When Vivie first appears in the play, she is described as "an attractive specimen of the sensible, able, highly-educated young middle-class English woman. Age 22. Prompt, strong, confident, self-possessed." She shakes hands as a man might, and she wears "business-like" dress with a chatelaine, or belt with useful objects suspended from it. She does not wear impractical clothes but wears clothes conducive to doing business and getting work done. Like the New Woman of Shaw's time, she is practical and able to take care of herself. She comports herself with the confidence that people formerly might have only associated with men.
In addition, Vivie is not at all sentimental and has rid herself of most of the traditional feminine ideas, such as the importance of acting falsely modest with men. In Act I, she refers to chivalry as "a frightful waste of time." She decides to dump her beau, Frank, without much regret, and she tells her mother, "Poor Frank! I shall have to get rid of him; but I shall feel sorry for him, though he’s not worth it." This is clearly a reversal of traditional gender roles, as she feels sorry for Frank but not at all sad or sentimental about ending her relationship with him. She has little time for romance in her busy, practical life.
Like the New...
Woman, Vivie is fiercely independent. She studied math at Cambridge and plans to work in an actuarial office while reading law. She detests leisure and says, " I like working and getting paid for it. When I’m tired of working, I like a comfortable chair, a cigar, a little whisky, and a novel with a good detective story in it." These are traditional male pursuits, and Vivie embraces them. She likes spending her time working rather than getting married and having children, as women were traditionally expected to do. In the end, she decides not to get married, to sever her ties to her mother (as her mother continues to own brothels), and to work for a living without taking a vacation. She lives the type of independent life that was new for women at the time and that was more typical of a man.