We've always been captivated by the pen-and-ink drawings of Charles Dana Gibson, and his body of work was our first choice for inspiration when we set about selecting the chapter art for our newest release, Ladies in Waiting. Gibson was a master of expression, and his works captured the feel of the Progressive Era perfectly. The image featured above is At the Recital, and though we did not include it in the book, it is one of our favorites and we wanted to highlight it here on the blog.
The Progressive Era, coinciding with the era known as the Belle Epoque, was a period of profound change in the Western world, not only bringing forth new technology and higher standards of living, but ushering in a new age of independence and opportunity for women. Women are almost always at the center of Gibson's pieces, and they are usually the center of attention within each scene, depicted as stylish, smart, and confident, with the eyes of those around them glued to them to see what they'll do next. And many of his pieces illustrate how this fascinating new woman is turning the tables on the men in her life. His drawings so captured the spirit of the new modern woman that the term "Gibson Girl" was coined and still to this day conjures up an instantly recognizable image. Of that image, Gibson said:
"I'll tell you how I got what you have called the 'Gibson Girl.' I saw her on the streets, I saw her at the theatres, I saw her in the churches. I saw her everywhere and doing everything. There isn’t any ‘Gibson Girl,’ but there are many thousands of American girls, and for that let us all thank God."
As Gibson's art pays homage to the emerging independent woman of the early twentieth century, so does Kate Douglas Wiggin with the heroines of her three stories in Ladies in Waiting. They are emboldened, ambitious, and determined to experience all that life has to offer on their own terms, and if that means keeping the men who seek to capture their hearts on their toes and scrambling to keep up, then so much the better!
Ladies in Waiting by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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