Punch,18 (July 24, 1875):25
n A Discussion on Women's Rights , George Du Maurier's sheds a different light upon the "new woman." When compared to many of Du Maurier's other works for Punch, A Discussion on Women's Rights is far more progressive. This time, it is the man that is ridiculed instead of the woman. Sir Hercules Fitzbank's spectacles and wispy facial hair may give him an air of prestige, but he is not in touch with reality. He tells Miss. Millicent Millefleurs that women could be as intelligent as men, but they can never compare in strength and stature. In the true sense of a Darwinian ironic twist, Miss Millicent is far more "advanced" than Sir Hercules. She is not only intelligent but also physically more robust than her companion. The weaker sex is not necessarily women anymore. The characters' names also tells about their status. The small man is humorously called Hercules, making his appearance even more outrageous. Du Maurier can not let go of all the traditional beliefs about the "new woman." She is still unmarried and thus antithetical to the Victorian conception of marriage.
Miss. Millefleurs may represent Millicent Garrett Fawcett, an early English feminists. Millicent Garrett Fawcett's connection to elite society, her good looks as well as her name make it likely that she was the model for Miss. Millicent Millefleurs. Although Fawcett did not become a crusader for the suffrage movement until the 1880's, she was well known in political circles as an active member in the Anti-Contagious Diseases Act campaign. She also broke the confines of the tradition in her personal life. Her marriage to MP Henry Fawcett was considered unusual for the time. Henry Fawcett was blind and Millicent would lead him around and also help write down his ideas down. Her refusal to conform to the mold of convention helped create the concept of the "new woman."
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[Victorian initial "I" by Harlan Wallach ©copyright 1994.]