Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Bohemian Women


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La Boheme
London 1900's
Beat Culture
Hippie Culture

Works Cited

"A bohemian woman could be a Grisette or Mistress; Muse; Model; Wife; Mother; Salon Hostess; Independent Woman; Worker; 'Free Spirit'; Lesbian; or Artist."

-Elizabeth Wilson, Glamorous Outcasts.

Like men, some bourgeoisie women left the upper classes for the freedom that bohemia offered. However, women in bohemia faced many new situations, including

  • new social roles
  • the ability to easily climb the social ladder
New Social Roles

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Women who had rejected the rigid structure of traditional family life found new roles in the world of bohemia. Some of these roles were present in bourgeoisie society, but many women were attracted to the freedom that lay within bohemia. It took courage to leave a family and an established place in society, but women were accepted in bohemia despite their irregular lives.

After spending her youth in a convent in rural France Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin, baronne Dudevant, otherwise known as George Sand, (pictured at left) moved to Paris, ended her eight-year marriage of convenience, and became famous as a bohemian novelist. Sand, also famous for wearing men's clothes, flaunted her affairs with prominent Frenchmen. Although her earlier novels were romantic, her later works argued that women should have the same social freedoms as men.

Climbing the Social Ladder

A new life in bohemia was usually at a lower standard for many bourgeoisie women, but for working-class and middle-class women it offered a chance to more easily climb the social ladder. A working-class woman could easily move up in society by surrounding themselves with artists, and writers. Middle-class women had a harder time leaving their old lives for a bohemian one, because they were more hampered by ideas of respectability and feared the loss of social standing.