Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Lee Garver


In this essay, I will draw upon Katherine Mansfield's New Zealand Sh011stories, "Bliss" (1918), "The Woman at the Store" (1912), "Je Ne Parle Pas Francais" (1918), George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893), and Virginia Woolf's extended essay A Room of One 's Own (1929), to defend Jeffreys's idea that "lesbianism" was, in many cases, nothing more than a bond of friendship between two women - a private experience that took on a different meaning in the public eye.

Additionally, I wish to support Gubar's notion that gender norms frequently existed secondarily to the importance of women gaining more liberty through their political achievements. While Newton identifies valid concerns about the influence of social and historical processes continuously altering the environment in which women lived, the more important aspect of her paper seems to suggest that the activities in which women participated to make themselves equal to men, namely cross-dressing, resulted in overly prescribed definitions of "lesbianism," simply due to women's behavior or appearance - their social not their self-identity. Additionally, in this essay, I will use Jeffreys and Gubar, Mansfield, Shaw, and Woolf, to demonstrate that the New Woman utilized the social, economic, and political constraints inherent to her environment to achieve her own political goals. In sum, I wish to argue that the categories of female identity that caused such controversies during the modernist era did not always reflect altered attitudes about sexuality or self-identity. Rather, these categories served 4 frequently as social and political statements about women seeking voice and empowerment through alternative means.