The Literary Achievements of Alice Lloyd Pitts : Assumptions of Power through Rhetorical Identity Constructions
Questions of American female intellectual and social identity were hotly debated at the turn of the 20th century, most publically within urban centers of the eastern United States. Focusing on the 1899 writings of a single 18-year-old Baltimore girl, this essay provides exegesis on the voice of the writer through a review of both her words and her penmanship. The purpose of this analysis is to consider how the conflicting historical archetypes of the New Woman and the Gibson Girl were explored and negotiated through a careful process of individual identity construction. The Baltimore setting is particularly crucial to this undertaking as this city offered the location for an experiment in female academic rigorousness in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Bryn Mawr School for Girls, a feeder school for the university with the same name, was one of the first and most notable female college prep schools in the country. Competing for clientele against traditional finishing schools, Bryn Mawr promoted itself by negating the legitimacy of the education provided by its rivals. A student at the rival finishing school Southern Home School for Girls, Alice Lloyd Pitts uses the pages of her high school yearbook as a mouthpiece to simultaneously refute these attacks and identify herself and her classmates as intellectually superior beings, whose autonomy and wit as New Women is only surpassed by their Gibson Girlish beauty and feminine grace.
Lucerna, Volume 8, Number 1, pages 80-90