Women and the City: Gender, Space, and Power in Boston, 1870-1940

Sarah Jane Deutsch, Author Oxford University Press, USA $60 (400p) ISBN 978-0-19-505705-8
Until now, the history of cities has largely focused on the ways in which men have influenced the urban environment. When women are mentioned--usually as menial workers or prostitutes--they are usually rendered as exerting little or no influence on the physical cityscape. In this important and absorbing study, Deutsch, an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona, shows the myriad ways women of all classes, ethnicities and social positions radically transformed Boston from a city that regulated and curtailed women's lives to one where they enjoyed not only more freedom but some power as well. Drawing on a wide range of sources--public and private employment data, settlement house and church registries, reform and labor movement files and building and tax records--Deutsch demonstrates how organizing, gaining access to education and working in alternative and mainstream political venues led Boston women to create community networks, safe streets and public venues to advance female independence. She also documents a number of women-led strikes--from Irish telephone operators seeking higher wages to Jewish women demanding lower prices for kosher meat--and chronicles the efforts of women like Edith Gurrier and her lover, Edith Brown, who created a worker-run pottery collective that trained working-class women in both industry and business. As comprehensive as it is engrossing, Deutsch's work is a vital contribution to both women's history and urban studies. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/26/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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