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Elsie de Wolfe was one of the best renowned interiordesigners who lived between the years 1859 and 1950. She was a NewYorker who is credited with the development of interior decorationand design profession. Elsie de Wolfe concentrated her work in herhome town of New York, but also expanded to other parts of the worldincluding France. Elsie worked mainly in an era when women weredenied economic and financial freedom. She delved into a professionthat was mainly male dominated. The three articles to be compared inthis paper all discuss Elsie de Wolfe. Whereas the three articles maybe depicting her differently, it is clear that there is a great dealof areas regarding the interior designer that the articles seem toagree on.
Risk as a Window to Agency: A Case Study of Three Decorators by NancyH. Blossom, M.A. and John C. Turpin.
This article has portrayed what Elsie did as a risk she tookconsidering the sexism that existed during her professional era. Thearticle presents the lady as a risk taker and as a brave woman whotook the challenge of delving into a profession that was maledominated. According to this article, Elsie took a social and afinancial risk of delving into one of the professions that wasconsidered as male affair. It evident from the reading that the rolethat Elsie played was to change the course of history with regard tothe way women are socially and economically viewed by the society(Blossom and Turpin, 1994, p 6). The article asserts that Elsie isone of the best known interior decorators. Whereas numerous womenview interior decoration as a pastime activity, Elsie took it as abusiness entity where she made profit. The article asserts that thecareer that Elsie took was risk considering how the society she livedin was stratified.
It is also clear from the article that Elsie was not fullysuccessful and supported by the audience when she was an actress. Theauthors of the article have argued that Elsie made her own fashionclothes which she used on stage. Although acting was not consideredas an ideal occupation for earning an income, Elsie focused more onher designs and the taste for fashion. This is, according to theauthors of the article, one of the inspirations that Elsie drew orgotten towards her career in interior design. The article assertsthat in 1905 when Elsie publicly proclaimed herself as an interiordecorator was the time that her fortunes changed. Whereas this was aprofession dominated by men, Elsie received favors and contracts dueto her gender. In other words, numerous people believed that a selfand publicly proclaimed interior female decorator would do a betterjob than all the male decorators (Blossom and Turpin, 1994, p 4).
This article views the issue of Elsie delving into interior designas the right move in a risk and socially stratified environment. Itis clear that the article highlights the challenges that the womanexpected to face in the profession. However, it is also abundantlyclear that the step that Elsie made ended being an extremelysuccessful venture. The profession in interior design did no onlymake her famous, but it made her enormous profits. The writing ofthis article took a feminist approach where the role and theprofession of Elsie are viewed as a way of rescuing women from asociety that is largely sexist (Blossom and Turpin, 1994, p 5). Thebrevity that Elsie portrayed while delving into a male dominatedprofession and against the social norms is considered as way ofcementing the women’s position in a society that is highlystratified in terms of gender. The authors of the article highlightthat Elsie wanted a society where women would be respected and begiven opportunities just as men. It is evident that the article viewsthe roles played by Elsie in an extremely feminist view. Elsie issaid to have migrated to France since there was an environment thatfavored the career and professional growth for women.
The approach that the authors of this article use is that whichshows that Elsie played a primary role in encouraging numerous womento join the interior design profession. It is clear from the articlethat the authors have praised Elsie for her role in helping women torealize their potential (Blossom and Turpin, 1994, p 3). In otherwords, the approach of this article with regard to Elsie the interiordecorator is that one of praise. There is no part within the articlethat the authors criticize or rebuke Elsie, but only gives her creditfor her role and efforts in helping bring about social order inAmerica.
Interior Design and Identity by Susie McKellar and Penny Sparke
This article, unlike the initial one discussed above, does not dwellentirely on Elsie as an interior decorator. However, the articlestill contains sufficient information regarding Elsie’s work andthe role she played in informing women of their freedom. The authorsof the article have taken a historical perspective in trying toexplain the progress and advancement of women in the interior designand decoration profession (Susie and Sparke, 2004, p 4). However, thearticle has various similarities about Elsie and her career, as wellas the inspiration behind her enthusiasm in interior decoration. Itis clear from this article and the previous article that Elsie wantedfreedom and liberation from the physical and social constraints thatthe society put on her simply because she was a woman. She wanted toengage in a profession that was socially viewed as men’sprofession.
This article points out that the engagement of Elsie in a professionthat was regarded as males was for her to gain liberation. Theauthors of this article articulate clearly that Elsie wanted women tobe independent and stop relying on men, and historical andstereotypical femininity for their dependence. This article has alsohighlighted the fact that Elsie lived during a time when the societywas sexist and whatever she was doing was not socially approved bythe society. It is evident that this is a point that the authors ofthis article share with the authors of the previously discussedarticle. Another aspect that is highlighted by the article is thestyle that Elsie used in her designs (Susie and Sparke, 2004, p 5).It is abundantly clear from both the articles that the authors agreethat Elsie used historical or pre-modernist styles in herdecorations. However, this article does not give a brief history ofthe acting career that Elsie was involved in before becoming aninterior decorator. This is crucial background which the previousarticle gave since it was essential for her advancement to theprofession that brought her money and fame. Both articles alsohighlight that Elsie worked in France besides her home town in theUnited States which was New York.
Unlike the initial article that took a feminist approach ormethodology in addressing the professional career of Elsie, thisarticle took an iconography approach where theauthors seem to give out the historical and the description of thedecorations that Elsie used. For instance, the article asserts thatElsie’s decorations depicted that she wanted liberation and freedomcreated by the environment she was brought up (Susie and Sparke,2004, p 6). This is a clear description of the decorations andtherefore the reading seems to take an iconography approach.
Designing Women: Gender, Sexuality and the Interior Decorator, c.1890-1940 by Peter McNeil
The article approaches the topic of Elsie the interior decoratorfrom the feminist angle. The article highlights how Elsie operated,together with other female decorators, during a time when women weresocially denied financial freedom in the United States. There is agreat deal of similarities between this article and the first articlediscussed in this paper. Both articles have highlighted the same sexrelationship that Elsie had (Peter, 1994, p 633). It is clear fromboth articles that this relationship was a sign of the femaleindependence. In other words, the female folk wanted to show theirindependence from men. This is different from the second discussedarticle where the authors did not highlight the personal life thatthe interior decorator led.
The authors of this article also pointed out to the acting careerthat Elsie had before delving into interior design. This is asimilarity with the first article discussed. It is evident that thefirst article was extremely articulate about the acting career thatElsie led before delving into interior design. However, the secondarticle discussed in this paper does not highlight the career thatElsie before starting interior design (Peter, 1994, 631). It is clearfrom this article also that Elsie was involved in the Arts and Craftmovements where women demanded to be involved in the designprofession. This same point is made by the authors of the firstarticle.
It is clear from all the articles that all the authors seem to agreethat Elsie was an influential woman who inspired numerous womenacross the world. The articles depict her as a role model to otherwomen across the world. This article in particular claims that Elsieplayed a primary in ensuring that there was universal suffrage. Herengagement in a profession that was male dominated opened the doorfor other numerous women to join and succeed. It is also apparentlyclear that the three articles seem to allude to the fact that the erawhen Elsie practiced interior decoration was a time when the Americansociety was extremely stratified. The three articles agree that theengagement in interior decoration was a risk that Elsie took.Although the second article does not seem to applaud the achievementsthat Elsie made, it is clear that the authors of the first and thelast article demonstrate an appreciation of Elsie’s efforts.
The approach that the three articles have discussed Elsie is almostthe same. It is evident from the discussion above that the threearticles seem to agree on almost every issue regarding Elsie. It isevident that the step Elsie made changed the course of history withregards to the way women are treated in society. She lived at a timewhen women were not allowed to occupy some professions. After herinvolvement in interior design, numerous women were challenged to gofor professions that were thought to be for males. It is thereforeessential to mention that the three articles have a lot in common andonly vary on minor and few issues.
Blossom, Nancy H. and Turpin, John C. 1994. Risk as a Window toAgency: A Case Study of Three Decorators. Washington State Spokane.
Susie McKellar and Penny Sparke. 2004. Interior Design andIdentity (eds). Manchester: Manchester University Press. 218 pp.
Peter McNeil. 1994. Designing Women: Gender, Sexuality and theInterior Decorator, c. 1890- 1940