The walls ranged from 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) thick at the base to 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 m) at the top. [37] The accent panels and coffers in the apse were inlaid with red granite from Texas. [37] The Great Seal of the United States was carved in granite in the center of the apse arch, while on either side were seals of the United States Department of the Army (south) and the United States Department of the Navy (north). [25] [38] Along the facade of the Hemicycle were 10 false doors or niches which were intended to house sculptures, memorial reliefs, and other artworks (which would act as memorials). [12] The outer, middle, and inner niche on each side was circular and 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) deep, while the other two niches between them were 2 feet (0.61 m) deep, rectangular, and had an oak leaf carved into the rear wall. All the niches were 9 feet (2.7 m) wide and 19 feet (5.8 m) high. [25] [39] The apse originally held a fountain, [40] although by the 1990s it had not been used in many years. [39] A circle of unkempt grass filled the central plaza embraced by the Hemicycle's wings. [41]

On top of the Hemicycle was a terrace 24 feet (7.3 m) wide. Originally, access to the terrace was granted only by going to the either end of the Hemicycle, through a pedestrian gate, and up some stairs. Above each arched entrance to the pedestrian stairs was a granite eagle. But these entrances were never opened, and remained locked for more than 50 years. [39]

Memorial Avenue diverged north and south at the Hemicycle, passing through wrought iron gates into Arlington National Cemetery. [3] [25] The north gate was named the Schley Gate after Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, [42] son of American Civil War Commanding General Winfield Scott and hero of the Battle of Santiago Bay during the Spanish–American War. [43] The south gate was named the Roosevelt Gate for President Theodore Roosevelt. [42] In the center of each gate, front and back, is a gold wreath 30 inches (76 cm) in diameter. Each wreath cradles the shield of one of the armed services that existed in 1932: The United States Marine Corps and United States Army on Roosevelt Gate, and the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard on Schley Gate. [42] (The United States Air Force did not exist until 1947.) [44] The iron portion of each gate was divided into 13 sections by wrought iron fasces, and above six of the sections were iron spikes topped by gold stars. [39] Each gate weighed 4 stone (0.025 t). [25]

The 50-foot (15 m) [45] tall granite pylons at either end of the Hemicycle and on the eastern side of each gate were topped by decorative granite funeral urns. Each pylon was also adorned with a gold-gilded lamp. [39] The pylons did not have deep foundations, but were set about 3 feet (0.91 m) into the soil. They were not anchored to the soil in any way, but used their own weight for stability. [45]

History of the Hemicycle Edit

The Hemicycle was never completed. Plans called for a large statuary figure to be placed in the central apse. On December 20, 1935, the CFA approved a preliminary design submitted by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman of a warrior youth, head bowed, supported by clouds beneath his feet. His left hand would hold a sheathed sword (symbol of duty performed), and his right hand would be raised in salute. Behind him a flying cherub would hold his helmet, as if carrying it into the realm of immortality. [46] A revised model was approved on May 2, 1936. [47] But the apse and niches were not filled with memorials as planned. [48] No parking was available near its entrance, and pedestrians were forced to walk across Arlington Memorial Bridge and down Memorial Avenue or take the streetcar to reach the site. Few people visited the site. [49] In 1938, the Commission of Fine Arts came to the conclusion that the Hemicycle was blocking the view of the Lincoln Memorial from Arlington House. Ivy was planted around the Hemicycle and over the next few years gardeners encouraged it to grow over the structure. [50]

By the 1980s, the Hemicycle was in serious disrepair. It had never been used for any ceremonial purpose, and Arlington National Cemetery officials largely ignored it since it was technically not part of the cemetery grounds. [35] The National Park Service, which had jurisdiction over the Hemicycle, never provided much maintenance for the structure because it seemed too connected to Arlington National Cemetery. [51] By 1986, many of the stone blocks and the concrete urns comprising the memorial were damaged, the landscaping was seriously overgrown, and moss was growing on the carvings. [49] [52] Weeds grew throughout the Hemicycle, and the sidewalk was cracked and broken in numerous places. [53] The Hemicycle also leaked, and many of the stones were discolored from water. The mortar between the stones was also damaged in many spots by calcified salts. [49]

Approval of the memorial Edit

In the early 1980s, women veterans began pressing for a memorial to women in the U.S. armed services. They won the formal support of the American Veterans Committee (AVC), a liberal veterans' group, in 1982. [54] Representative Mary Rose Oakar, chair of the Subcommittee on Library and Memorials of the Committee on House Administration, introduced legislation (H.R. 4378) to establish a memorial. However, Secretary of the Interior Donald P. Hodel and the National Park Service both opposed the legislation, arguing that the existing Vietnam Women's Memorial and the planned United States Navy Memorial already incorporated and honored women. Despite this opposition, the legislation passed the House of Representatives in November 1985. [55] In March 1986, the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee tabled identical legislation introduced by Senator Frank Murkowski. Committee chair Malcolm Wallop was concerned that too many memorials and monuments were being placed on the National Mall, and wanted a statutory scheme that contained approval criteria enacted first. [56] But United States Air Force Brigadier General Wilma Vaught argued that a statue or monument was not enough what was needed was a memorial with exhibits about the contributions of women in the armed forces. [57] Subsequently, in late 1985 the AVC established the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation to raise funds and lobby Congress for a memorial. [50] [58]

The Foundation began building support outside Congress for the memorial legislation. The Foundation turned first to the larger veterans groups, and won the support of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It then sought approval from the Department of Defense. Although no federal law yet established criteria for the approval or siting of memorials in Washington, D.C., Congress was considering the Commemorative Works Act of 1986 which would restrict military monuments in such a way as to bar a women's memorial. When DOD said it had no objections, this removed most grounds for opposing H.R. 4378. This support (and lack of opposition) persuaded the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to approve the memorial. Since the National Park Service (a unit of the Department of the Interior) sat on the commission, and the vote was unanimous, [58] Hodel dropped his objections as well. [59]

Passage of legislation in mid-October 1986 establishing the Korean War Veterans Memorial gave momentum to women's memorial bill. [60] On October 16, the Senate adopted via unanimous consent agreement House Joint Resolution 36 ("Memorial to Honor Women Who Have Served In Or With The Armed Forces"), which incorporated the provisions of H.R. 4378. [61] The House passed the H.J. Res. 36 by voice vote on October 17. [62] President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law on November 6, 1986. [63] The bill required that all fund-raising for the Memorial and groundbreaking for construction occur by November 1991. [64]

Locating the memorial Edit

After her retirement in 1985, Brigadier General Vaught became the primary spokesperson for the WMSAMF. [59] According to Vaught, she was elected president of the memorial foundation because she missed the first meeting and was not there to turn down the honor. [65]

Site selection needed to occur before the memorial's design. Vaught was convinced that the memorial had to have some association with an existing military facility or memorial. The site search began in the spring of 1988. At first, site reviews focused on the National Mall, but WMSAMF quickly determined that no site was large enough to accommodate the building the foundation had in mind. Sites which were large enough were too far from existing memorials and attractions to draw the attention and tourists the foundation wanted. [66] Toward the end of the site search process, Vaught and her National Park Service guide drove past the Hemicyle. After learning that the Hemicycle served no specific purpose and was in disrepair, Vaught sought the Hemicycle for the memorial site. [67] Vaught also correctly guessed that it would be easier to win approval of the Hemicycle site for the memorial than a National Mall space. With federal law allowing the foundation only five years to raise the funds for and construct the memorial, Vaught wished to move ahead with the less-than-perfect site rather than risk the memorial altogether battling for a mall spot. [68]

The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) had statutory authority to approve the siting of the memorial. National Park Service officials testified that the memorial would help restore and enhance the Hemicycle, while United States Army personnel stated that it would help correct the impression that only men had contributed to war-fighting efforts. Vaught testified that it was the intent of the Foundation to build an educational memorial, one which would incorporate a computer room, exhibits, and a theater. She pledged that no memorial would be built which detracted from the dignity of Arlington National Cemetery. CFA chair J. Carter Brown responded very positively during the hearing, noting how the memorial would preserve and restore a decrepit landmark and that the location was very apropos. [52] However, Brown and other members of the CFA emphasized that any memorial design would have to be subtle so as not to radically disturb the architecture of the Hemicycle or the existing gateway to the cemetery. [52] [69] Vaught had suggested a memorial design competition open to the public (similar to the competition which generated the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), but Brown cautioned that open competitions tended to generate grandiose schemes which would be inappropriate for the Hemicycle. [52] Vaught agreed with Brown's concerns. [70]

On June 28, 1988, the CFA unanimously approved the Hemicycle as the site for the Women In Military Service For America Memorial. However, in its approval, the commission once more cautioned WMSAMF that it must not radically alter the design and feel of the Hemicycle and Arlington gateway. [71]

The design competition Edit

To prepare for the memorial's design, WMSAMF commissioned an engineering survey of the site in August 1988. [72]

Vaught estimated that the design process would begin before the end of 1988. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that WMSAMF had already proposed an underground visitors' center and using the niches in the Hemicycle for statues. [72] [73] The entire cost of the memorial was estimated at $5 million. [72] (The idea for statues was later dropped by the memorial's board of directors. According to Vaught, "It goes back to the choice we made at the beginning to keep the exterior so that it represents all." The lack of statuary also meant that people would not interpret Arlington National Cemetery as a cemetery just for women.) [74]

The design competition was announced on December 7, 1988. Anyone 18 years of age or older was eligible to submit a design. The only requirements were that the design incorporate the existing Hemicycle and that it include a visitors' center, auditorium, and room for computers for public use. [34] [75] Although entrants were told the Hemicycle was on the National Register of Historic Places, they were free to change it, build the memorial anywhere on or under the site (behind, buried beneath, in front, on top, to either side). [41] A judging panel (led by Jaan Holt, professor of architecture at Virginia Tech) would select three designs and give each of the short-listed designers $10,000 for further development. One of the revised designs would be chosen as the memorial's design. The deadline for the memorial, now estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million, was May 15, 1989. [34] [75] A late 1990 date for groundbreaking was anticipated. [34]

The judging process Edit

The judging process proved to be more complex than anticipated. The judging panel consisted of the following individuals: [76]

    Margaret A. Brewer, United States Marine Corps (ret.) , architect and architecture critic for The Boston Globe , architect who designed the Parliament House in AustraliaJeanne M. Holm, United States Air Force (ret.)
  • Mary Miss, American sculptor
  • Joseph Passonneau, Washington, D.C. architect
  • Peter G. Rolland, a New York Citylandscape architect Connie L. Slewitzke, U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ret.)
  • LaBarbara Wingfall, professor of landscape architecture at Kansas State University

Campbell was chosen to chair the jury. Before the judging began, the jury visited the Hemicycle and viewed the structure from the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame site in order to get an understanding of the vista to be protected. The competition received 139 entries, which were anonymously displayed for the private judging event at the National Building Museum in early June 1989. Each entry consisted of two or three 30 by 40 inches (76 by 102 cm) paperboard panels. On the first day, judges were asked to include or exclude each design. About half the entries were eliminated after this round. After discussion, the judges voted to include or exclude again — although two "include" votes were required to retain an entry during the second round. At the end of this round, only 30 designs were left. During evening discussions, the jury noted that there were really only about four or five basic designs. Additionally, the military judges tended to vote for certain designs, while the architects and artists tended to vote for different designs. These judging patterns were also discussed (although it remained unclear why the differences occurred). On the second day, the judges reviewed the remaining entries and determined that only three created a truly outstanding memorial. By noon on the second day, the finalists had been chosen. A jury report was then drafted for the finalists to use in revising their designs. [41] The judging panel also identified an alternate in case one of the three finalists dropped out. [64] [77]

Before the short-list was announced, WMSAMF officials noted that the alternate was considered by the judging panel to be very close to making the cut. [41] The foundation made the alternate a finalist because it was the only design that located the memorial behind the Hemicycle. The foundation agreed to include this submission as a fourth candidate in the revision round, although the team would not receive one of the $10,000 prizes. [64] [77] The three top finalists and their designs were:

  • Teresa Norton, et al., for their design for a cluster of 49 bronze trees in a rectilinear pattern on the Hemicycle plaza and a visitors' center beneath the plaza. [64][78]
  • Gregory Galford and Maria Antonis for their design for a visitors' center on top of the Hemicycle, a viewing platform behind it, and a 7-foot (2.1 m) depression in the Hemicycle plaza with a continuous spiral design. [64][78] , and associates for a hemicycle of 10 illuminated 18-foot (5.5 m) high glass pylons behind the Hemicycle, accessed by stairs piercing the existing niches. [64][78][79]

The fourth entry was by Stephen D. Siegle and Margaret Derwent of Chicago, which restored the Hemicycle in a Beaux-Arts style [80] and put the visitor's center behind the Hemicycle. [77] [78] Nine teams received an "honorable mention". [64] [77] The four finalists and nine honorable mentions were put on public display during the summer at the National Building Museum. [78]

In the revision round, WMSAMF asked the finalists to focus on the computerized visitors' center, the auditorium, and the restoration of the Hemicycle. None of the finalists, the foundation said, successfully addressed all three issues. [78] WMSAMF asked the finalists to consider placing the visitors' center behind the Hemicycle. [64] [77] As the revision round began, WMSAMF estimated that the memorial would cost $25 million to build. However, it only had $500,000 available for construction. [78]

Revision round and selection of final design Edit

Selection of the final design occurred in November 1989. Campbell and one of the retired generals comprised the selection panel. [41] The winning design, by Manfredi and Weiss, was unveiled on November 8, 1989. [81] The winning design featured 10 triangular 39-foot (12 m) high illuminated glass pyramids on top of the Hemicycle. The design was intended to represent the barriers women had to pass through in their military careers. It was illuminated because tall or high monuments (Arlington House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument) were also illuminated at night. Behind the Hemicycle, underground, was the computer room and visitors' center. [81] It contained a 225-seat auditorium, a bank of computer terminals, and niches for displays. The visitors' center was accessed by piercing the Hemicycle in four places and creating stairs that led inside. Transparent bridges criss-crossed the interior of the visitors' center, allowing patrons to look down on the memorial. The Hemicycle itself would be refurbished by planting a new plaza of grass and adding small clusters of trees on either side. [80] Judging panel chair Robert Campbell said the design was "extraordinarily rich and provocative". [81] The Norton et al. design for a plaza of bronze trees was the alternate winner. [80]

Foundation officials said construction of the memorial would begin in November 1991. The cost of the memorial alone (without Hemicycle restoration) was estimated at just $15 million, another $10 million was required by law to endow the memorial with maintenance and operational funds. Unfortunately, the foundation had raised only $700,000 to $750,000. [80] [81]

Design controversy Edit

The design required the approval of the Commission of Fine Arts, National Capital Planning Commission, National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, National Park Service, and Virginia Commission for Historic Preservation. [82]

Unfortunately, the final design was leaked to the Washington Post, which printed it before the design was submitted to the CFA, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), or other agencies for approval. J. Carter Brown was enraged, and he asked the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to stop the design approval process immediately. The CFA, NCPC, National Park Service, Virginia Commission for Historic Preservation, and other agencies with approval over the design let the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation know informally that the Weiss/Manfredi design was not acceptable. [83] Senator John Warner, J. Carter Brown, and the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery all publicly voiced their opposition to the design. Opposition centered on the glass prisms. It was felt they were too tall and would interfere with the vista between Arlington House and the Kennedy grave site toward the Lincoln Memorial, and that their light would detract from the existing monuments. [84] The Union Leader newspaper quoted an unnamed official with an approval agency, "There's just no way those prisms aren't going to get lopped off. They are just too much." [84] Marion Weiss defended the memorial, arguing that the visit from Arlington House was preserved and the lighting would be very soft. [84] Robert Campbell also defended the design, arguing that a memorial to women was long overdue, the illuminated prisms would not be disruptive, and the Hemicycle was doomed to deterioration and irrelevancy without it. [82]

Vaught was deeply upset by the incident, and later said she believed the design never received a fair hearing. [49]

First fund-raising effort and congressional extension Edit

With the design process stalled, Vaught focused on fundraising in 1990 and 1991 while a new design could be completed. [83]

Six months after the design controversy broke, the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation had raised just $1 million. [85] The Foundatin announced a program in which state legislatures were asked to donate a dollar for every woman veteran in their state. Florida became the first state to do so, and donated $20,000. In July 1990, WMSAMF announced it was raffling off a home worth $1 million in an attempt to raise $1 million for the $25 million memorial. [86] Real estate developer Landmark Communities agreed to build a 6,000 square feet (560 m 2 ) luxury home in Centreville, Virginia, and transfer title to the memorial foundation in exchange for a share of the profits from the raffle. The foundation hoped to sell 250,000 tickets at $25 each. But by November 1990, just 24,000 tickets had been sold, forcing the foundation to extend the deadline for ticket sales to February 1991. [87] WMSAMF blamed the slow ticket sales on competition for another news event (secret footage of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry smoking crack cocaine was made public), which made it difficult to get word about the raffle out to the public. By mid-January, just 27,000 tickets had been sold, and WMSA had raised a grand total of $2 million toward the memorial's cost. [88] Additionally, the legality of a raffle varied from state to state, with some states imposing restrictions on legal raffles and others not. The also hampered raffle efforts the foundation said. Ten days before the raffle, just 28,000 tickets had been sold. Organizers now said they hoped to sell just 100,000 tickets by the mid-February deadline. [89] A third problem, the foundation claimed, was a downturn in the real estate market. Since few people would want to pay the high property taxes on the home, the foundation assumed the winner would want to sell it. But with housing sales slow, ticket sales were affected, too. In the end, the foundation sold only 50,000 tickets, and barely covered their expenses. [90]

By November 1991, the five-year deadline for fund-raising and groundbreaking, the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation had raised $4 million but spent $3 million, leaving it with just $1 million to build its memorial. [91] [92] Congressional authorization for the memorial actually expired, leaving the memorial in limbo. But after memorial advocates assured Congress that they were back on track with fund-raising, Congress voted the foundation a two-year extension to complete its fund-raising efforts and get construction started. [91] [93]

Design approval Edit

Much of Vaught's time between November 1989 and early 1992 was spent working with Weiss/Manfredi to modify the design of the memorial. [83] The architects were, according to The Washington Post, "distraught" over the reaction to their design. But Vaught encouraged them to implement their ideas in an alternative manner. [10]

In March 1992, the Memorial announced it was ready to offer its design to the CFA, NCPC, and other approval agencies. The new design modified the Hemicycle by restoring a low water feature to the central niche and removing the grass circle, replacing it with a circular reflecting pool and paved plaza. The center of the plaza was slightly lowered, and very low terraces led from the edge of the pool to the edge of the plaza. Four niches were still pierced to create stairs leading up to the terrace, but now an elevator was added as well to make the memorial handicap-accessible. The tall illuminated pylons were removed, and in their place were 108 horizontal thick glass panels forming an arc in the back of the Hemicycle's terrace. These panels formed the skylight for the memorial below, and Weiss and Manfredi said they would contain quotations from women who served in the military. A thin stream of water was intended to flow over the panels, as if "carrying" women's voices to the water feature and reflecting pool. [93] [94] Trees still framed the reflecting pool, but underground, behind the Hemicycle, the architects added a curved gallery and placed the rooms — the 250-seat auditorium, the computer room, the exhibition hall, the offices — in sequence. [49] The redesign won high praise from The Washington Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey. He called it "a significant addition" to the city's memorials, and said it was "a perfect gesture in a proper place at a fitting moment". He also found the design sensitive, consistent, and poetic. The revisions, he said, had not harmed the memorial as they had so many other structures in the city. ". [S]omething definitely was gained. . The second design is safer than the first, in some particulars more unified, and, in all respects save one, as evocative." [49]

The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission approved the revised plan on May 30, 1992. At that time, only $4.5 million of the $25 million needed for construction had been raised, even though groundbreaking was not anticipated for November 1993. [95] Passing this first step in the approval process helped with fund-raising. The governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait both donated $850,000 toward the memorials' construction. [94]

The CFA received the memorial redesign in July 1992. [69] Both the CFA and NCPC were much more in favor of this design. The National Capital Planning Commission gave its approval on July 22, and the Commission of Fine Arts on July 23. [49] [94]

Second fund-raising round Edit

By August 1992, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation still had only $1 million with which to build the memorial. [96] To boost the memorial's visibility, First Lady of the United States Hillary Clinton and former First Lady Barbara Bush both agreed to be honorary chairs of the foundation. [97] [98]

In June 1993, the Foundation began a second fund-raising campaign, this one involving the sale of commemorative coins. Since 1982, the United States Mint had been authorized to manufacture these coins, but congressional authorization was needed first. Senator Arlen Specter and Senator Harris Wofford and Representative Patrick J. Kennedy introduced legislation to authorize the coin in June. [97] [99] The legislation authorized a $1 silver and $5 gold coin, with the Mint to be repaid for the cost of producing the coins. [100] This legislation (Public Law 103-186) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in mid-December 1993. [101] The coins sold for $31 each, of which $10 went to the Memorial Foundation. [102] More than half the 500,000 coins were sold by March 1995. [103] Although the Mint had agreed to stop selling the coins on April 30, 1995, the agency agreed to allow sales to continue until July 15, since sales for all 1994 commemorative coins were the lowest since the program began in 1982. [104] By June 1996, coin sales raised $2.7 million for the Memorial. [99]

The Memorial's authorization ran out again on November 6, 1993. [105] The Memorial Foundation asked Congress to give it a three-year extension. By now, the Memorial had raised $1.5 million for construction, but spent $2 million on building its computerized database of the names of women who served in the U.S. military, on site work, and memorial design. [98] [100] The National Park Service supported the extension, arguing that the women veterans' memorial made an important contribution to the nation and that the recession made fund-raising difficult. [105] The extension legislation was passed, and signed into law. [106]

To boost the Memorial's chances, Vaught split the project in two. Vaught realized that rehabilitation of the Hemicycle was a different project from memorial construction. Fund-raising for the preservation project might be avoided, she argued, if preservation grants were sought from federal agencies. So in November 1993, grant-seeking by WMSAMF began. [100] By February 1994, the Foundation had secured a $9.5 million grant from the U.S. Air Force to repair and restore the Hemicycle. [98] [106] [107]

In July 1994, the Foundation established a goal of raising $2 million by April 1995. This would give the Memorial $4 million, so that groundbreaking could occur even if the total amount of funds needed for the Memorial had not yet been collected. Another half million dollars had been raised since February, including $10,000 to $20,000 donations from the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and Tennessee. [102]

With reauthorization of the Memorial complete and fundraising moving again, the Foundation, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Department of the Army signed a memorandum of understanding setting out procedures and rules for the Memorial Foundation and its contractors to follow as construction moved forward. This agreement was finalized in late 1994. [106]

WMSAMF presented the memorial design to the CFA and NCPC again in October 1994. In response to previous CFA concerns, the steps in the niches were slightly recessed to help retain the appearance that the niches still existed. [108] Although the lighting for the illuminated skylights had been softened as well, J. Carter Brown still claimed they would overwhelm the Hemicycle and upstage Arlington House and the Lincoln Memorial (both of which were also illuminated at night). With the CFA apparently convinced that the lighting was out of the question, Weiss and Manfredi introduced lighting expert Howard Brandston, a fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Brandston testified that no lighting was intended for the skylights themselves lighting would only come from below, in the illuminated memorial galleries. Furthermore, he said, only a "soft glow" would be visible through the balustrade at the front of the Hemicycle. This convinced the CFA, which withdrew its objections. [109] CFA members also expressed concern about the visibility of the glass doors on the north and south sides of the memorial, so Weiss and Manfredi agreed to recess these even further. [110] But most of the CFA's discussion regarded the Hemicycle itself and how much disruption there could be to its existing architecture. Weiss and Manfredi continued to retain two rows of American linden trees on either side of the plaza. These had been moved back from the centerline but continued to screen the cemetery main gates. The CFA wanted these moved back even more, and the pleaching removed so that almost nothing was screened. [108] [111] The trees were intended to form a sort of entrance to the memorial, but the CFA did not like that approach. [111] Weiss and Manfredi also had given more detail to the water feature. Now they planned for the water feature in the central niche to flow outward into the reflecting pool. [108] Almost none of the commissioners liked the rill from the water feature to the pool, calling it a "Middle Eastern" design that did not fit with the Neoclassical Hemicycle. [111] [112] Brown commented that he had no aesthetic problems with the rill, and that it added a "memorial" quality to the design. [113] At the end of the meeting, the CFA approved the memorial design, but asked that their concerns about the plaza be addressed further. [112]

The revised plaza design was brought before the CFA in March 1995. [112] There were fewer trees and they were no longer pleached or formally pruned, and more grass was added to the edges of the plaza. Minor changes were also made to the edges of the rill and pool. [112] The low water feature in the central niche was now gone, replaced with a ring of jets which would send water about 4 feet (1.2 m) into the air. [114] The CFA was now satisfied with the Hemicycle, although it still had reservations about the trees in front of the cemetery gates. Weiss and Manfredi agreed to create a full-scale mock-up of the gates and show them to the CFA so that the issue could be resolved. [112]

With these revisions, the CFA gave its final approval to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on March 16, 1995. The National Capital Planning Commission gave its final on April 6. [104]

In fact, no additional meetings with the CFA were held. The mock-ups were not created, the CFA never asked again for them, and Weiss and Manfredi quietly dropped the linden trees in favor of the existing trees in front of the gates. [114]

Ground-breaking for the memorial Edit

With the April 6 approval for the memorial, General Vaught and her staff of 15 were ready to break ground on the memorial. [115]

Ground-breaking for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial occurred on June 22, 1995. In order for ground-breaking to occur, the $15 million required for construction of the memorial had to be deposited with the U.S. Treasury. [104] Major donations from the American Legion women's auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars women's auxiliary, and Paralyzed Veterans of America were received. [116] A half million dollars came in from the General Federation of Women's Clubs. [117] However, only $6.5 million was on hand. [118] Because not all the funds were raised, the memorial foundation asked for and received a line of credit from NationsBank to make up the difference. AT&T's Business Communications unit donated $1 million as a partial underwriter for the ground-breaking ceremony, [116] and provided assistance to the memorial foundation in developing advertising and temporary exhibits for the memorial. General Motors donated $300,000, [117] and Government Markets (a division of Dutko Grayling) also provided financial assistance for the ceremony. [104] President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense William Perry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili, retired general Colin Powell, and other dignitaries attended the noon event, [99] [115] [119] as did an estimated 6,000 women veterans and their families. [117] [120]

Even though $6 million remained to be raised, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation planned on an October 1997 dedication for the memorial. [116]

Construction of the memorial Edit

Clark Construction of Bethesda, Maryland, was hired to be the general contractor for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The New York firm Lehrer, McGovern Bovis oversaw construction management. [121] Clark subcontracted excavation work to Kalos Construction Co. [122] Clark had recently renovated Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater, and had experience working under the restrictions required by the cemetery. A construction manager was required because the site was small, there was little room for construction equipment or offices, and access to the site was highly limited. Because both pile driving and excavation would be conducted, extreme care was needed to avoid disturbing any of the graves near the memorial site. [121]

Construction began in January 1996. Almost 3,500 truckloads of soil were removed, [120] [123] and piles driven in the earth for the foundation. [121] Workers then constructed the walls, and placed more than 25 stone (0.16 t) of Yule marble on the 12,000 square feet (1,100 m 2 ) of interior walls. [120] [123] (This was the same type of marble used for the Tomb of the Unknowns memorial and Lincoln Memorial.) [25] Nine hundred slabs of marble from Vermont were used to line the rear wall. [124] The terrace was then reconstructed. By February 1997, construction of the memorial reached the halfway point. The terrace was almost complete, and frames to hold the glass panels in place were being mounted. [123]

The last element in the construction process was the restoration of the Hemicycle. This included abrasive blasting of the wall. Installation of the fountain, rill, reflecting pool, and landscaping elements came last. [123] The construction project lasted nearly two years, and cost $21.5 million. [124]

By October 1, the glass panels in the skylight were in place. However, the auditorium seats and the sod in the plaza remained uninstalled. [125]

Nearly all of the construction managers were women. These included the on-site project manager, Margaret Van Voast the assistant on-site project manager, Michelle Stuckey the project manager, Joan Gerner and historic preservationist Beth Leahy. [124]

Dedication of the memorial Edit

As the October 17, 1997, dedication date drew near, the memorial was short $1.2 million for exhibits and auditorium equipment for its theater, and $3 million to pay for the dedication ceremonies themselves. The foundation decided to borrow the money to pay for these critical needs. Money woes also meant the memorial also had yet to produce the two films which it planned to show in the auditorium, and had not yet brought its database of veterans online. [126] The lack of funds meant that, on dedication day, only three exhibits (focusing almost exclusively on women in World War II) were ready. [120] Four other exhibits showcased the memorial design process, including those finalists which were not chosen. [127] John D. Carr, director of the memorial's architectural and construction program, told the press that permanent exhibits would take another six months to install. Exhibits about servicewomen in World War I, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Shield would open in late 1998. [127]

On October 11, 1997, the United States Postal Service announced it was releasing a commemorative stamp in honor of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The stamp, to be released on October 17, featured five women representing the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. [128] Vaught contacted Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank in 1991 and won his approval for a stamp. Vaught requested that the stamp feature profiles of five servicewomen rather than the memorial itself because the entire project was about veterans and not the building. Dennis Lyall painted the image, and graphic designer Derry Noyes added the legend. The stamp was not initially part of the Postal Service's 1997 release schedule due to the uncertain date of the memorial dedication. [129] [130] Vaught encountered Postmaster General Marvin T. Runyon and reminded him that the stamp was needed by October 17. Runyon quickly had the stamp manufactured and added to the release schedule. The 37 million run of the stamp was printed by Banknote Corp. of America. [129] [130] Release of the stamp on-site at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on October 17 was marred after the National Park Service, citing rules against vending on park service property, barred sales of the stamps. Memorial organizers quickly obtained two vans, parked them in a nearby government parking lot, and sold the stamps out of the back of the vans. Stamps were also sold in the memorial gift shop. [131]

The dedication ceremonies began at 6:30 p.m. on October 16 with a candlelight march across Arlington Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Dedication ceremonies continued on October 17 at 9:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns. This was followed by a dedication ceremony for 5,000 people in Memorial Amphitheater, at which Bob Dole, the former senator and partially disabled World War II veteran, spoke. [120] [132] The ceremonies then moved the memorial, where the plaza and much of Memorial Avenue had been blocked off for seating. The memorial ceremonies began with a fly-over of military aircraft, all of which were piloted by women — the first time an all-female fly-over had occurred in U.S. history. Speakers at the event included Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O'Connor, retired general John Shalikashvili, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton. [133] [134] President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton addressed the audience via taped message, as they were on a state visit to South Africa. [135] Singers Kenny Rogers and Patti Austin serenaded the crowd. [136]

The highlight of the dedication ceremony was 101-year-old Frieda Mae Greene Hardin, a veteran of World War I. [136] She was escorted to the speaker's podium by her 73-year-old son, and wore her World War I Navy yeoman's uniform. [137]

An estimated 30,000 people attended the ceremony. [137] [138]

The vast majority of critics highly lauded the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said it "breaks new conceptual ground in paying tribute to U.S. military personnel, much like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial did in 1982". [139] Gail Russell Chaddock, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, said it was nothing like any other memorial or monument in the city, and singled out the computerized database of women veterans as its greatest strength. [140] Benjamin Forgey of The Washington Post called it a "resounding success" that "enhances an already splendid setting in a number of ways". Its greatest strength, he said, was the way in which it was "insistently respectful" of the Hemicycle and Arlington National Cemetery. He also singled out the "serious", "uncomplicated and unostentatious" interiors. His lengthy review concluded that the memorial was "a brilliant, sensitive design" and "a memorable public place". [10] University of Maryland architecture professor Roger K. Lewis was equally fulsome in his praise. he called the memorial a "definite success", "memorable", and "an artful, sensitive work of architecture woven skillfully and poetically into a sacred landscape". He particularly applauded the way the design met the needs of the memorial foundation and the design competition jury, and singled out the terrace with its glass panels as one of the best elements of the design. He also strongly praised the way Weiss and Manfredi rejected Neoclassicism for the interior, and instead used contemporary materials, lines, and design elements. There was no clash of style, he concluded, because the interior was hidden from the Neoclassical facade. [141]

There were, however, some criticisms. The Los Angeles Times called the memorial's name "ungainly". [142] Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Kilian felt that some veterans might be disappointed because the Hemicycle and its plaza contained no statues, symbols, or inscriptions that make the memorial identifiable as one for military women. [74] Forgey, too, had some criticisms. He identified two flaws: First, the combination of memorial with museum, and second the lack of "distinctive imprint from afar" forced on the memorial by the Commission of Fine Arts. [10] Mary Dejevsky, writing for The Independent in the United Kingdom, was distinctly critical of the memorial. She called it a "sprawling hacienda, something. of a huge mosque", and dated. Her strongest criticism was that the memorial commemorated only the service of women in the past, who were segregated into non-combatant jobs. Wars of the future, she said, would not see such segregation, and women would be included alongside men in any war memorial. [143]

The computer database of the names of women veterans was quickly embraced by the public. On opening day, lines extended throughout the memorial for people to have only a few moments at a terminal. [144] In the first two weeks after its opening, Arlington National Cemetery officials said the Women in Military Service for America Memorial had substantially boosted attendance at the cemetery. [127]

Overall, however, WMSAMF was only able to raise $2 million of the $3 million the dedication ceremonies cost. Income from the gift shop and other revenues allowed the memorial foundation to pay off all $30,000 of these costs by July 1998. [145] [146]

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is located on a 4.2 acres (17,000 m 2 ) [147] site at the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery (although it is technically on National Park Service land). The main approach to the memorial is from Memorial Avenue. The visitor first encounters the Hemicycle, a ceremonial gateway to Arlington National Cemetery constructed in 1932. The Hemicycle is 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 226 feet (69 m) in diameter. In the center of the Hemicycle is an apse 20 feet (6.1 m) across and 30 feet (9.1 m) high. The Great Seal of the United States is carved in granite in the center of the apse arch, while to the south is seal of the U.S. Department of the Army and to the north is the seal of the U.S. Department of the Navy. Six circular niches (three to the south and three to the north) 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) deep are distributed along the facade. These niches, and the apse, are inlaid with red granite from Texas. The rear wall of these niches is carved with either oak leaves or laurel leaves, symbols of bravery and victory.

Between these niches are rectangular doorways which pierce the wall of the Hemicycle and provide access to the stairways leading into the interior.

A fountain with 200 jets of water is placed in the center of the apse. [74] The fountain empties down a stone-lined channel into a circular reflecting pool. [120] The pool is either 78 feet (24 m) [148] or 80 feet (24 m) [147] in diameter (sources vary), and can hold 60,000 US gallons (230 kl) of water. [25] [149] The fountain is lined with black granite cobblestones quarried in Culpeper, Virginia. [120] A plaza of light grey granite surrounds the fountain and extends toward Memorial Avenue. Wide panels of close-cut grass are distributed along the wall of the Hemicycle. Sidewalks of black granite flagstone run through these panels, giving access to the light grey granite sidewalk immediately next to the Hemicycle wall.

The stairs in the Hemicycle wall lead up into the interior of the memorial. Halfway up the stairs, the patron may pause and look down into the main gallery of the memorial. Continuing up the stairs leads the individual to the Hemicycle's terrace.

On top of the Hemicycle is a terrace of light gray granite 24 feet (7.3 m) wide. A granite balustrade, original to the Hemicycle, frames the eastern side of the terrace. In an arc along the west side of the terrace are 108 glass panels, [120] [147] each 5 inches (13 cm) thick, which form a skylight for the main memorial gallery below. [147] On most of these panels are etched quotations from various servicewomen throughout American history. [147] Some panels have been left blank, to allow future inscriptions to be made. Four staircases lead down from the terrace to the rear of the memorial, where staircases lead down into the interior and the main gallery. The main gallery and terrace may also be accessed by doors in the north and south sides of the Hemicycle, or via an elevator in the north side of the Hemicycle. [127]

The 35,000 square feet (3,300 m 2 ) [120] [124] [149] memorial (some sources claim 33,000 square feet (3,100 m 2 )) [25] [148] is partly below-grade. The western wall of the gallery is lined with delicately veing marble. [141] The memorial contains a curving main gallery lined with 14 niches, [124] [148] which contain permanent and temporary displays about women in the U.S. armed forces. Overhead and on the walls, eleven large glass tablets are inscribed with quotes about and from women veterans. [120] [148] Each glass tablet weighs approximately 400 pounds (180 kg). [149] Twelve computer terminals [147] [148] provide access to a database of names and some pictures of women who served in the U.S. armed forces from the American Revolutionary War through the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Search results are displayed on three large screens overhead. [147] The metal canopies and display cases in the main gallery were by Staples & Charles of Alexandria, Virginia. [10]

Through the rear of the main gallery, the visitor may access the Hall of Honor. This room contains a block of Yule marble taken from the same quarry that the Tomb of the Unknowns came from. [120] [147] In this room are displays and panels which honor women servicemembers taken as prisoners of war, killed in the line of duty, or who earned high honors for bravery or service. [147] [148] Beyond the Hall of Honor is a 196-seat theater [124] [147] where patrons may watch one of two films which document the roles women have played and continue to play in the U.S. armed forces. This auditorium is also used for lectures and presentations. Each of the seats in the auditorium has a small brass plaque which honors a U.S. servicewoman. [124] Further back is a gift and book shop, [120] a conference room, and offices for the memorial. [150]

On October 17, 2020, a bronze monument titled "The Pledge", designed to honor "all women of the U.S. military", was unveiled in the center of the memorial's lobby. [151] [152]

Vaught later admitted that the memorial foundation had been naive about how difficult it would be to raise the funds needed to construct the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and endow its operation and maintenance fund. [126]

To raise additional funds, the foundation signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the U.S. Mint in November 1995. [153] About 38,000 of the coins remained unsold. [153] [154] Using a line of credit from a major bank, WMSAMF purchased the outstanding 38,000 coins and began selling them for $35 for proof coins and $32 for uncirculated coins — the same price for which the Mint sold them. This would generate $380,000 in revenues. However, WMSAMF added a $6 processing fee, intended to raise another $250,000 for the memorial. [154] By October 15, 1997, total coin sales had generated $3 million for the memorial. [150]

By September 1997, however, the foundation still needed $12 million to complete the memorial and endow its operating and maintenance fund. [124] That included a $2.5 million shortfall in construction funds. Foundation officials blamed a lack of interest from the defense industry, lack of access to military records (which would have enabled it to reach out to the estimated 1.2 million living women veterans), procrastination by donors, a lack of nationwide press attention, and indifference to the contributions of women for the lack of donations. Corporate support was especially lacking: Aside from the $1 million donation from AT&T and the $300,000 donation by General Motors, the next largest corporate donation was $50,000 (and only two companies gave at that level). [126] [155] The inability to reach out to female veterans was a major issue. The foundation had hoped that 500,000 veterans would contribute $25 each to the memorial's construction, but lack of outreach meant that only 200,000 had done so. [125] Vaught also blamed lack of interest from the 230,000 women currently serving in the active duty and reserve armed forces. [126] State donations were also low. Eight states (Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) did not donate to the memorial by dedication day. Contribution levels from the states were relatively low, ranging from $60,000 from New York to just $1,750 from Colorado. [133]

To pay the memorial's outstanding debt, WMSAMF relied heavily on gift shop sales and other revenue. Arlington National Cemetery draws an estimated 4.5 million visitors each year. [125] Visitation numbers were not meeting expectations, however. Memorial officials said attendance would be about 250,000 to 300,000 visitors in the first year of operation, rather than the 500,000 projected. Only about 22,000 of the 375,000 people who visit Arlington National Cemetery each month visited the memorial. By July 1998, annual revenues from gift shop sales and other sources reached $5 million, about what was expected. [145] The memorial also began selling biographical data and a photograph of the individuals in the veterans' database, which generated $14,500 in June 1998 from $2,500 in January. The memorial also began charging $4,000 for use of its space. [145]

The memorial was still unable to pay about $2 million in construction costs in January 1998. [145] [146] WMSAMF had raised $19 million of the $21.5 million in total costs (construction and operation/maintenance endowment), [145] but by September 1997 could not pay Clark Construction the outstanding construction bill. [146] Clark Construction said it paid its subcontractors out-of-pocket, rather than wait for payment from the memorial foundation. [146] The firm also said it was not yet taking legal action, because it had faith in the memorial and expected to be paid. [156] Memorial president Wilma Vaught said the financial situation was not serious. Nonetheless, fund-raising experts told her that few donors wished to give money to "women's projects" [145] and that so many memorials were asking for funds that corporations simply stopped giving. [146] Vaught said three major donations had been received since the October 1997 dedication. These included a $500,000 donation from Eastman Kodak (payable over four years), a $250,000 donation from Merck Laboratories (payable over five years), and a $250,000 donation from a private foundation (payable immediately). [145]

Memorial finances continued to be unsteady as of 2010. The memorial had so little revenue to pay its $2.7 million annual budget that it nearly closed in 2009. Congress, however, provided a $1.6 million grant to keep it open, and a fund-raising drive brought in $250,000. [157] Although the memorial had about 241,000 women veterans listed in its database in 2010, about 75 percent of all World War II women servicemembers (who might have been counted on to donate) had already died, and many others were ill and on limited incomes. A sharp drop in gift shop sales after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 also significantly hurt the memorial's finances. [158]

On October 17, 2012, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial celebrated its 15th anniversary. [159] Raising funds to cover the memorial's $3 million for operating budget was still a struggle. [160]

In November 2016, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial said its financial situation was so poor, it may have to close. [161]

An online fundraiser begun in 2016 with a goal of $1.5 million raised just $110,000 as of October 2017. [1]

Construction of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial also generated a precedent-setting lawsuit.

Kalos Construction was digging a trench on the south side of Memorial Avenue. In this trench, utility lines would be laid which would serve the memorial. On July 10, 1996, one of the 50-foot (15 m) tall granite pylons next to the cemetery gate toppled over. The pylon landed on top of a mound of soft earth, which left it largely undamaged. But the granite urn on top of the pylon fell onto the asphalt, and was destroyed. Engineering officials were surprised to discover that the pylon had no foundation, and no anchor in the soil. Although Kalos workers had taken due care to not disturb the pylon, the lack of a foundation (which they assumed was there) caused the accident. [45] Damage was estimated at $1 million. [122]

A dispute broke out over whose insurance company would pay to repair the pylon. Clark Construction was insured by The Hartford Fire Insurance Co. and Kalos Construction by Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co. The Hartford argued that the pylons were not mentioned in the insurance policy and it never agreed to insure them. Montgomery Mutual paid the claim, reserving its right to litigate the issue. It then sued to recover damages from the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of The Hartford's argument. The memorial foundation appealed, arguing that the pylons were part of the Hemicycle structure. In 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the district court. The court of appeals concluded that the district court erred in failing to determine whether the pylons were part of the existing structure and failed to address language in The Hartford's policy which offered limited coverage of the pylons. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. [122] [162]

On remand, the district court ruled in favor of Montgomery Mutual. Again The Hartford appealed, arguing that Montgomery Mutual's payment constituted "other insurance" which The Hartford was not obligated to pay. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected The Hartford's claim, noting that Montgomery Mutual had only paid because The Hartford had refused. Under either Maryland or Virginia law, the court said, Montgomery Mutual would prevail. The court of appeals upheld the district court. [163]

A History of Women’s Swimwear

From the eighteenth century to the present day, women’s swimwear has undergone an unparalleled transformation. Changes in women’s swimwear throughout history have reflected sociological and technological factors, thus the garment acts as a barometer of time.

S wimwear is loosely defined as a category of garment often worn when participating in aquatic activities, such as swimming or bathing. Swimwear is expected to fulfil varying requirements. For competitive swimmers, a streamlined and tight-fitting garment which reduces friction and drag in the water is favoured to enhance propulsion and buoyancy. For recreational use, swimwear needs to be fashionable whilst also maintaining its functionality, for example protecting the wearer’s modesty and withstanding the effects of elements such as water and sunlight. Exploring the history of female swimwear, tracing how it has evolved through time and across continents, not only gives an insight into fashion trends and technological advancements in materials and design, but also an exploration of female liberation.

18th Century

In the eighteenth century, sea bathing became a popular recreational activity. It was believed that there were considerable health benefits to bathing in the sea, thus it was encouraged for both women and men (Kidwell). However, immersing oneself completely was discouraged. This was deemed particularly important for women as activity in water was not seen as sufficiently feminine. For bathing, women would wear loose, open gowns, that were similar to the chemise (Kidwell). These bathing gowns were more comfortable to wear in the water, especially when compared to more restrictive day clothes.

The bathing gown in figure 1 is from 1767 and belonged to Martha Washington, the wife of then-Continental Army commander, and later the first US president, George Washington. The blue and white checked gown is made from linen and is in an unfitted shift style. Small lead weights are sewn into each quarter of the dress, just above the hem. This was to ensure the dress did not float up in the water, helping women to maintain their modesty. It is known that Martha Washington travelled in the summers of 1767 and 1769 to the famed mineral springs in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, to absorb the apparent health benefits.

Fig. 1 - Maker unknown (American). Bathing gown, ca. 1767-1769. Linen, lead. Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, W-580. Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland 1894. Source: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

19th Century

In the 19th century, the popularity of recreational aquatic activities surpassed the desire to bathe for health benefits. With this, the loose-fitting chemise gowns became increasingly fitted and more complex, replicating the silhouettes of women’s fashion.

The number one priority for women who took part in water-based activities was to maintain their modesty. Whilst bathing for health benefits fell out of fashion, women still tended to bathe or paddle in water. This was because vigorous exercise in water was not considered ladylike. Women’s swimwear had to reflect this notion of remaining proper, as defined by contemporary society. Bathing outfits would consist of a bathing dress, drawers and stockings, often made of wool or cotton. These fabrics would become heavy when wet and were hardly suitable for any vigorous activities. In this case, it can be said that women’s swimwear, which prohibited ease of movement in water, reflected and maintained the social and physical constraints on women in nineteenth-century patriarchal society.

Fig. 2 - William Heath (British, 1794-1840). Mermaids at Brighton, 1825-1830. Etching. London: The British Museum, 1868,0808.9134. Purchased from Edward Hawkins (estate of). Source: British Museum

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (American). Bathing suit, 1870s. Wool. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.346.18a, b. Gift of The New York Historical Society, 1979. Source: The Met

During the Victorian period, known for its strict moral values, women frequently used bathing machines, as pictured in figure 2, when getting in and out of the sea. Bathing machines were little houses on wheels that would be drawn in and out of deeper water by horses. They provided women with a place to change in privacy before making their way directly into the sea.

Into the 1880s, women continued to wear bathing dresses, as seen in figures 3 and 4. These garments had high-necks, long-sleeves, and knee-length skirts. Linen and wool fabrics were still used. Women often wore belts at the waist to replicate the popular silhouette of the time. Under the bathing dress, women would wear bloomer-like trousers to maintain their modesty.

An alternative female swimwear garment, popularised towards the end of the Victorian era, was the Princess suit (Kennedy 23). These were one-piece garments where the blouse was attached to the trousers. On top, women wore a mid-calf length skirt which diverted attention from the wearer’s figure. The garments tended to be dark colours, which meant onlookers could not tell if the garment was wet. The suits were not the most practical, restricting the wearers’ arm movements and weighing them down in the water.

The Princess suit was a catalyst for the considerable changes to women’s swimwear that was to come. Most obviously, the Princess suit was the beginning of the one-piece swimsuit for women (Fig. 5). Changes began to happen quickly as women’s activities in water began to be more socially acceptable. Firstly, by the 1890s, the trousers of the Princess suit were shortened so they could not be seen under the skirt. The material that was used to create a Princess suit moved away from flannel, which became heavy when wet, towards serge and other knitted materials (Kidwell).

Fig. 4 - Artist unknown. Bathing Costume, from The Delineator, July 1884. Washington D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, photo 58466. Source: Alamy

Fig. 5 - Maker unknown (American). Bathing suit, 1890-95. Wool, cotton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.227.6. Gift of Theodore Fischer Ells, 1975. Source: The Met


During the twentieth century women’s swimwear underwent significant transformations as a result of the material advancements and increasingly liberal fashion trends.

In the early nineteenth century swimming emerged as a competitive sport. However, its popularity was not solidified until its first appearance at the Olympic Games in 1896. Women were permitted to compete in swimming for the first time at the 1912 Olympics. Annette Kellerman (Fig. 6), a swimmer from Australia, can be credited for shifting social attitudes towards acceptance of female participation in swimming and beginning the modernization of female swimwear. Kellerman was dubbed “the Australian Mermaid” because of her swimming capabilities. She was known for swimming the English Channel and famed for her performances in Hollywood movies (Schmidt and Tay).

In 1905, Annette Kellerman was invited to perform in front of the British Royal Family, however her swimsuit was prohibited as it was tight-fitting and revealed the lower half of her legs. Kellerman refused to compete in an inconvenient and ill-fitting garment which would meet their modesty standards, so she instead sewed black stockings onto her swimsuit, as seen in figure 6. Kellerman encountered trouble again when she competed in Boston. Her swimsuit was deemed to be of indecent exposure however, this was overruled in her favour as the judge agreed that heavy and ill-fitting swimsuits were impractical garments for swimming. This incident was widely publicised in the media, and whilst Kellerman’s action could have had a liberating effect on female swimwear, it unfortunately led to a crackdown on female immodesty in some parts of the world, with police working to enforce strict clothing conduct policies.

Fig. 6 - George Grantham Bain (American, 1865-1944). Miss Annette Kellerman, ca. 1905. Glass negative. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, LC-B2- 738-5 [P&P]. Source: LOC

Fig. 7 - Jantzen (1910-). Jantzen 1910-2010, 2010. Source: Lingerie Talk

In the 1910s, Jantzen, originally known as the Portland Knitting Company, was the leading producer of bathing suits (Fig. 7). This was the start of technological advancements in the materiality of swimwear. At first, Jantzen produced what they referred to as ‘woollen suits’ for rowing clubs. This became very popular and so Jantzen marketed it to a wider audience. It was not until 1921 that Jantzen referred to the garment as a swimsuit. Speedo, the Australian clothing company, started to experiment with swimwear in 1914. For both sexes, the all-in-one garments tended to have short sleeve or vest style tops with long legs. Whilst social reform had begun, the commercial sector lagged behind. Therefore, both Jantzen and Speedo continued to market their all-in-ones as bathing suits throughout the 1910s.

Following the First World War, women’s swimwear trends began to differ across continents. In America and Europe women wore knitted swimwear which replaced the bathing suit, however there were slight tweaks depending on where you lived. In America, women favoured a practical and sporty look whilst European women opted for sleeker swimsuits which cut closely to the body. Another key difference between the two fashion trends was that women’s swimsuit fashions were accessible to a very large middle class in America, whereas in Europe there were clear class divisions on what women could or could not afford to buy for wearing to the beach. An affluent woman could set herself apart by wearing a silk jersey swimming suit, instead of a knitted one (Kidwell). Kennedy reiterates this when she wrote:

“Both sides of the Atlantic favoured the practical one-piece ‘maillot’, but in France the costume’s legs were shorter in length, the knitted ribwork was more finely woven and the decoration was kept to a minimum.” (34)

Whilst the maillot costumes worn by women were improvements on what they had to wear before the turn of the century, they still had their impracticalities. Due to the materiality of the garment, the knitted swimsuits tended to become misshapen when wet. The fabric absorbed a great deal of water resulting in the elongation and sagging of the swimsuit. These issues often jeopardised the modesty of the women’s swimsuits which concerned inter-war society.

Fig. 8 - Photographer unknown. Vogue Cover, July 1932. Source: Vogue Archive

Fig. 9 - Neyret (French). Bathing Costume, 1937. Machine-knitted wool. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, T.293-1971. Source: V&A

During this period, swimwear began to feature in magazines as fashionable garments (Fig. 8) as fashion designers turned a hand to creating swimwear. Coco Chanel created a one-piece swimsuit, woven from a boucle fabric, that could have almost passed as unisex (Kennedy 48). Chanel’s foray into swimwear brought it into modern fashion. Jean Patou, who worked with his sister Madeleine, was probably the best-known sportswear designer at the time. Swimwear could also be found in the Cannes boutiques of Lanvin, Molyneux, Schiaparelli and Poiret (Kennnedy 53).

The 1930s gave way to the health and fitness movement which favoured fit and healthy female physiques. To maintain their figures, women were encouraged to participate in exercise, though only in ways that were deemed lady-like. Swimming was one of these exercises, which also gave women the opportunity to experiment with tanning. Towards the end of the 1920s, tanned skin was no longer a marker of the working class, but instead became fashionable and conveyed that one holidayed, and was therefore affluent. So much so, in 1932, Elsa Schiaparelli patented a backless swimsuit with a built-in brassiere for the sole purpose of avoiding tan lines from swimsuit straps whilst sunbathing (Snodgrass 566).

The boyish silhouettes were a thing of the past as women sought more shapely figures. The swimsuit in figure 9 is a machine-knit, woollen garment from 1937. Wool was favoured for its slightly elasticated qualities. The swimsuit has thin straps allowing women to catch the sun on their shoulders. There is a ribbed midriff panel which would have provided extra support and enhanced the female figure. The brief-like bottoms maintain the wearer’s modesty.


Lastex yarn (Fig. 10) was invented in 1931 (Kennedy 71). This was a game changer for swimwear once it was regularly used in production. Typically knitted swimsuits were made from wool which would lose its shape when wet. The introduction of Lastex yarn into women’s swimwear meant the garments would hold their form in and out of the water. Lastex would often be combined with artificial fibres such as rayon resulting in a stretchy and shiny fabric (Kennedy 71). Swimsuits could now be produced in a much larger range of colours and prints (Kennedy 71). Furthermore, at the end of the 1940s, Christian Dior launched his New Look which consisted of nipped in waists and full skirts, accentuating the female form. This exciting design shifted the trend to feminine and hourglass figures for women, including in swimwear. In this Lastex yarn advertisement from ca. 1950 (Fig. 10), the figure-hugging swimsuits reflect the fashionable feminine post-war silhouettes.

One of the most significant moments in the history of women’s swimwear was the creation of the bikini in 1946. The design of the bikini is credited to two separate designers who introduced the revolutionary garment at the same time. Jacques Heim, a French fashion designer, created a minimalist two-piece swimming garment in May 1946, called the Atome. Heim’s Atome featured a bra-like top and bottoms which covered the bottom and navel. Later that year, in July 1946, Louis Réard, an engineer turned designer, created what he called the bikini. Réard’s skimpy design, pictured in figure 11, consisted of only four triangles of material that were held together with string. The two designs competed for public attention and whilst Heim’s garment was the first to be worn on a beach, it was the term bikini, as coined by Réard, that stuck.

The rise of the film industry and Hollywood glamour, which celebrated the female form in its entirety, had a big impact on the swimwear industry. In 1952, Bridget Bardot starred in the French film Manina, The Girl in the Bikini. At just 17, Bardot was one of the first women to sport a bikini on the big screen. Towards the end of the decade, in 1956, Bardot appeared bikini-clad again in And God Created Women. These appearances brought the bikini into mainstream media, thus beginning the garment’s transition from outrageous and shocking to everyday. According to Vogue, by the mid-1950s swimwear was seen more as a “state of dress, not undress” (Delis Hill 63), illustrating how liberated fashion trends were gradually being accepted, even if society was not quite ready for the bikini.

Fig. 10 - Artist unknown. Before the bikini: ‘To flatter your figure this summer choose a swimsuit that has the long-lasting elasticity which Lastex yarn provides…’, ca. 1950s. Source: Alamy Stock Photos

Fig. 11 - Photographer unknown (French). Bikini At The Molitor Swimming Pool, 1946. Source: Getty Images

Fig. 12 - Willy Rozier (French, 1901-1983). Bridget Bardot, 1952, Manina, The Girl in the Bikini, with Jean-Francois Calve, Ullstein Bild Dtl, 1952. Source: Getty Images

In terms of competitive swimming, Speedo first introduced nylon into swimwear in 1956 (Kennedy 10). For the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, Speedo created the well-known male Speedo shorts (Kennedy 10). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the technological advances in materiality were prioritised for use in male competitive swimming before female competitive swimming. However, it was not long before women’s competitive swimwear also utilised the hydrodynamic qualities of nylon. In the 1970s Speedo introduced elastane into their swimwear. The combination of elastane and nylon significantly reduced water drag and improved the durability of swimwear.

Fig. 13 - Rudi Gernreich (American, born Austria, 1922–1985). Bathing Suit, 1964. Wool, elastic. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.517.13. Gift of Betty Furness, 1986. Source: The Met

Fig. 14 - William Claxton (American, 1927-2008). Peggy Moffit, monokini by Rudi Gernreich, 1964. Source: Feature Shoot

Designers continued to experiment with swimwear throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Emanuel Ungaro, André Courrѐges, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein all started selling ready-to-wear swimwear in the 1960s (Snodgrass 567). In 1964, the designer Rudi Gernreich launched his iconic monokini (Figs. 13-14). The first topless garment, the one-piece consisted of slim-fitting high-waisted bottoms which were held in place by thin halter-neck straps. Gernreich’s monokini thus juxtaposed conservative dress with immodesty.

Fig. 15 - Photographer unknown. Nicolette Sheridan at the 1988 Kauai Lagoons Celebrity Sports Invitational, 1988. Source: Getty Images

Fig. 16 - Photographer unknown. Pamela Anderson, Baywatch, 1995. Source: Harper's Bazaar

Towards the end of the twentieth-century, women’s swimwear became increasingly bold and colourful, a reflection of the fashion trends at the time. Bikinis and swimsuits were still the go-to swimwear, which now featured high-cut legs, strapless bandeau bikini tops and even matching sarongs (Fig. 15). The television show Baywatch, which first aired in 1989, became known for its characters’ bright red, high-cut swimsuits (Fig. 16). This style of swimwear re-popularised the one-piece in this new shape.

21st Century

Competitive swimming in the twenty-first century has continued to benefit from technological advancements in shapes and materials. In 2008 Speedo launched the LZR Racer, pictured in figures 17 and 18. The body-length swimsuit is made from elastane-nylon and polyurethane. These swimsuits were controversial as many felt the materials being used gave an unfair advantage due to their hydrodynamic properties. Following their use in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where athletes who wore the LZR performed exceptionally well, the regulations for swimwear in the Olympic games were revised. It was concluded that women’s swimwear could only be shoulder to knee-length.

Since the 2000s, many female swimwear trends from the twentieth century are being revisited due to the cyclical nature of fashion. 1950s one-pieces, high-cut Baywatch swimwear and itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis will often be spotted on the same beach. Women’s swimwear continues to be more than just a functional garment, it must also be fashionable. Something that is new in female swimwear in the twenty-first century is swimwear brands being more inclusive of female sizing. The pressure to look a certain way when poolside is slowly dwindling. Whilst the twentieth-century sought to eradicate laws controlling women’s modesty, perhaps the twenty-first century will be the era when women’s swimwear becomes inclusive for all.

Fig. 17 - Photographer unknown. Speedo Launch Worlds Fastest Swimsuit, 2008. Source: Getty Images

Fig. 18 - Mike Stobe (American). Speedo Swimsuit Launch, 2008. Source: Getty Images

  • Delis Hill, Daniel. As Seen in Vogue. Texas: Texas Tech University Press. 2007. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1027144384
  • Kay, Fiona and Storey, Neil. R. 1940s Fashion. England: Amberley Publishing, 2018. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/100792685
  • Kennedy, Sarah. Vintage Swimwear: A History of Twentieth Century Fashions. London: Carlton. 2010. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1089738980
  • Kidwell, Claudia Brush. Women’s Bathing and Swimming Costume in the United States. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. 1968. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/249672621
  • Schmidt, Christine and Tay, Jinna. Undressing Kellerman, Uncovering Broadhurst: The Modern Women and “Un-Australia”, Fashion Theory, Volume 13, Issue 4. https://doi.org/10.2752/175174109X467495
  • Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopaedia of History, Culture and Social Influence. London, England: Routledge. 2014. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/881384673

About The Author

Fiona Ibbetson

Fiona Ibbetson is a London-based researcher in fashion studies and design history. She is a recent graduate of MA Fashion Critical Studies at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and has a BA in Anthropology from the University of Exeter.

New Women in Early 20th-Century America

In late 19th- and early 20th-century America, a new image of womanhood emerged that began to shape public views and understandings of women’s role in society.

Identified by contemporaries as a Gibson Girl, a suffragist, a Progressive reformer, a bohemian feminist, a college girl, a bicyclist, a flapper, a working-class militant, or a Hollywood vamp, all of these images came to epitomize the New Woman, an umbrella term for modern understandings of femininity. Referring both to real, flesh-and-blood women, and also to an abstract idea or a visual archetype, the New Woman represented a generation of women who came of age between 1890 and 1920 and challenged gender norms and structures by asserting a new public presence through work, education, entertainment, and politics, while also denoting a distinctly modern appearance that contrasted with Victorian ideals. The New Woman became associated with the rise of feminism and the campaign for women’s suffrage, as well as with the rise of consumerism, mass culture, and freer expressions of sexuality that defined the first decades of the 20th century. Emphasizing youth, mobility, freedom, and modernity, the image of the New Woman varied by age, class, race, ethnicity, and geographical region, offering a spectrum of behaviors and appearances with which different women could identify. At times controversial, the New Woman image provided women with opportunities to negotiate new social roles and to promote ideas of equality and freedom that would later become mainstream.



Definition of the New Woman

Primarily defined by the popular press, the New Woman represented a contemporary, modern understanding of femininity, one that emphasized youth, visibility, and mobility as well as a demand for greater freedom and independence. 1 While the exact origins of the term are still debated, by 1894 , an exchange between British writers Sarah Grand and Ouida in the North American Review brought the phrase to the attention of readers and into popular vernacular. The New Woman emerged out of the social and cultural changes in early 20th-century America—the rise of urban centers, increased and shifting immigration, industrialization, technological advances in print culture, the growing influence of consumer culture, imperialism, changes in the structures of the labor force, post-Reconstruction race relations—and as such offered a way not only to understand women’s new visibility and presence in the public sphere, but also to define modern American identity in a period of unsettling change. 2 The New Woman image was often positioned in opposition to the Victorian “True Woman,” which was associated with an understanding of femininity as an essential, timeless concept that emphasized domesticity and submissiveness. 3 Yet, the New Woman did not express a unified message regarding women’s changing roles, as those varied by region, class, politics, race, ethnicity, age, time, and historical conditions. The New Woman could be a suffragist or a flapper, a Gibson Girl or a settlement house worker, an actress or a factory laborer, and oftentimes these images and meanings overlapped, allowing women to adopt some characteristics while renouncing others. 4 The image of the Gibson Girl dominated the 1890s and the 1900s, but by the 1910s it was the suffragist and the political New Woman who marked modern femininity. In the 1920s, the flapper epitomized New Womanhood. Moreover, class and race factored into one’s ability to adopt and shape the meaning of these different images. Thus, the New Woman represented not a single image but a spectrum of visual expressions and behaviors indeed, every woman could shape her own version of the New Woman, depending on her resources and the particular interests she wanted to promote.

The Gibson Girl and the Bicycle

In the pages of popular magazines such as Collier’s Weekly , Life , and Ladies’ Home Journal , the New Woman in the 1890s and 1900s represented a new beauty ideal that corresponded with white middle-class women’s growing opportunities for work, education, and engagement with consumer culture. Typified mainly by the work of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, the “Gibson Girl,” as the image came to be known, was portrayed as a young, white, single woman, dressed in a shirtwaist and a bell-shaped skirt, with a large bosom and narrow, corseted waist. 5 The Gibson Girl often appeared outdoors, engaged in an athletic or leisure activity such as golf or cycling, or depicted in social activities such as dances and dinner parties, all of which suggested her bourgeois origins.

Figure 1. Charles Dana Gibson, “School Days,” Scribner’s Magazine, 1899.

She was never portrayed performing any kind of labor, and Gibson himself did not present her as a working-class “factory girl,” but rather as a lady of leisure or as a middle-class college debutante. 6 As a product of the printed media, the Gibson Girl was also a commercialized image. By the mid-1890s, she became one of the most marketed images of the time, appearing in advertising and on a myriad of consumer products, including fashion, wallpaper, silverware, and furniture. In addition, magazines and pattern companies advertised “Gibson skirts” and “Gibson waists,” as well as fashion accessories such as hats, ties, and collars that were inspired by the Gibson Girl. 7

Gibson’s success in turning the Gibson Girl into a popular icon of New Womanhood rested on his ability to use her image to reflect the values of the period, and at the same time to capture the changes, providing a visual vocabulary for contemporaries to discuss the various meanings of the New Woman. In his quick pen-stroke style, the New Woman “type” that the Gibson Girl embodied was definitely modern, but not too radical. While she presented a more athletic ideal and a new public presence, she simultaneously maintained traditional gender expectations from women of her status. For example, although the Gibson Girl was usually depicted in more modern forms of relationships with men—often unchaperoned and in fairly equal settings—she was also portrayed as an object of men’s desire, whose main objective was to find a suitable mate and get married. Through such depictions, the Gibson Girl served to ameliorate fears of “race suicide” regarding the more radical college graduate who postponed or eschewed marriage. Yet, Gibson often depicted her as a single girl and rarely as a married woman or as a mother, alluding perhaps to the more liberating potential that the New Woman symbolized. By presenting the Gibson Girl as flirtatious, yet not portraying the fulfillment of her courting endeavors, Gibson implied that she could remain an eternal bachelorette. Nevertheless, the freedom the Gibson Girl represented was superficial, a matter of style rather than substance. In Gibson’s illustrations, she represented a confident and assertive type of femininity that carried a potential challenge to existing sexual hierarchies and gender roles. However, Gibson framed this challenge as playful romanticism in relationships with men, not as a demand for political rights. 8

The Gibson Girl was not associated with politics, but she represented two other main developments that contributed to the emergence of the New Woman in the 1890s: women’s entrance into higher education, and their engagement in sports. Even though the percentage of women in higher education remained quite low—only 2.8 percent of American women in 1900 were enrolled in college—their cultural significance far exceeded their actual numbers. College graduates comprised the bulk of settlement house workers, city reformers, social workers, and suffrage activists—all occupations identified with the New Woman. 9 By embracing the Gibson Girl fashions and imagery, young students, particularly those for whom college marked the beginning of a career in suffrage or social reform, could claim a progressive identity and express political views while also conveying an image of athleticism and feminine appeal.

The connection between college and athleticism was not coincidental. By the 1890s, women’s colleges—particularly Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, and Wellesley—included physical exercise in their curricula. Students did not only engage in physical activities they were actively encouraged to participate in competitive sports such as basketball, hockey, and rowing. 10 Sports became socially acceptable for women, marking athleticism as a central component of the New Woman image. Cycling in particular, as a new sport and leisure activity that was associated with mobility, became identified with the image of the Gibson Girl. Wearing the new, less cumbersome cycling costumes that allowed greater freedom of movement, the Gibson Girl who rode a bicycle represented women’s physical emancipation through sports and clothes.

Figure 2. The Gibson Girl on a bicycle. Charles Dana Gibson, Scribner’s for June, 1895.

Marking a new public presence and new possibilities to escape the physical confines of the domestic sphere, the bicycle became for feminists and woman’s rights advocates the “picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” 11 It offered women new opportunities for healthy exercise and mobility. Representing the emancipated woman, the wheelwoman became another visual icon of the New Woman, one that emphasized above all freedom, health, and the luxury of leisure, while also challenging gender hierarchies and norms.

Yet, the emancipatory aspects of cycling and the association of the bicycle with women’s rights also made this activity controversial. Bicycles offered women a means of challenging the gender division between the spheres, allowing them to negotiate a new presence on city streets. But the fact that bicycles, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton observed, proved that women, just like men, were “bifurcated animal[s],” became a cause of concern for women’s respectability and sexual propriety. Although only a few women opted to wear the more daring bloomer outfit as their riding costume, bicycle clothing offered an opportunity to test the boundaries of conventional fashion by adopting more practical and less feminine-looking outfits such as shortened and divided skirts that challenged the notion of Victorian propriety and modesty. 12

Despite Gibson’s hopes that the Gibson Girl would be the embodiment of the ideal white middle-class “All American Girl,” as her popularity grew, contemporaries began to associate her image with a more generic image of modern femininity that allowed for different interpretations and appropriations. Even women who were not necessarily represented by the white, middle-class characteristics of the Gibson Girl identified with her and the clothes she wore, often using her image to advance their own political agendas. Especially for African American women, the Gibson Girl imagery provided an opportunity to claim inclusion in American culture and to promote racial uplift. Because the Gibson Girl never appeared as a political activist, but as an appealing and approachable middle-class young girl, her image enabled African American women to lay claim to middle-class respectability and the associated privileges of white “ladyhood.” By portraying themselves as Gibson Girls, African American woman could challenge derogatory white stereotypes that perceived African Americans as uncivilized and ugly, using her fashions to present themselves as modern women of leisure. 13

Figure 3. Four African American women sit on the steps of a building at Atlanta University, Georgia, 1899.

Despite prevalent racist images—such as Edward Kemble’s illustrations that ridiculed black women’s aspirations to enjoy the freedoms and modernity that the New Woman represented—and despite the dangers in associating themselves with the Gibson Girl’s flirtatious and playful sexuality, African American women managed to appropriate the image, if not the term, to promote claims for racial equality. Civil rights activists Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Nannie Helen Burroughs also adopted the Gibson Girl fashions: they created their own versions, adopting her upswept hairstyle, but often pairing it with more lavish clothes than the standard shirtwaist and plain skirt. Black women also tended to prefer more ornamented shirtwaists over simple white ones, as a way to further distance themselves from association with the working class. 14 In presenting themselves as refined middle-class women, activists like Wells-Barnett and Burroughs served as models for racial uplift, presenting themselves as modern New Women equal to whites.

The ready-made shirtwaist that became so identified with the Gibson Girl image allowed working-class and immigrant women to shape their version of the New Woman and her meanings. Jewish immigrant women tapped into the romanticism and middle-class respectability that the Gibson Girl represented, but created a more militant version that emphasized women’s politicized presence in the workforce. Clara Lemlich, who led the famous 1909 garment workers’ strike, adopted the Gibson Girl look, using it to enhance her demands to be taken seriously as a person, an American, a worker, and a woman. 15

Figure 4. Clara Lemlich, c. 1910.

Building on the association of the Gibson Girl with Americanism, and on women’s dual roles as producers and consumers of fashions, working women presented themselves as ladies while also promoting their status as workers. 16 Thus, the Gibson Girl assumed political meanings as African American, working-class, and immigrant women used the style to enhance their claims for respect, rights, and inclusion.

The Political New Woman

In contrast to the Gibson Girl, the political New Woman was mainly associated with the growing influence of women in politics and reform movements, especially the struggle for women’s rights. Mobilized into politics by the Abolitionist and the Temperance Movements, by the 1910s, the political New Woman became mostly identified with the campaign for woman suffrage. 17 Feminism, a new buzzword that entered the American discourse in the early 1910s, marked a break with the 19th-century “Woman’s Movement” and a new phase in women’s agitation for rights and freedom. Feminists demanded sexual equality while also acknowledging their sexual difference with men, and went beyond struggles for voting and political participation. As an ideology, or a worldview that was born on the left of the political spectrum, feminism was influenced by socialism and reform, as well as by liberal traditions that saw the individual as the most important political unit. It sought to transform all realms of women’s lives: the political, the social, the economic, the cultural, and the personal. Feminists aimed to eliminate all structural and psychological obstacles to women’s economic independence: they denounced the double standard of morality that punished sexually active women and rewarded promiscuous men, and insisted on women’s right to pursue their own ambitions and express their own desires. 18 As Marie Jenney Howe, a self-identified feminist, argued in 1914 : “Feminism is not limited to any one cause or reform. It strives for equal rights, equal laws, equal opportunity, equal wages, equal standards, and a whole new world of human equality.” According to Howe, feminism was not one movement or organization that aimed to change women’s opportunities, but a broad struggle to change the entire social system. 19

Indeed, feminists joined myriad causes that became associated with the New Woman. Some campaigned for woman suffrage others agitated for socialism and labor some worked in the Settlement House or Temperance Movements, while still others called for “free love” and birth control. These causes were not mutually exclusive, and many feminists became prominent figures in several movements at once. For example, Inez Milholland, the quintessential New Woman, fought for suffrage as a member of the National Woman’s Party and was also a Greenwich Village radical who advocated open marriage, labor and dress reform, and pacifism. 20 Thus, as the New York World pointed out, many political agendas and ideologies that represented “the most advanced ideas of the present progressive movement of womankind” defined the political New Woman. 21 Despite differences in views and personalities, women like Christian Temperance activist Frances Willard, elite socialite Alva Belmont, and anarchist Emma Goldman all represented the political New Woman and the new presence she had in the public sphere.

While feminism transcended any single cause, by the 1910s, the struggle for suffrage became most closely associated with the New Woman. Yet, despite this connection, and the fact that many suffragists saw themselves as feminists, the terms feminist and woman suffrage were not interchangeable. 22 Moreover, woman suffrage itself was never a single movement suffragists differed by class, race, religion, ethnicity, and political affiliation, as well as in their views on why and how to achieve the vote. Some saw woman suffrage as the ultimate goal, others as a means through which they could reform society. Some white middle-class activists hoped to use suffrage as a tool for maintaining white supremacy and class privilege, employing a conservative stance that imagined women voters as protectors of the domestic sphere. Others, mainly working-class and African American suffragists, saw woman suffrage as part of a larger effort to gain independence and power for those who were otherwise largely disenfranchised. 23 African American suffragists, who were often barred from membership in the white national suffrage movements, founded their own organizations and used the vote as a vehicle to challenge racism, arguing for voting rights not only for black women but also for increasingly voteless black men. 24 For working-class Jewish immigrant women, it was their union activity in the labor movement rather than suffrage that provided an entrance into political activism. Although many supported woman suffrage, they preferred to concentrate their efforts on improving labor conditions in factories, seeing it as a more urgent issue than gaining the vote. 25

Representations of the political New Woman in the media, whether as a suffragist, feminist, or social reformer, often portrayed her as masculine, unattractively clothed in bloomers, and sometimes smoking. These depictions reflected cultural anxieties over women’s demands for equality by framing them as a threat to the social order and catalyst for the reversal of gender roles. An image titled “The New Woman—Wash Day” clearly conveyed this sentiment, showing a woman in bloomers, a cigarette dangling from her mouth as she oversees the work of a man bending over a bucket of laundry.

Figure 5. “The New Woman—Wash Day,” 1901. Underwood & Underwood.

Other depictions ridiculed women who were active in politics, presenting them as either hysterical fanatics or frivolous women who only cared about shopping and bargains. A cartoon that appeared in Harper’s Weekly mocked suffragists’ political dedication, showing how the famous marching slogan “Votes for Women” is turned into “Vote for Men” as the women who carry the letters S, W, and O leave the march at the sight of an interesting sale at a department store.

Figure 6. “An Unexpected Effect,” Harper’s Weekly, May 18, 1912.

Feminists and suffragists defended themselves by presenting alternative images that emphasized their femininity and attractiveness. 26 They capitalized on the growing cultural emphasis on personality and performance and used consumer culture and advertising tactics to impress their politics in visual ways, giving special attention to clothing and color. Utilizing all kinds of theatrical and spectacular tactics—from outdoor gatherings and colorful parades to pageantry and picketing—suffragists presented a respectable, stylish, and fashionable appearance that turned their public image into a positive and palatable one. 27 Dressed in the suffrage colors of white, purple, and yellow, and with careful attention to the portrayal of their womanly talents of embroidery and fashion, suffragists marched in their costumes and with handmade banners, asserting their political presence in what was considered to be male territory. A photograph of a 1915 parade exemplifies this idea, showing suffragists marching in formation, their bright clothing contrasting sharply with the sidewalk crowds of men in dark-colored suits. This visual contrast—between women and men, bright and dark, order and disorder—provided a perceptible manifestation to suffragists’ arguments and conveyed to viewers the possible contribution women might add to politics after receiving the vote. 28

Figure 7. On October 23, 1915, twenty thousand women marched in the pre-election parade for suffrage in New York.

Greenwich Village bohemian feminists also used fashion and appearance to express their identities and to promote their views regarding women’s sexual and political freedoms. These feminists capitalized on the popular Oriental trend of the 1910s and constructed their image as modern fashionable women by adapting the Japanese kimono to convey their progressive ideas. 29

Political New Women’s efforts to shape their public image in a favorable way proved successful. In 1915 , an editorial in the Century announced: “In the campaign for woman suffrage now being waged in New York, it has been observed . . . that the suffrage speakers have a conspicuous advantage over their opponents in point of personal charm that, in fact, the ‘anti’ more often looks like the strong-minded suffragist of caricature than the suffragist does.” 30

The New-York Tribune also acknowledged that the “type” of suffragist had changed.

Figure 8. “The Type of Suffragette Has Changed,” New-York Tribune, February 24, 1911.

Instead of the masculine, dowdy suffragist wearing oversized clothes, untidy short hair, and a masculine hat, the new type of suffragist, as the illustration showed, was a fashionable young woman, dressed in a fashionable one-piece dress and wide hat with feathers, with a sash hanging from her shoulder. 31 As the decade progressed suffragists managed to shape images of the political New Woman to be more positive and favorable, playing a significant role in changing contemporaries’ attitudes toward women’s rights.

The New Negro Woman

The intersections between the media, consumer culture, and politics that gave rise to new understandings of femininity were not limited to white America. African American women, combining the ideas of the “New Negro” movement with those of the “New Woman,” created their own version of modern black femininity. 32 Coined in 1895 by Margaret Murray Washington, Booker T. Washington’s wife, the term New Negro Woman was used to denote a modern take on middle-class respectability, domesticity, and race progress, serving as a political trope to counter racist stereotypes of the “black mammy.” Washington refrained from tapping into the associations of the white New Woman with independence and sexual freedom due to their problematic implications for black women, and instead emphasized the virtues of motherhood alongside professional accomplishments in education and work, shaping the New Negro Woman as the epitome of middle-class refinement and genteel appearance. 33

By the 1910s, however, the New Negro Woman image evolved to suit the new reality of millions of African Americans who left the South to seek better lives in the growing urban centers, mainly in the North. Marking the period of the first Great Migration, the proportion of black residents in all American cities rose significantly, from 22 percent in 1900 to 40 percent in 1930 . Single women in their twenties became the second-largest group of migrants after single men. Like men, they hoped to escape racial violence and Jim Crow segregation and improve their economic fortunes. Although for many migrant women, moving north did not necessarily free them from racial discrimination or domestic service, it did provide more options for upward mobility and political participation through the right to vote. 34 In cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore, many African Americans redefined their places in society, expanding the image of the New Negro Woman to include more overt expressions of independence and freedom. By taking advantage of the new possibilities that the mass consumer culture enabled, they sought to construct racial identity and political consciousness with a “modern” image of blackness that was quintessentially urban and emphasized leisure and consumption rather than labor. 35

Black women took an active role in the construction of these new identities. Like their white counterparts, they too used the growing emphasis on appearance to further their claims for freedom and equality. 36 Yet, due to the pervasiveness of racism, they had to negotiate a fine line between sexuality and respectability, using both as political means. As scholars have demonstrated, the politics of “respectability”—the combination of morality, sexual purity, modesty, thrift, and hard work—were central to middle-class African American women’s behavior and image in the early 20th century , as many believed it was essential to racial progress and equality. 37 Using the visual power of photography to convey middle-class notions of black respectability, the black press presented portraits of “accomplished, beautiful, intelligent, industrious, talented, successful” women of color as exemplars of New Negro Womanhood that countered derogatory images of blacks in the white press and refuted charges of moral inferiority and sexual promiscuity. 38

Figure 9. The black press offered examples of modern black femininity as an attempt to refute racist stereotypes. “Beauty and Brains,” Half-Century Magazine, June 1920.

But it was also through an emphasis on a fashionable and modest appearance that middle-class black women could push for racial uplift and personal betterment, urging young female migrants to improve their communities and to participate in reform and political causes. Speaking on the “Modern Woman” in 1916 , Mary Church Terrell, the prominent reformer and president of the National Association of Colored Women, defined the duties of the New Negro Woman to uplift the race, calling on her sisters “to do more than other women . . . We must go into our communities and improve them . . . we must organize ourselves as Negro women and work together.” Terrell also embodied in her appearance the message she was trying to convey. According to one of the women in the crowd, in her pink evening dress and long white gloves and with her hair beautifully done, Terrell “was that Modern Woman.” 39 Fashion and appearance were not just frivolous concerns of elite women they were the stuff of politics for African American women who styled themselves for equality and to gain respect for their entire race.

While the notion of respectability continued to shape black women’s lives, the growth of black urban centers and the rise of new forms of leisure opened up more opportunities for African American women to display their bodies, and to celebrate their presence in ways they could not have done before. 40 Balancing between the need to assert the validity of black womanhood, using it as a vehicle for racial uplift, and their aspiration for taking an equal share in the growing consumer culture, beauty culturists such as Madam C. J. Walker and Annie T. Malone established successful business empires that used the promotion of hair and beauty products to advance black women’s agency and self-control over their image. These women used the ideas of the New Woman to address gender and racial inequalities and to carve new positions of power vis-à-vis both blacks and whites, recreating black womanhood as an expression of modernity and race progress. By expanding definitions of beauty and appropriate body display, black women like Walker assumed new spaces and positions from which they could actively participate in the project of racial uplift, while at the same time challenging it. 41 A’Lelia Walker, Madam C. J. Walker’s only daughter, went even further than her mother in challenging middle-class respectability. As a wealthy, tall, voluptuous, dark-skinned woman, who preferred to spend her fortune on lavish clothes, jewelry, and entertaining parties, Walker challenged more than traditional racialized gender roles she challenged color hierarchies among African Americans, in which light skin and “light features” became the ideal of black beauty. 42

Young women, particularly working-class migrants, also adapted the idea of respectability to the new consumer culture and embraced a more brazen appearance through bolder and more expressive aesthetics choices. For them, it was a way through which they could claim access to the growing youth culture and the promises it entailed. As they strolled city streets dressed in the latest fashions, these women asserted control over their bodies and appearances, far from the supervising eye of their white employers or the confining realms of middle-class propriety. 43 By adopting the more extreme style of bobs and short skirts, these women stretched the boundaries of respectability and propriety, constructing new images of femininity that represented women’s new experiences and the realities of the urban environment. 44

In that context, the female performer—the dancer, the vaudeville actress, and particularly the blues singer—became an important emblem of modern black femininity that gave rise to a new concept of beauty that defied earlier notions of respectability. 45

Figure 10. Bessie Smith, c. 1920.

The new cultural scene in Harlem and other urban centers provided the black female performer with new possibilities for reclaiming female sexuality as a source of female power and pride. 46 By wearing extravagant dresses and glittering jewelry, the black female performer constructed a modern image of femininity that emphasized glamour and lusciousness instead of modesty and restraint. Spending money on one’s self, and especially on clothes and other luxury products, defied notions of female sacrifice and devotion and offered a more individualistic, independent approach to femininity that was not dependent on men for support. Ethel Waters, for example, bragged about buying a mink coat after signing her first record deal, a purchase that marked both her stardom status and her economic independence, eschewing familial duties. This theme also appeared in one of her songs, “No Man’s Mamma,” in which she sings: “I can spend if I choose, I can play and sing the blues / There’s nobody messin’ with my one’s and my twos / Because, I’m no man’s mamma now.” 47 Black performers and blues singers thus became the new standard-bearers of an increasingly sexualized beauty ideal that challenge notions of respectability within the African American community at the same time, they demanded to take an equal part in the general consumer culture. 48 Josephine Baker, whose semi-nude photographs served to emphasize her exotic and “primitive” eroticism, perpetuating racist stereotypes among whites and reinforcing color hierarchies among African Americans, also provided a powerful statement that reclaimed black women’s beauty and sensuality. 49

The image of the black female performer also defied sexual and class boundaries. Blues singers such as Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters were known to have relationships with women, thus extending their celebration of sexuality beyond heterosexuality. In addition, most blues performers came from the South, and to many of them, such as Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters, their performance career served as a route out of a life of poverty and discrimination. Occupying a liminal space between middle-class and working-class worlds, blues singers managed to construct a new ideal of femininity that acknowledged the worthiness of working-class and rural southern culture even as it stood for upward mobility and economic success. 50 This ideal, while rejecting Victorian ideals of black respectability, did not renounce femininity but created and celebrated a sexualized version of it. Thus, by offering an alternative and commodified image of the New Negro Woman, blues singers and black female performers expanded New Womanhood in ways that challenged racialized gender norms within white and black communities.

The Flapper

By the 1920s, the New Woman came to be embodied by the “flapper” or the “modern girl.” With her short skirt and hair, visible makeup, and leisure-filled lifestyle, the flapper represented the culmination of processes that World War I had escalated and highlighted, including the mobilization of women (for war, peace, and in the workforce) and the political changes that suffrage brought. Young women bobbed their hair, wore makeup, and discarded corsets before the war, but only in the 1920s did these fashions come to symbolize the freedoms women were beginning to claim, and the new moral values they promoted. Sophisticated, sexually liberated, and independent, the flapper marked the rise of a new youth culture that emphasized individuality, pleasure, and sexual expression. 51

Figure 11. “Typical Flappers,” Weekly Journal-Miner (Prescott, AZ), August 2, 1922.

Also associated with urbanism, skyscrapers, the growing numbers of automobiles, and modern aesthetics in art, the flapper became more than the quintessential image of the New Woman in the postwar decade she became the visual representation of a modern cultural consciousness that defined the 1920s. 52

Identified mainly as a young girl in her teens or twenties who lived a libertine and mobile life, the flapper’s youthfulness was intertwined with modernity. Her image, as depicted in advertisements and popular media, was associated with a range of consumer products that denoted modern living: cars, cosmetics, clothing, and electrical appliances. Indeed, youth became less a marker of age and more a state of mind that valued novelty and innovation. As Vanity Fair asserted in 1921 : “Flapper is a limitless, a widely embracive term, to such a point that serious men have observed . . . that all women between the ages of fourteen and fifty—make it sixty, if you wish—may be called ‘girls.’” 53 Through the use of clothing and makeup every woman could become a flapper, regardless of her age, and assert her identity as a modern woman who holds progressive views on women’s sexuality and gender roles. “Flapper” and “youth” were thus no longer references to a stage in life, but marks of sophistication and shrewdness.

The emphasis on youth created a more slender, straight silhouette—“boyish” and even androgynous—that contrasted markedly with the Victorian and Gibson Girl hour-glass ideal.

Figure 12. The flapper image conveyed a youthful and boyish silhouette. John Held Jr., “Thirty Years of Progress!” (Detail), Life, 1926.

Some critics understood this look as a threat to the gendered social order, arguing it was a result of women’s masculinization. Yet, while the flapper adopted some “masculine” traits such as smoking, to most contemporaries she did not symbolize the masculinization of women or a rejection of femininity as much as a newly mobilized and sexualized femininity. 54 In fact, that many observers called the look “boyish” rather than “masculine” indicates that they responded more strongly to the look’s youthful connotations than to its possible challenges to male authority. 55 The raised hemlines revealed women’s legs and knees for the first time in modern fashion history, and expressed a new understanding of female sexuality. By drawing attention to women’s legs rather than to their bosoms or waists, the short skirt created a conceptual shift from equating women’s sexuality with maternity—as bosoms were associated with breastfeeding—to a new feminine identity in which sexuality was severed from motherhood and was based on pleasure. 56 More than a rejection of womanhood, as some critics argued, the flapper ideal symbolized a rejection of the gender expectations that came along with motherhood.

Together with the rising “cult of youth,” the flapper accompanied and encouraged changes in attitudes toward female sexuality. These changes shattered Victorian stereotypes of the passionless white middle-class woman, and redefined womanhood to allow for greater public visibility of and positivity regarding female eroticism and sexual expression. The increasing popularity of mixed-sex, age-based socialization and the growing availability of automobiles provided a space for young people to experience and experiment with new courting customs and sexual practices away from parental or adult control. 57 Although these changes clearly marked a break with the prewar generation of middle-class white Americans, many of the features that characterized the “new sexual order” in the 1920s—premarital sexual activity, greater sexual expression, and commercialization of sexuality—had already occurred among working-class, immigrant, and African American urban communities before World War I. 58 When white middle-class flappers adopted these manners in the 1920s, contemporaries debated what it meant and whether older generations should accept it. Yet while generational rifts broadened, middle-class status and support of the media eventually enabled white flappers to gain public approval. 59

However, the “new sexual order” was very much a heterosexual one. Women’s sexuality was supposed to be expressed only within marriage, which was framed as a “compassionate relationship” that was based on friendship and sexual fulfillment. As the expression of sexuality within marriage became the norm, any deviation from it became a problem. While female homosocial relationships and homosexual desires did not draw much attention or criticism in the 19th century , by the 1920s, with the rising popularity of Freudian theories, female companionships lost their cultural legitimacy and began to be deemed as a medical problem and a social peril, identified as “lesbianism.” 60 Thus, despite growing legitimation for women’s sexual expression, the “new sexual order” did not liberate women’s sexuality, but promoted a commercialized version of it that was directed toward and for men.

Like previous images of the New Woman, the flapper was also intertwined with consumerism, popular magazines, and the ready-made industry, which encouraged the consumption of new products, as well as promoting new patterns of consumption. 61 The flapper was as much a commercial image as a lived experience, and depictions in the popular media concentrated on her sexuality and quest for fun, and varied in terms of class association. Some depictions, such as those in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories, portrayed the flapper as a young society woman or as a college student, who did not need to work for a living but spent her time in leisure activities. Others depicted her as an independent secretary or salesgirl, or as a young aspirant with rural origins who came to the big city to find success in theater or the movies. 62 Despite these differences, the upper-class and working-class flapper were portrayed the same visually and sartorially, contributing to the dissemination of the image nationally and even globally. 63 The availability of ready-made clothing—which imitated custom-made fashions in style, though not in quality—caused clothes to gradually cease being a definitive marker of class. Hierarchies of taste and the influence of traditional cultural trendsetters also changed. “It doesn’t matter what queens or beauties do. The young woman of to-day insists on dressing to suit her own life as well as she can with the available materials,” observed the Literary Digest in 1928 , pointing to the wage-earning flapper as the fashion icon who set the styles for American women in general. 64 Indeed, while economic class still determined the extent to which one could adopt the flapper’s lifestyle, the ability to appear fashionable became within the reach of more people than in previous decades.

Furthermore, although in mainstream media and advertisements the flapper was almost always depicted as white, the black press also adopted the image and created its own versions of the flapper, celebrating her as an embodiment of respectable race womanhood. 65 Images such as the one that appeared in the Chicago Defender in 1928 , presenting members of the Unique Fashion club showcasing the latest styles, helped to normalize the flapper’s sexuality within the boundaries of racial uplift and respectability discourse. 66

Figure 13. “Display Many Styles at Fashion Show”, Chicago Defender (October 13, 1928).

Indeed, young women across racial and class lines adopted the flapper’s fashions and attitudes as part of their engagement in the new youth culture. Black flappers demanded access to the leisure habits of their white counterparts, arguing that the flapper’s styles were not promiscuous but improved women’s health, contributed to their beauty, and expressed their freedom. 67 For Mexican American and Asian American girls, adopting the flapper styles was also a means of claiming American feminine identity and demonstrating their inclusion in white society. This oftentimes created frictions between second-generation immigrants and their parents, who were worried about the demise of ethnic traditions and moral customs. Second-generation Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese American women had to negotiate between their aspirations to participate in the white youth culture and their commitment to their ethnic communities and identities. 68 While adopting the flapper image did not necessarily mean assimilation, by the mid-1920s, the flapper image managed to transcend class, racial, and regional differences, allowing both white women and women of color to expand women’s place in their communities.

However, despite the popularity of the image and the dissemination of the flapper’s fashions across diverse and multiple groups of women, the flapper’s commercialization ultimately promoted a unified, conformist, and limited ideal. For women who could not conform to the flapper ideal, particularly non-white, older, and more stout women, adopting “flapperism” also required adopting a strict regimen of dieting, grooming, chest-binding, and makeup wearing. Moreover, advertising and magazines, while celebrating the flapper and her freedoms, also presented them as a consumer’s choice, thereby reducing the possibility that the flapper might bring a more profound change in women’s lives. 69 Women had to contend with contradictory messages of freedom and oppression, bridging the tension between the image’s potential to express pleasure and freedom and its inherent expectation to uphold a beauty ideal that sexualized them and demanded the constant policing of their bodies.

Young flappers’ fascination with appearance and lifestyle coupled with their indifference to partisan politics caused some to question women’s commitment to feminist ideology and equality in favor of an illusionary and superficial sense of freedom. 70 Yet, other contemporaries made the connections between the flapper’s styles and women’s newly won political status, seeing her image as implicated in, rather than disconnected from feminism and women’s rights. “Woman's independence has manifested itself nowhere else as sensibly and as sharply as in her relation to her wearing apparel. In fact, it seems to be one of her new accomplishments of late years to which she can point with unrestrained pride,” argued the essayist Ann Devon in 1929 . 71 Capitalizing on their power as consumers, flappers asserted their status as citizens and used consumption as a form of power. “Women realized their status in life. They demanded independence, and they got it,” argued fashion consultant Margery Wells in an article in the trade journal Women’s Wear Daily . “When they went shopping they asked for what they wanted, instead of what they saw.” 72 Flappers also defended their sartorial choices in political terms. Arguing against attempts of municipalities, conservatives, and the fashion industry to regulate women’s appearance, one flapper exclaimed, justifying her reasons for sticking to the short skirt: “Would we passively give up the vote, or any other rights finally obtained after long struggles? Then why give up the comfort, economy, and freedom of movement which the short skirt has meant to us?” 73 By conflating women’s skirts with their political rights, flappers demonstrated that women’s freedom did not necessarily lie only in political participation, or in access to education and jobs, but also in wearing comfortable clothing that allowed physical mobility. These flappers translated ideas of political freedom into sartorial expression, using their clothing to carve out new spaces of power and influence. 74

Discussion of the Literature

Scholars and contemporaries alike interpret the New Woman differently. Many historians identify the New Woman with the rise of feminism and the campaign for woman suffrage, focusing almost entirely on the political aspects of the New Woman and her activism. In these narratives, the visual aspects of the New Woman and her meanings as an image are neglected, and she becomes almost disembodied, noted for her actions and words, but not appearance. 75 Some scholars identify the New Woman as a cultural literary figure, an icon of modernity who challenged gender roles. These scholars demonstrate how politics of sex and gender intersect with art, activism, and literature, identifying the feminist aspects of the New Woman as part of a broader cultural change that manifested itself mainly in artistic forms. While these studies do not deny the political activism of the New Woman, they emphasize more the impact of these politics on the American cultural scene rather than analyzing specific political movements or reforms. 76

Studies by media scholars and art historians also emphasize the cultural aspects of the New Woman rather than her political import, associating her with the rise of mass consumer culture and developments in print and advertising. In these interpretations, the New Woman appears first and foremost as a visual image through which contemporaries debated women’s changing social and political status. 77 Historians who analyze the connections between consumer culture and the New Woman usually focus on the 1920s and the flapper as the epitome of a modern consciousness that defined the decade. 78 These historical accounts rarely portray the flapper as a political figure, a variant of the political New Woman. In fact, they interpret the flapper as evidence of feminism’s demise in the 1920s, and understand the rise of consumer culture as a backlash against women’s political achievements and the new freedoms they claimed. 79

Whereas these two understandings of the New Woman—as a political figure and as a modern visual icon—acknowledge her complexity and variations, apart from a few notable exceptions, scholars rarely consider the New Woman as both, taking into account the political aspects of the New Woman image, or the cultural and visual aspects of her politics. 80 Similarly, given the nature of women’s political activism in suffrage and other Progressive reforms, and the middle-class audience of the printed press, historians have tended to focus their attention on white, middle-class women in their analyses of the New Woman phenomenon. Yet, thanks to some innovative works that resurrect the voices of working-class women and women of color, this view has been changing. By focusing on working-class culture and activism, historians like Kathy Peiss, Nan Enstad, and Annelise Orleck expand our understanding of the ways in which working-class white women participated in and shaped the meanings of the New Woman. 81

Other scholars have specifically challenged the white trope of the New Woman image, looking at alternative manifestations of it among Americans of color. 82 Historians have examined African American women’s political activism and modernization, contributing to our understanding of black women’s role in shaping the New Woman. 83 Studies that examine black experience during the Great Migration and the New Negro phenomenon as related to the cultural and literary expression of the Harlem Renaissance and other urban centers also include women in their analysis, and provide important contributions to our understanding of the racial manifestations of the New Woman. 84 Yet, only a handful of studies exist that focus solely or even substantially on the New Negro Woman during the Great Migration. 85 Moreover, studies on the New Negro Women tend to focus their attention either on the late 19th century or on the period of the Great Migration. Further investigation into the New Negro Woman that will consider both periods and analyze the New Negro Woman as a longer phenomenon may contribute to a better understanding of continuities in the ways in which black women shaped and reshaped their position toward respectability and modernity. 86 While not as extensive as the research on the New Negro Woman, scholars have examined how Asian American and Latina women adopted the flapper image and fashions, and the ways in which young women negotiated the promises and perils of consumer culture. 87 However, these studies rarely consider the New Woman before 1920 . Further research that will place Asian and Latina women’s experiences in the broader national scope of the New Woman phenomenon is still needed. Moreover, integrating the histories of New Women of color into the mainstream narrative of the white New Woman will enrich our understanding of the complexity of the phenomenon, as well as the extent of its dissemination across various groups in American society.

Recently, scholars have started to examine the New Woman not only as a broader phenomenon in terms of race and class, but also as a wider global phenomenon, analyzing her connection to modernity and consumer culture from an international perspective. 88 By focusing on specific national case studies, or providing a comparative transnational lens, research that places the New Woman in a larger conversation about the changes in women’s status, and the importance of consumer culture in shaping these changes, illuminates the active role women played in the international workings of modernity. 89 This scholarship provides a crucial addition to our understanding of the cross-cultural influence of feminine modernities as well as to the political importance of popular culture, appearance, and fashion in the construction of gender, class, and racial identities. By employing a transnational perspective, these studies also reveal the specific historical context of the American New Woman, and contribute to a more diverse and integrated analysis that takes into consideration both the visual and the political elements of her image. Moreover, a growing attention is given to the intricate networks of African diasporas and imperial interactions in the construction of modern feminine identities. 90 A further analysis into the ways in which the New Woman trope functioned in shaping these cultural exchanges across racial, class, and national boundaries will bring new perspective to the transnational nature of modern womanhood in the early 20th century .

Primary Sources

No designated collections or archives address the New Woman specifically. Hence, those who are interested in studying the New Woman phenomenon in America should be willing to explore many institutions and various collections to dig for valuable sources. A good way to start will be by consulting two important anthologies of primary sources: Martha Patterson, The American New Woman Revisited: A Reader, 1894–1930, and Marianne Berger Woods, The New Woman in Print and Pictures: An Annotated Bibliography. 91 Moreover, since the New Woman was defined primarily through popular culture and the periodical press, researchers will benefit from exploring newspapers and magazines from the period. These can be accessed through microfilm and digital databases such as Chronicling America, HathiTrust, American Periodicals Series, America’s Historical Newspapers, and the Black Press Research Collective, available in many universities and libraries. Ephemera collections such as the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, which holds the “Glory of Woman: An Introduction to Prescriptive Literature” and “Everyday Life and Women in America, c. 1800–1920” collections, are also useful.

Archival collections specializing in women’s history—such as the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard—hold valuable material on the suffrage movement and other New Women activists. The Library of Congress’ American Memory Collections, and especially its prints and photograph collections on women’s history, also provide invaluable source to the New Woman and her visual manifestations. The editorial website Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000, while not focusing specifically on the New Woman, can also be a useful source of information to those who are interested in the political New Woman and her activism, specifically its primary source collections on “The Struggle for Woman Suffrage, 1830–1930,” and “Histories of Women’s Organizations.” The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, which holds the papers of notable Greenwich Village bohemians such as Mabel Dodge Luhan and Inez Haynes Gillmore (Irwin) and Harlem Renaissance performers such as Josephine Baker, offers a valuable source on radical feminism and the artistic and literary aspects of New Woman. Those who are interested in the New Negro Woman can consult Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology, which includes various female voices and is useful to the understanding of women’s roles in the New Negro Movement. 92 The archival collections at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which holds Alberta Hunter’s Papers, and the Billy Rose Theater Division at the New York Public Library also provide important sources on the New Negro Woman. While not quite as extensive, the collections of the Chicago History Museum and the Mabel Hampton Collection at Lesbian Herstory Archives also contain relevant sources.

Jamestown Colony

Jamestown would not have survived as a permanent settlement without the daring women who were willing to leave behind their English homes and face the challenges of a strange new land. These women created a sense of stability in the untamed wilderness of Virginia. They helped the settlers see Virginia not just as a temporary place for profit or adventure, but as a country in which to forge a new home.

The Early Years
On May 13, 1607, an expedition of about 100 men and boys reached a marshy peninsula about 30 miles up the James River, now in the state of Virginia. There they anchored their three small ships – the Godspeed, the Discovery, and the Susan Constant.

On the following day, these adventurous and brave men first stepped foot on American soil. This would become the first permanent English settlement established in the New World, and they named it Jamestown for King James I of England. The men who founded the colony were excellent businessmen, but terrible farmers. Because of the brackish water, poor food supply and an unexpected drought, the men of Jamestown quickly faced famine, disease and death.

Eight months later when a supply ship arrived, which also brought more colonists, only 38 of the original 100 settlers remained. Famine, rebellion and Indian attacks had decimated their numbers. And the survivors were badly in need of help. It would be a long nine months before any women arrived.

Women in Jamestown
In 1608 another 200 colonists set sail for Jamestown, including two women: Mrs. Forrest, the wife of a settler, and her young maid Anne Burras. The first recorded marriage at Jamestown was in 1608 between Anne Burras and John Laydon. Anne had the good fortune to be one of the few settlers to live through both the Starving Time and the Indian Massacre of 1622.

In 1611, one of the colonists, John Rolfe, successfully cultivated tobacco, which became the salvation of the colony, making it economically stable for the first time. Immigration increased, and large tobacco plantations were established along the James River.

Starting in 1618, the London Company offered “headrights” to all settlers who could pay for their own voyage to the New World. A headright was a tract of land, usually fifty acres, given to anyone over age fifteen—male or female—who settled in Virginia. This opportunity to own land was a key motivation to impoverished people in England.

Headrights for women, however, were revoked after the Company discovered that if a woman held her own land, she was less likely to be willing to marry. Marriage—and the production of children who would be Virginia citizens from birth—was much more important to investors than the promotion of opportunities for independent women.

London Company officials and investors wanted to make the colony at Jamestown permanent. Bringing over more English women, particularly women of an elevated social position, seemed to be the solution. By 1619, Company officials were actively promoting this plan, believing that the presence of marriageable women would make the men work harder, invest more of themselves in the colony, and improve the poor quality of life that discouraged many settlers from making Virginia a permanent home.

Only those men who could reimburse the Company for transporting and supplying a woman would be able to compete for a wife. The London Company set their value at “one hundredth and fiftie [pounds] of the best leafe Tobacco.” During the next three years, the Company sponsored 147 women, hoping that they would stabilize the colony at Jamestown.

In 1619, ninety young English women arrived to make wives for the single colonists. In 1621 fifty-seven women crossed the Atlantic under the Company’s recruitment plan. One was Alice Richards, a twenty-five year old widow, one of three widows on that ship. Another, Ann Jackson, was twenty years old and single, and came highly recommended by the churchwarden of her London parish. Both of these women were probably married within months of their arrival in the autumn of 1621.

Indentured Servants
During Jamestown’s first twenty years, some of the women who traveled there arrived as indentured servants who signed contracts in England to work in Jamestown without wages. For many, signing on as an indentured servant was the only way to emigrate. Once the servant arrived, a colonist already there would reimburse the Virginia Company for the woman’s voyage expenses, and she worked without pay for four to seven years.

Indentured servants were essential to the colony – they ensured that the tobacco crop would be successful. Female servants also did other agricultural work, milking cows and caring for cattle, hogs, and poultry. They also took over the cooking, caring for children and the sick, planting vegetable gardens, and doing laundry for households that did not include women. Because of the skewed gender ratio, indentured women sometimes married planters prosperous enough to pay off the remainder of their terms.

A woman was expected to remain unmarried during her term of indenture. After her time was served, she was given a set of clothing and something with which she could start a new life. Sometimes it was money but more often it was tobacco or some other commodity.

Most of Virginia’s prominent families evolved from such humble beginnings. As women bore successive generations of children, they moved up the James River to Williamsburg and then Richmond, building the vast estates and plantation mansions that characterized the area before the American Revolution.

Women’s Rights?
When a woman a free woman in Jamestown married – and there was great pressure to do so – society expected her to begin childbearing immediately and to reproduce regularly. Women frequently gave birth to ten or twelve children, but childbirth was very dangerous for women. Jamestown was surrounded by wilderness, and few trained doctors or midwives were available. Female neighbors and relatives helped women through their labor.

Having children was very important because of the labor-intensive tobacco culture. Family members worked their own tobacco fields, and children added to the labor force. Colonial children were therefore considered an economic asset. Disease spread easily, however, and so few sicknesses could be cured that an infant had only a fifty percent chance of growing to adulthood. One quarter of babies died before their first birthday.

Families in seventeenth century Jamestown were patriarchal, meaning that the man was the head of the household. Every member of the family, including slaves and servants, and everything connected with family property was under the command of the man of the house.

Until the first son was old enough, the woman of the household was in charge if the man was absent. Men who owned large plantations often were absent because of business, political, or military obligations, and when that was the case, women were considered “deputy husbands,” especially in legal matters.

But women were always in charge of the daily management of the family home. They planted gardens, where they grew vegetables such as carrots, beets, radishes and chives, and herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. The main meal of the day was served at noontime, and the settlers called it dinner. It was cooked over an open hearth and would commonly consist of pork, poultry or seafood, bread and cider, wine or ale.

African Women at Jamestown
From 1619 on, African women were also part of the historical tapestry being woven at Jamestown. They were able to work like the men in the fields and could reproduce more native-born slaves. The women also had to provide dinner for their families after the day’s work. Often the slaves had to have their own gardens and kill animals for food.

Female slaves were primarily brought to the colonies as investments by the plantation owners. Those who did not farm the land were in the homes with the gentry class women. They cared for the children of the household, cleaned and cooked. Working indoors was not necessarily better than working outside.

In the fields, groups worked together out of the watchful eye of the master, but being in the house meant constant supervision. Hard physical labor like doing laundry, carrying water and routine chores such as emptying chamber pots and making beds had to be done every day. They were also at the beck and call of their masters and master’s wives 24 hours a day.

In the mid-1620s, the colony stabilized, and people turned their attention to building satisfactory housing. Timber was abundant, and these new structures were mainly wooden frame houses, but the homes of the wealthiest planters featured a brick foundation and a brick chimney with the rest of the house constructed in wood.

United States - Phoenix Spacecraft

NASA launches the Phoenix Mars Lander during August. The Phoenix spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It successfully landed on Mars during May of 2008 and used its instruments to thoroughly examine the soil of the planet. The lander confirmed the existence of water-based ice in the sub-surface of Mars and performed several experiments that meant to bring insight into whether or not it was ever a hospitable climate for microbes. NASA lost communications with the probe in November of 2008 after it had successfully completed all of its mission objectives.

  • Rebels from Darfur, Sudan continue campaign of attacking and murder on refugee camps in Chad and elsewhere
  • US Private Security Firm Blackwater is banned by Iraqi government from operating in Iraq following civilian shootings
  • London Underground grinds to a halt following maintenance worker strikes
  • New7Wonders Foundation announce the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World
  • TAM Airlines Airbus 320 Flight 3054 crashes in Brazil with the loss of 199 people
  • Nancy Pelosi is elected as the first female Speaker of the US Congress
  • The presidential candidates who decided to run for the highest office in the US
  • Republicans: Mitt Romney, Rudi Guliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Jim Gilmore, Fred Thompson.
  • Democrats : Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich.
  • Some had already dropped out by the end of 2007 before the race even begun
Technology 2007
  • Apple Introduces The iPhone on June 29th
  • Apple Introduces The new Itouch with built in WiFi and touch screen
  • Following it's introduction in late 2006 Nintendo Wii with it's motion sensitive controllers is the game system in demand.
Popular Culture 2007
  • The Final Harry Potter book is published Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Fisher Price recalls over 1 million Chinese Made Toys
  • Spider-Man 3
  • Shrek the Third
  • Transformers
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • The Bourne Ultimatum Uni.
  • 300
  • Ratatouille
  • The Simpsons Movie
  • I Am Legend
  • Live Free or Die Hard
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • American Gangster
  • Bee Movie
  • Ocean's Thirteen
  • Evan Almighty
  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets
  • Saw IV
  • Surf's Up
  • Resident Evil: Extinction
  • Epic Movie
  • Nancy Drew
  • The Hills Have Eyes 2
  • Beyoncé
  • Fergie
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Gwen Stefani
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Avril Lavigne
  • Plain White T's
  • Pink
  • Sean Kingston
  • Ludacris
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Nickelback
  • Diddy
  • Rihanna
  • Britney Spears
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Linkin Park
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Keyshia Cole
  • Hilary Duff
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Dixie Chicks
  • Young Jeezy
  • 50 Cent
  • Alicia Keys
  • Maroon 5
  • CSI Crime Scene Investigation
  • Grey's Anatomy
  • Survivor: China
  • Sunday Night Football
  • Without a Trace
  • Amazing Race
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Cold Case
  • Deal or No Deal
  • NCIS

The Fight for Civil Rights That Changed the World

Women’s Rights National Historical Park tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19-20,1848. It is a story of struggles for civil rights, human rights, and equality, global struggles that continue today. The efforts of women’s rights leaders, abolitionists, and other 19th century reformers remind us that all people must be accepted as equals.

Declaration of Sentiments

Explore the revolutionary words of the Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first Women's Rights Convention, July 19-20, 1848.

Things To Do

Learn about what you can do on your visit to the park!

Connect Through Distance Learning

Bring the park and a ranger to your classroom through distance learning opportunities from Women's Rights.

The 19th Amendment: 100 Years

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Become a part of the suffrage story.

Radical Optimism

Radical Optimism features an overview of generations of women who dedicated themselves to the struggle for women’s voting rights.

The '60s Become a Time of Social Revolution and Unrest

This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Stan Busby with THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

Today, we tell about life in the United States during the 1960s.

The 1960s began with the election of the first president born in the twentieth century -- John Kennedy. For many Americans, the young president was the symbol of a spirit of hope for the nation. When Kennedy was murdered in 1963, many felt that their hopes died, too. This was especially true of young people, and members and supporters of minority groups.

A time of innocence and hope soon began to look like a time of anger and violence. More Americans protested to demand an end to the unfair treatment of black citizens. More protested to demand an end to the war in Vietnam. And more protested to demand full equality for women.

By the middle of the 1960s, it had become almost impossible for President Lyndon Johnson to leave the White House without facing protesters against the war in Vietnam. In March of 1968, he announced that he would not run for another term.

In addition to President John Kennedy, two other influential leaders were murdered during the 1960s. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior was shot in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. Several weeks later, Robert Kennedy--John Kennedy's brother--was shot in Los Angeles, California. He was campaigning to win his party's nomination for president. Their deaths resulted in riots in cities across the country.

The unrest and violence affected many young Americans. The effect seemed especially bad because of the time in which they had grown up. By the middle 1950s, most of their parents had jobs that paid well. They expressed satisfaction with their lives. They taught their children what were called "middle class" values. These included a belief in God, hard work, and service to their country.

Later, many young Americans began to question these beliefs. They felt that their parents' values were not enough to help them deal with the social and racial difficulties of the 1960s. They rebelled by letting their hair grow long and by wearing strange clothes. Their dissatisfaction was strongly expressed in music.

Rock-and-roll music had become very popular in America in the 1950s. Some people, however, did not approve of it. They thought it was too sexual. These people disliked the rock-and-roll of the 1960s even more. They found the words especially unpleasant.

The musicians themselves thought the words were extremely important. As singer and song writer Bob Dylan said, "There would be no music without the words," Bob Dylan produced many songs of social protest. He wrote anti-war songs before the war in Vietnam became a violent issue. One was called Blowin' in the Wind .

In addition to songs of social protest, rock-and-roll music continued to be popular in America during the 1960s. The most popular group, however, was not American. It was British -- the Beatles -- four rock-and-roll musicians from Liverpool.

That was the Beatles' song I Want to Hold Your Hand . It went on sale in the United States at the end of 1963. Within five weeks, it was the biggest-selling record in America.

Other songs, including some by the Beatles, sounded more revolutionary. They spoke about drugs and sex, although not always openly. "Do your own thing" became a common expression. It meant to do whatever you wanted, without feeling guilty.

Five hundred thousand young Americans "did their own thing" at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. They gathered at a farm in New York State. They listened to musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez, and to groups such as The Who and Jefferson Airplane. Woodstock became a symbol of the young peoples' rebellion against traditional values. The young people themselves were called "hippies." Hippies believed there should be more love and personal freedom in America.

In 1967, poet Allen Ginsberg helped lead a gathering of hippies in San Francisco. No one knows exactly how many people considered themselves hippies. But twenty thousand attended the gathering.

Another leader of the event was Timothy Leary. He was a former university professor and researcher. Leary urged the crowd in San Francisco to "tune in and drop out". This meant they should use drugs and leave school or their job. One drug that was used in the 1960s was lysergic acid diethylamide, or L-S-D. L-S-D causes the brain to see strange, colorful images. It also can cause brain damage. Some people say the Beatles' song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about L-S-D.

As many Americans were listening to songs about drugs and sex, many others were watching television programs with traditional family values. These included The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies . At the movies, some films captured the rebellious spirit of the times. These included Doctor Strangelove and The Graduate . Others offered escape through spy adventures, like the James Bond films.

Many Americans refused to tune in and drop out in the 1960s. They took no part in the social revolution. Instead, they continued leading normal lives of work, family, and home. Others, the activists of American society, were busy fighting for peace, and racial and social justice. Women's groups, for example, were seeking equality with men. They wanted the same chances as men to get a good education and a good job. They also demanded equal pay for equal work.

A widely popular book on women in modern America was called The Feminine Mystique . It was written by Betty Friedan and published in 1963. The idea known as the feminine mystique was the traditional idea that women have only one part to play in society. They are to have children and stay at home to raise them. In her book, Ms. Friedan urged women to establish professional lives of their own.

In the early nineteen sixties, a committee was appointed to investigate the condition of women. It was led by Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a former first lady. The committee's findings helped lead to new rules and laws. The 1964 civil rights act guaranteed equal treatment for all groups. This included women. After the law went into effect, however, many activists said it was not being enforced. The National Organization for Women -- NOW -- was started in an effort to correct the problem.

The movement for women's equality was known as the women's liberation movement. Activists were called "women's libbers." They called each other "sisters." Early activists were usually rich, liberal, white women. Later activists included women of all ages, women of color, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. They acted together to win recognition for the work done by all women in America.

This program of THE MAKING OF A NATION was written by Jeri Watson and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Stan Busby. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

Women’s March

On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, hundreds of thousands of people crowd into the U.S. capital for the Women’s March on Washington, a massive protest in the nation’s capital aimed largely at the Trump administration and the threat it represented to reproductive, civil and human rights.

At the same time, more than 3 million people in cities across the country and around the world held their own simultaneous protests in a global show of support for the resistance movement. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the release of a 2005 recording of Trump commenting in crude language about how his celebrity status allowed him to force himself on women prompted numerous women to come forward with accusations about his past inappropriate sexual conduct. Trump dismissively called the recording “locker room talk” and disputed the accusers’ claims.

But his unexpected victory over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton—the first female presidential nominee of a major party in U.S. history—outraged and saddened many who objected to his past treatment of and statements about women, as well as his controversial positions and rhetoric during the campaign.

The idea of the Women’s March began on the social networking website Facebook the day after the election, when a Hawaii woman named Teresa Shook voiced her opinion that a pro-woman march was needed as a reaction to Trump’s victory. After thousands of women signed up to march, veteran activists and organizers began planning a large-scale event scheduled for January 21, 2017, the day after Inauguration Day.

Leading up to the Women’s March on Washington, the organizers expected some 200,000 people to attend. As it turned out, as many as 500,000 showed up, with buses, trains, airplanes and packed cars ferrying large groups of protesters to the capital from far-flung locations. Many of the marchers donned pink clothing for the occasions, as well as the unofficial uniform of the march: pink knit hats with cat-like ears on top, dubbed “pussy hats” in a nod to Trump’s unfortunate word choice in the 2005 recording.

On the same day, millions more people took part in sister marches held in all 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries, ranging from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. According to later estimates collected by the Washington Post, some 4.1 million people reportedly took part in the various Women’s Marches across the United States, along with around 300,000 worldwide.

In New York City—Trump’s hometown—some 400,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue, while in Chicago the crowd grew so large (more than 150,000) that organizers called off the march and rallied in the city’s Grant Park instead. Los Angeles reportedly saw the largest demonstration in the country, with as many as 750,000 demonstrators. Despite the size of the demonstrations, they remained largely peaceful, with no arrests reported in Washington, D.C., and only a handful in other cities.

The protesters who took part in the various Women’s March events voiced their support for various causes, including women’s and reproductive rights, criminal justice, defense of the environment and the rights of immigrants, Muslims, gay and transgender people and the disabled𠅊ll of whom were seen as particularly vulnerable under the new administration.

Rather than a single-day demonstration, the Women’s March organizers and participants intended their protests as the start of a resistance movement. After the march in Washington, D.C., organizations like EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood held workshops designed to encourage civic participation among women, including running for office.

And in October 2017, MarchOn, a progressive group founded by march leaders from around the country, launched a Super PAC as part of its efforts to create political change, including mobilizing supporters to vote in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.

Watch the video: The Changing Role of Women - 1920s