Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Arts & Humanities


Online and Continuing Education

Faculty Advisor(s)

Christopher Keaveney & Barbara Seidman

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Women's History | Women's Studies


The Victorian period (1837 to 1901) was a time of great change in the United States. The country was growing with the Louisiana Purchase and the addition of several states to the Union. Railroads were connecting together the vast lands. Unprecedented economic and manufacturing changes were unfolding; it was the time of the Industrial Revolution. This period also brought about a revolution for women by opening up new possibilities in many spheres of life. However, these new possibilities, ironically, exacerbated a timeless women’s struggle of finding balance between their traditional roles as caregivers and their human need for self-­‐ expression.

This struggle was reflected in both the lives and works of women artists from the period. Women like author Kate Chopin, painter Elizabeth Nourse, and painter Ellen Day Hale were some of the first women to depict this struggle in their works. The struggle to meet societal expectations while remaining true to one’s art afflicts all women artists. Women artists battle a potentially unresolvable internal conflict between their roles as caregivers, with the associated societal expectations, and dedication to their art. In the Victorian era, Chopin, Nourse, and Hale gave expression to that timeless struggle of the artist, through their lives and their revolutionary works.