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How Women Saved the City

Daphne Spain
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    How Women Saved the City
    Book Description:

    Spain uncovers the contribution of women to urban development at the turn of the twentieth century to clearly demonstrate the key role they played in shaping the American urban landscape. She reconstructs the story of women’s involvement in "redemptive places" that addressed the real needs of city dwellers—especially single women, African Americans, immigrants, and the poor._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9132-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. Preface
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Voluntary Vernacular
    (pp. 1-29)

    In 1913 the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay joined other adventurous women of her day when she traveled to New York City and stayed at the Young Women’s Christian Association. She lived on the eighth floor of the YWCA’s recently completed National Training School at East Fifty-second Street and Lexington Avenue. Millay was thrilled with the view. Writing to her family, she observed:

    From my window in the daytime I cansee everything—just buildings, tho, it is buildings everywhere, seven & eight stories to million and billion stories, washing drying on the roofs and on lines strung between the houses,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Why Cities Needed Saving
    (pp. 30-60)

    This ditty was contributed to theNewport(Rhode Island)Civic League Bulletinby an anonymous author and reprinted inThe American City, a monthly magazine with a circulation of 8,000 readers. During the years of its publication between 1909 and 1920,The American Cityran more than one hundred articles about the civic work of women (M. Wilson 1979, 98,102). The commentary about Mary’s slovenly habits illustrates reformers’ frustrations with one of the smaller daily irritants of urban life. Noise was another common source of aggravation. A malady known as the “yelling peril” produced nervous tension among people trying to...

  7. PART I Paths to Salvation

    • CHAPTER THREE Sacred and Secular Organizational Ideologies
      (pp. 63-86)

      Settlement workers like Jane Addams of Chicago’s Hull House were not the first women to discover urban poverty, but they were among the first to identify it as a systemic problem rather than a personal failing. Benevolent societies of the eighteenth century and charity organizations of the nineteenth century assumed poverty was aprivate troublethat individuals could control, but the Social Gospel defined poverty as apublic issuewarranting institutional reform (see Mills [1959] 1967). Thus the Social Gospel strongly justified women’s work outside the home.

      The Social Gospel movement applied Christian principles to the problems of daily life....

    • CHAPTER FOUR Voluntary Associations with an Urban Presence
      (pp. 87-122)

      An abundance of voluntary associations during the nineteenth century led Tocqueville to recognize them as the foundation of American democracy. By constructing the private problems of numerous individuals as public issues, women’s voluntary organizations played a pivotal role in determining the shape of public discourse (Bender 1975; Clarke, Staeheli, and Brunell 1995; Ryan 1997). The president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, for example, boasted that her organization was “in no sense political, yet its influence and power are to be seen in every State legislature” (Decker 1906, 204).

      Women were actively engaged in four voluntary associations that transformed...

  8. PART II Redemptive Places

    • CHAPTER FIVE New York City Headquarters, Smaller City Branches
      (pp. 125-173)

      Edna St. Vincent Millay arrived in New York City at the absolute height of foreign immigration. In 1913, and again in 1914, 1.2 million immigrants entered the United States. So many earlier immigrants had disembarked in New York City, and stayed there, that 40 percent of the city’s population was foreign-born in 1910. The Lower East Side, the district Jacob Riis immortalized in photographs and essays inHow the Other Half Lives(1890), was their primary destination (U.S. Department of Justice 1997, 25; Ward 1971).

      Voluntary associations established headquarters in New York City for the same reason immigrants stayed: it...

    • CHAPTER SIX Boston, the Cradle of Redemptive Places
      (pp. 174-204)

      Boston was the destination of America’s first immigrants. Like New York City’s Ellis Island, Plymouth Rock was Boston’s symbol of immigration. Boston was small by comparison with New York, and it lacked the fame Chicago generated for hosting the World’s Columbian Exposition. Yet the city had something New York and Chicago could never possess: History with a capitalH. The elite residential Beacon Hill and Back Bay became distinctive features of Boston’s rich cultural terrain by the end of the nineteenth century, setting it apart from the newer commercial landscapes of Chicago and New York (Domosh 1996).

      In addition to...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Men Build Chicago’s Skyline, Women Redeem the City
      (pp. 205-235)

      These were the first sentences in a 248-page magazine advertising the World’s Columbian Exposition.Chicago of Todaywas sponsored by the business community to flaunt the city’s accomplishments and promote their own products. The back cover of the magazine was a full-page advertisement for the Wisconsin Central Lines Railroad that boasted Pullman sleepers for comfortable travel to the fair.

      Chicago at the turn of the century had reasons to brag. When the Census Bureau officially recorded its population in 1840 there were fewer than 5,000 residents; by 1870 the city had exploded to 300,000 people. The 1871 fire conveniently erased...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT How Women Saved the City
      (pp. 236-248)

      Compare this sentiment attributed to the noted architect Daniel Burnham in 1910 with the following statement by one of his contemporaries, civic reformer and president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Sarah S. Platt Decker. Decker expressed hope in 1906 that “[t]he Federation may become a mighty factor in the civilization of the century—an army of builders, ready, alert, systematic, and scientific, not only a potent force in this generation, but transmitting to the next a vigor and strength which have never been given by any race of women to their inheritors” (Decker 1906,204).

      Most planners and architects...

  9. APPENDIX A: Literature Review
    (pp. 249-254)
  10. APPENDIX B: Organizational Charters
    (pp. 255-260)
  11. APPENDIX C: Addresses of Redemptive Places for Boston, New York City, and Chicago
    (pp. 261-268)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 269-274)
  13. References
    (pp. 275-294)
  14. Index
    (pp. 295-312)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)