Modernity, the 20th-century process of breaking with the past through technological and aesthetic innovation, brought with it new possibilities of women’s visibility in the workplace and in the cityscape. Entertainment contexts of theatre, burlesque, emerging film, as well as advertisements were key to this new visibility of women. The realities meant that women were often as constrained as they were enabled by these new contexts. Yet the novelty of their newfound independence was appealing.

The purpose of this website is to record the stories and collect the visual material of the Modern Showgirl pioneers and put them into a contemporary context. How do the showgirl experiences of the past compare to experiences of the present?


Modern Showgirl has been created by Alison J Carr. Alison is an artist and researcher. For more info on her art practice see her website.

Her academic book Viewing Pleasure and Being a Showgirl, How Do I Look? is published by Routledge. In it, she draws on her experiences of visiting shows and interviewing showgirls. An account of the experience of being ‘looked at’, the book raises questions of how the showgirl is represented, the nature of the pleasure that she elicits and the suspicion that surrounds it, and what this means for feminism and the act of looking.