9780195158649 / 0195158644

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


Publisher:Oxford University Press, USA



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About the book:

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 Sedlack

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