Non-conformity: Feminism


{See also Pre-Victorian feminism press cuttings}

{See also Victorian feminism press cuttings}

Much of this website, because it traces the history of women's emancipation, presents writings, ideas, events and cuttings about various aspects of feminist activity. This page is dedicated to the history of feminism itself, and provides a place for press cuttings that are of a more general nature rather than being campaign-related, and which therefore have no other place on this site.

Although there has been an organised women's movement in Britain since the mid-1850s, the word 'feminist' is fairly recent. It was adopted from the French and begins to appear in print in 1892 (encased in quote marks) around the time of the French feminist conference in Paris. The word appears without quotes, as did its friend 'feminism' from around 1899. When a leading French feminist was asked what feminists want for women, he said, 'Chiefly that she shall be a woman, and shall be allowed the widest possible opportunities for self-development. If she is to go on being merely le reflet de l'homme [the reflection of man] there is no use in further troubling.'

The terms used for what we now call feminism were 'woman's rights' or 'emancipation of woman'. As the French feminist movement was emerging in the mid-1890s, its British equivalent was the emergence of what was called the 'New Woman'. However, by 1899 Sarah Volatile was writing about 'the great feminist movement which has marked the present decade' (Hearth & Home, 5 Oct).

The first woman I found who proclaimed 'I am not a feminist' was novelist Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler, who said it in 1900.





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All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me