Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Alyce Miller

Committee Member

Laura Nicosia


The following thesis focuses on two different nineteenth-century American texts: The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Story of Avis by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. The main focus of this thesis is to explore the emerging New Woman figure in both novels. There is also notable consideration given to the traditional role of True Womanhood and its portrayal in both Chopin and Phelps’ novels. The research found in this paper is from close readings of The Awakening and The Story of Avis and the use of secondary sources such as books and literary criticisms pertaining to the topic. This thesis focuses on analyzing the female characters of both novels and assigning them the roles of either a “New Woman,” a “True Woman” or a combination of both. Out of all the female characters present in The Awakening and The Story o f Avis, the most successful example of a New Woman is Chopin’s character, Mademoiselle Reisz.

This document is divided into four chapters: “The Portrayal of Motherhood and True Womanhood,” “The Importance of Sisterhood,” “The Power of the Female Artist,” and “The Influence of Sex and Marriage on the New Woman.” Each chapter explores different feminine aspects of Chopin and Phelps’ characters that encompass characteristics of either the New Woman or the more traditional philosophies of True Womanhood. This thesis suggests that in order to become a New Woman, a female must embody the strength to pursue her own individualism and create an identity outside of the domestic sphere.

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