In the 70 years between the Civil War and World War II, the women of Boston changed the city dramatically. From anti-spitting campaigns and demands for police mothers to patrol local parks, to calls for a decent wage and living quarters, women rich and poor, white and black, immigrant and native-born struggled to make a place for themselves in the city. Now, in Women and the City historian Sarah Deutsch tells this story for the first time, revealing how they changed not only the manners but also the physical layout of the modern city.
Deutsch shows how the women of Boston turned the city from a place with no respectable public space for women, to a city where women sat on the City Council and met their beaux on the street corners. The book follows the efforts of working-class, middle-class, and elite matrons, working girls and "new women" as they struggled to shape the city in their own interests. And in fact they succeeded in breathtaking fashion, rearranging and redefining the moral geography of the city, and in so doing broadening the scope of their own opportunities. But Deutsch reveals that not all women shared equally in this new access to public space, and even those who did walk the streets with relative impunity and protested their wrongs in public, did so only through strategic and limited alliances with other women and with men.
A penetrating new work by a brilliant young historian, Women and the City is the first book to analyze women's role in shaping the modern city. It casts new light not only on urban history, but also on women's domestic lives, women's organizations, labor organizing, and city politics, and on the crucial connections between gender, space, and power.
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In Women and the City: Gender, Power, and Space in Boston, 1870-1940, Sarah Deutsch examines the relationship between the city's evolving structure and the choices and strategies of various groups of women. Her study follows the efforts of working-class, middle-class, and elite matrons as they struggled to shape the city to meet their respective needs. In succeeding, they redefined the moral geography of the city, and broadened Deutsch's own opportunities many decades later.
Deutsch orders her study topically. The first four chapters examine the politics of everyday life, showing how the daily lives and domestic spaces of women were intimately connected to the sorts of claims they made in and on public arenas. Her final three chapters follow women as they organize and institutionalize their efforts, demonstrating the complex ways in which the relationship between women and the public terrain is specific to class, ethnicity, and historical moment. As the book makes clear, space "does not have independent agency." Its meaning and power are determined by how groups of people organize their social, political, and economic interactions. For the women of Boston, the ability to lay claim to certain types of space and the power to shape place were crucial to meeting their basic needs.
A promising young historian from the University of Arizona, Deutsch breaks new ground in her analysis of women's role in shaping the modern city. Her thoroughly researched study makes frequent reference to individual biography, while illustrating a firm understanding of Boston history. Although her enthusiasm for detail and third-person narrative often obscures her larger claims, Women and the City clearly illustrates the ability of women to negotiate the urban terrain on their own terms. --Bertina Loeffler SedlackAbout the Author:
Sarah Deutsch is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arizona. She was educated at Yale and at Oxford, where she was in the first group of Rhodes Scholars to accept women. The author of No Separate Refuge and From Ballots to Breadlines (both OUP), she lives in Tucson, Arizona.
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