The Give and Take of “New-Woman” Eugenics
By the fin de siècle, women’s giving took on national significance through eugenic efforts to “save the race.” As women made economic, legal, and professional advances and became the visible consumers of an emerging shopping industry, contemporary studies portrayed female gain as selfish and parasitic. Treatises by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Olive Schreiner and fiction by Gilman, Ménie Muriel Dowie, and Sarah Grand compensate for these profits by stressing sacrifice instead. These writers rework motherhood in eugenic terms to reframe women’s gain as renunciation and gift. Exploring the ideals and dangers of reciprocity, this chapter reveals how bourgeois women asserted themselves through traditions of giving that justified political activism and limited the national community it would create
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