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Managing the BodyBeauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880-1939$
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Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280520

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280520.001.0001

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The Modern Woman as Race Mother

The Modern Woman as Race Mother

(p.105) 3 The Modern Woman as Race Mother
Managing the Body

Ina Zweiniger‐Bargielowska

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores discourses about women's bodies focusing on the themes of beauty, health, and fitness. A desire for beauty helps account for women's growing participation in physical culture, but hygienic practices were promoted as essential to improve female health and racial fitness. The corset was extensively condemned and hygienists advocated dress reform. Many welfare reforms introduced in the Edwardian period were aimed at women in their role as mothers and housewives. This identification of women as race mothers was not necessarily in conflict with feminism. Eugenic feminists placed motherhood at the centre but also called for women's legal and political equality. The chapter highlights the connection between the suffrage campaign and life reform practices, including vegetarianism. The hunger strike engaged in by militant suffragettes amounted to an extreme version of dietary restraint. Women's physical liberation redefined prevailing notions of femininity, but the gender order was not transformed fundamentally.

Keywords:   modern woman, femininity, dress reform, corset, eugenic feminism, race motherhood, Girl Guides, suffrage campaign, vegetarianism, hunger strike

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