1890-1930 was a time of major social and cultural shifts as the Victorian conventions clashed with progressive and changing ideas of gender, race, and class, resulting in the liberated American New Woman. This thesis examines the transition of the opportunities for increased physical movement for women allotted by the popularization of the brassiere, bicycle, and access to higher education. Examining the brassiere and bicycles’ impact on women’s liberation lends insight into how the physical placement and movement of female bodies confronted gender norms, while expansion of women’s education made women intellectual threats to the patriarchal structure. My analysis of advertisements for corsets, brassieres, bicycles, and education courses in Ladies’ Home Journal from 1890-1920 lets me consider how and why the social construction of gender roles changed. I also examine medical texts written by both men and women about women’s bodies, along with personal accounts in memoirs, course catalogues, and forms of popular media in order to deduct what the popular perception of corsets, brassieres, bicycles, and women’s higher education were over time, and to trace this shift in terms of women’s movement from the private to public sphere of influence. Ultimately, anxiety around women’s bodies moving into the public and historically masculine sphere confronted socially and historically constructed expectations of gender, gendered movement, and ownership of space.


Holt, Katie




Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History of Gender | United States History | Women's History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2015 Shelby Kirst Goldman