By Sharon E. Wood
Gilded Age towns provided outstanding possibilities to women--but at a cost. As clerks, manufacturing unit fingers, and execs flocked downtown to make money, they alarmed social critics and town fathers, who warned that self-supporting girls have been simply steps clear of changing into prostitutes. With in-depth study attainable simply in a mid-sized urban, Sharon E. wooden specializes in Davenport, Iowa, to discover the lives of operating ladies and the prostitutes who shared their neighborhoods. the one, self-supporting girls who migrated to Davenport within the years following the Civil struggle observed paid hard work because the beginning of citizenship. They took up the instruments of public and political existence to claim the respectability of paid employment and to confront the demon of prostitution. wooden deals cradle-to-grave graphics of person women and women--both prostitutes and "respectable" white workers--seeking to reshape their urban and extend women's possibilities. As wooden demonstrates, besides the fact that, their efforts to rewrite the sexual politics of the streets met strong resistance at each flip from males protecting their political rights and sexual energy.
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Extra resources for The Freedom of the Streets: Work, Citizenship, and Sexuality in a Gilded Age City (Gender and American Culture)
Most nineteenth-century writers who dealt with prostitution in America 15 Women in the City insisted that the line was unambiguous: loss of sexual purity irrevocably transformed a woman. ’’ Good men shared the same view. After John Warren, a veteran New York City detective, helped a distraught father trace his missing daughter to a brothel, the man refused to rescue her. ‘‘It wouldn’t be my Annie, you know, she’s gone,’’ he mourned. ’’ Kate Bushnell of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was more sympathetic to such women but voiced a similar certainty.
In a culture devoted to companionate marriage, ‘‘spinster’’ had become a pejorative, but the word still carried the echo of a lost status. ’’ But by the Civil War era, at least in cities, the displacement of household production by a cash economy meant that a husbandless woman without a job was an expense, not an asset. Louisa May Alcott (herself a husbandless woman with many jobs) o√ered these women a heroine in the character of Christie Devon, who proclaimed ‘‘a new Declaration of Independence.
The old Episcopal Church building stood just outside the district at the corner of Fifth and Rock Island, vacant and for sale in 1886. Other residents found their options limited by low income and racism. Davenport’s African American population was tiny in 1885 (about 244), but half of them lived along these few streets. So did the city’s seven Chinese residents. And while women outnumbered men in Davenport as a whole by a slight margin, this neighborhood had only about eighty-seven women for every hundred men, reﬂecting the concentration of hotels and boardinghouses.