The Gendering of Space: Female Strollers on the Market in 19th and 20th-century New York


  • Beatrice Melodia Festa



The aim of this essay is to provide further insight into the concept of urban walking or, using its literary definition, flânerie in America at the dawn of the 20th century. This study aims to discuss the role of the female flâneuse walking New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In order to broaden understanding of the complex role of women as strollers on the market, faithfully representing America’s social changes at the birth of women’s emancipation, this study compares Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905) and Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893). Offering a reconsideration of the role of the female flâneur in America, these novels, analyze the representation of women as strollers on the market in two similar and yet different social contexts. In light of this, the female flâneuse at the turn of the century walks both as a social signifier and as a symbol of a collective psychology, representing America’s social changes. These two literary examples will help us understand this figure, providing us with the tools necessary to trace America’s cultural history and the history of New York City as filtered through the eyes of the flâneur. The ultimate aim of this essay is to offer a reconsideration of the image of the female flâneuse in America.