What is a 'new woman'?

            The Victorian new woman has multiple identities. She is a "feminist activist, a social reformer, a popular novelist, a suffragette playwrite, a woman poet" (Ledger 1). This feminine character was just rising in the Victorian Era- it becomes much more popular and developed after the Victorian era. She is often just a woman wanting to become independent of men and willing to step outside conventions of the ideal woman. Lady Audley in Lady Audley's Secret by Braddon encompasses elements of a new woman. Lady Audley is abandoned by her husband--he goes off to make a fortune in Australia, but we do not know if he will return. So Lady Audley takes matters into her own hands and decides to leave her child with her father and make a new life for herself. She changes her name and becomes a governess. She then advances through society using her beauty and masked intellect, eventually marrying a rich old widower. However, her first husband returns and discovers her so she pushes him down a well. Lady Audley is an ideal woman up front, but is willing to step outside those limitations to use her intellect and strive to make a better life for herself and become independent of her first husband and child--these are attributes of a new woman. (Braddon).

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