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Gender, Class, Race, and Reform in the Progressive Era

Gender, Class, Race, and Reform in the Progressive Era

Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: 1
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Gender, Class, Race, and Reform in the Progressive Era
    Book Description:

    In this collection of informative essays, Noralee Frankel and Nancy S. Dye bring together work by such notable scholars as Ellen Carol DuBois, Alice Kessler-Harris, Barbara Sicherman, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn to illuminate the lives and labor of American women from the late nineteenth century to the early 1920s. Revealing the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, and social class, the authors explore women's accomplishments in changing welfare and labor legislation; early twentieth century feminism and women's suffrage; women in industry and the work force; the relationship between family and community in early twentieth-century America; and the ways in which African American, immigrant, and working-class women contributed to progressive reform. This challenging collection not only displays the dramatic transformations women of all classes experienced, but also helps construct a new scaffolding for progressivism in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4852-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The movement called progressivism flourished in the years between the depression of 1893 and the United States’ entry into World War I, as Americans struggled to come to terms with the profound dislocations wrought by massive industrialization, the rise of the corporation, and rapid urban growth. A complex, sometimes contradictory amalgam of social ctiticism, popular protest, political restructuring, economic regulation, and social welfare legislation, progressive reform embodied a vast array of responses to the changes taking place in American society at the tum of the twentieth century.

    Women filled the progressive landscape. Throughout the 1890s, when progressivism consisted in good...

  5. 2. Atlanta’s African-American Women’s Attack on Segregation, 1900-1920
    (pp. 10-23)

    By the tum of the twentieth century, Atlanta was the most segregated city in Georgia. As early as 1890, Atlanta had instituted Jim Crow laws that separated the city into distinctive African-American and white areas. These discriminatory laws reinforced white supremacy by excluding African-Americans from public accommodations, establishing residential ordinances that restricted the living patterns of African-Americans and contributed directly to Atlanta’s neglect of blighted areas, exposing African-American customers to shabby treatment when they entered downtown stores, and excluding African-Americans from political participation and denying them due process of law.¹

    Segregation worked in Atlanta as long as African-Americans obeyed these...

  6. 3. Politicizing Domesticity: Anglo, Black, and Latin Women in Tampa’s Progressive Movements
    (pp. 24-41)

    “As society grows more complicated it is necessary that woman shall extend her sense of responsibility to many things outside her own home if she would continue to preserve the home in its entirety. . . . [I]f woman would keep on with her old business of caring for her house and rearing her children she will have to have some conscience in regard to public affairs lying quite outside of her immediate household.”¹ Thus did Hull House founder Jane Addams articulate the relationship between domes, ticity and female activism. This “social housekeeping” rhetoric pervaded women’s reform activities at every...

  7. 4. When Your Work Is Not Who You Are: The Development of a Working-Class Consciousness among Afro-American Women
    (pp. 42-55)

    May Anna Madison, a middle-aged former domestic quoted in John Langston Gwaltney’sDrylongso: A Self-Portrait of Black America,declared: “One very important difference between white people and black people is that white people think that you are your work . . . . Now, a black person has more sense than that because he knows that what I am doing doesn’t have anything to do with what I want to do or what I do when I am doing for myself. Now, black people think that my work is just what I have to do to get what I want.”¹...

  8. 5. Landscapes of Subterfuge: Working-Class Neighborhoods and Immigrant Women
    (pp. 56-72)

    Several years ago when I first began collecting oral histories for my dissertation, I interviewed a 90-year-old former textile operative who described herself as not having “worked very much” in her youth, doing only “bits of mill work” and “pieces of this and that.” Prodded to describe these “bits and pieces” in more detail, she drew what is now a familiar, if still underanalyzed, portrait of female labor in the Progressive Era:

    It all depended on the season, on the kids, on what ya needed to get by. You see, there was always something to do, you know. In the...

  9. 6. Reconstructing the “Family”: Women, Progressive Reform, and the Problem of Social Control
    (pp. 73-86)

    “The best interests of the child,” “the rights of biological motherhood,”¹ and the protection of the home and family from market relations are doctrines that in 1988 justified the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on surrogate motherhood in the notorious Baby M case. These doctrines also illuminate the contradictory legacy of Progressive Era reform. Progressives employed these ideas to reconstruct the “family,” as the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth.

    Judges joined social workers, feminists, and other reformers to intervene in family life in order to maintain the family unit and protect motherhood, domesticity, and children. Makers and administrators...

  10. 7. Law and a Living: The Gendered Content of “Free Labor”
    (pp. 87-109)

    Supreme Court decisions are frequently unpopular. Yet few have faced the storm of national derision that confronted the April 1923 opinion handed down inAdkins v. Children’s Hospital.By a vote of five to three (Brandeis abstaining), the Court negated the constitutionality of a Washington, D.C., law that provided minimum wages for women and minors. With its act the Court also placed in jeopardy the minimum wage legislation of thirteen other states.²

    Newspaper editorials, public meetings, and placards denounced the decision. Mary Anderson, head of the Women’s Bureau, called it “nothing short of a calamity.”³ Samuel Gompers declared it to...

  11. 8. Hull House Goes to Washington: Women and the Children’s Bureau
    (pp. 110-126)

    During the Progressive Era, women reformers lobbied the federal government to assume responsibility for children’s welfare. Historians have investigated the ideology and careers of elite women reformers, but little is known about the role working-class and rural women played in the formation of public policy.¹ What impact did new federal programs have on ordinary women? Did they benefit or lose as the authority of the federal government increased? An examination of the operation of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the first government agency to be headed and staffed almost entirely by women, illuminates the relationship between women reformers, working-class and rural...

  12. 9. Working It Out: Gender, Profession, and Reform in the Career of Alice Hamilton
    (pp. 127-147)

    The career of Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) at first sight defies conventional wisdom about women’s professional achievements in the Progressive Era. While most women were concentrated in sex-segregated or sex-typed work, Hamilton specialized in industrial toxicology, a branch of public health that studies poisons in the workplace. Public health was “women’s work” in the field of medicine, but Hamilton spent most of her professional life in the male world: she attended a coeducational medical school, worked in a research lab, investigated dusty lead factories and copper mines, and in 1919 became Harvard’s first woman professor, though not, she observed, the first...

  13. 10. African-American Women’s Networks in the Anti-Lynching Crusade
    (pp. 148-161)

    The height of the lynching era in United States history coincided with the Progressive Era, stretching from the mid, 1890s to the early 1920s. Throughout the period, African-Americans took the lead in educating public opinion about what they described as mob rule. Although individu, als in black communities contributed significantly to the outcry against lynching, it was national organizations such as the National Federation of Afro, American Women, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that took active roles in seeking legally to make lynch, ing a crime. The...

  14. 11 Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Transformation of Class Relations among Woman Suffragists
    (pp. 162-179)

    As evidence of women’s importance to the Progressive Era accumulates, the need for a new interpretive paradigm grows. One increasingly popular line of analysis traces the evolution of the mid-nineteenth-century “woman’s sphere” into a female-centered political culture by the end of the century. This approach allows for coherence and continuity in women’s history and frames women’s Progressive Era reform activism in terms that arise from women’s historical experiences, rather than men’s.

    As an interpretation of the Progressive Era, the virtues of a separate women’s political culture are also its vices. Like many interpretations of women’s history that take as their...

  15. 12. Paradigms Gained: Further Readings in the History of Women in the Progressive Era
    (pp. 180-193)

    Two basic challenges confront the foolhardy reviewer attempting to compile readings in the history of Progressive Era women. First, the selection process is complicated by an exponential rate of increase in this area of scholarship. Second, the imposition of classification generally demanded by such an exercise is defied by a remarkable epistemological volatility within the field. Not only is there an embarrassment of riches, there is also a growing sensitivity to alternative perspectives. In this respect, although gender continues to be a central analytical theme in many studies, its explanatory primacy is modified by considerations of the dynamics of race,...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 194-195)
  17. Index
    (pp. 196-202)