The Freedom of the Streets

The Freedom of the Streets : Work, Citizenship, and Sexuality in a Gilded Age City

3.94 (37 ratings by Goodreads)
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Gilded Age cities offered extraordinary opportunities to women - but at a price. As clerks, factory hands, and professionals flocked downtown to earn a living, they alarmed social critics and city fathers, who warned that self-supporting women were just steps away from becoming prostitutes. With in-depth research possible only in a mid-sized city, Sharon E. Wood focuses on Davenport, Iowa, to explore the lives of working women and the prostitutes who shared their neighborhoods. The single, self-supporting women who migrated to Davenport in the years following the Civil War saw paid labor as the foundation of citizenship. They took up the tools of public and political life to assert the respectability of paid employment and to confront the demon of prostitution. Wood offers cradle-to-grave portraits of individual girls and women - both prostitutes and ""respectable"" white workers - seeking to reshape their city and expand women's opportunities. As Wood demonstrates, however, their efforts to rewrite the sexual politics of the streets met powerful resistance at every turn from men defending their political rights and sexual power.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 20.32mm | 498.95g
  • Chapel Hill, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0807856010
  • 9780807856017
  • 2,458,483

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Wood examines the network of single, white women who migrated to Davenport, Iowa, during and after the Civil War in pursuit of wages and professional advancement. The many personal stories included here demonstrate the development of women's political activism as well as the unintended consequences of efforts to control prostitution.
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Review quote

"Wood masterfully unearths a striking set of women on the wrong side of Davenport's line of respectability, and she situates these wayward girls and prostitutes in a shared urban space with that other group of independent women of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the civic-minded reformers. Wood's research base is terrific and rich, bringing scores of women to life and putting Davenport's geography of sex and feminism on the historical map." - Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara"
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About Sharon E. Wood

Sharon E. Wood is associate professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has edited two volumes, The Underworld Sewer: A Prostitute Reflects on Life in the Trade, 1871-1909, by Josie Washburn, and A Home in the West, or Emigration and its Consequences, by M. Emilia Rockwell.
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Rating details

37 ratings
3.94 out of 5 stars
5 27% (10)
4 41% (15)
3 32% (12)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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