The Story of a Modern Woman

Like her contemporary Sarah Grand, Dixon exemplified the New Woman ideal. Her semi-autobiographical novel, The Story of a Modern Woman, features a single protagonist who works as a writer. After her father’s death, Mary Erle, the titular “modern woman”, must take on more work to support herself. Not much is known about Dixon’s life, but most biographers agree that she follows a similar trajectory as Mary Erle’s: never marrying and accepting more journalistic work after the death of her father. Dixon uses her novel not only to tell a fictionalized version of her life story but to critique expectations of femininity. She writes that English society depends upon “that acquiescent feminine smile”, or the calm complacency of women as they serve men. Dixon would not go on to write more novels, but she did continue her journalism career, writing and editing for several major publications.

Lehigh University Catalog Record:

An earlier edition of this text has been digitized and is available through the Internet Archive.

Ella Hepworth Dixon (1857-1932)
The Story of a Modern Woman
London: Merlin Press, 1990