The icon indicates free access to the linked research on JSTOR.

Move over flâneur, here comes the flâneuse, the female version of those famous French city walkers Walter Benjamin loved so much. Two recent books, Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk and Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse, lead the charge. Rooney’s novel is based on the real life copywriter and poet, Margaret Fishback. Once the highest paid woman in advertising, Margaret Fishback made her living working for Macy’s, where she wrote ad copy from 1926 to 1942. Her light verse appeared in the New Yorker and elsewhere. Scholar Catherine Keyser sees Fishback as a kind of covert feminist, “praised  for her glamour and her practicality, her feminine qualities and her business acumen.” She goes on:

JSTOR Daily Membership AdJSTOR Daily Membership Ad

When Fishback addresses the subject of the sexes in her light verse, she treats gender roles as conventional and inevitable. At the same time, when she observes modern changes in these roles, Fishback also advances the cause of the modern woman, however covertly. For example, in a 1927 New Yorker poem called “Situation Wanted,” Fishback writes:

The men who sell Orange Drink

Have ample time to sit and think.

They lead a life of quiet ease;

They do not even have to squeeze

A single orange. That would be

A pleasant job, it seems to me.

Read more about Margaret Fishback, her light verse, and the Benjaminian flâneurs who inspired her fictionalized doppelgänger.