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Women and the Everyday City

Public Space in San Francisco, 1890–1915

2010
Author:

Jessica Ellen Sewell

Women and the Everyday City

Women in the city in turn-of-the-century San Francisco

Women and the Everyday City explores the lives of women in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Working at the nexus of urban history, architectural history, and cultural geography, Jessica Ellen Sewell offers a revealing portrait of both a major American city during its early years and the women who shaped it—and the country—for generations to come.

Jessica Ellen Sewell takes her readers on an invigorating jaunt through women’s history. She shows more vividly than ever before how a generation of women took command of public space and moved decisively and exuberantly onto the streets, and all the way to the voting booths.

Mary Ryan, Johns Hopkins University

In Women and the Everyday City, Jessica Ellen Sewell explores the lives of women in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. A period of transformation of both gender roles and American cities, she shows how changes in the city affected women’s ability to negotiate shifting gender norms as well as how women’s increasing use of the city played a critical role in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

Focusing on women’s everyday use of streetcars, shops, restaurants, and theaters, Sewell reveals the impact of women on these public places—what women did there, which women went there, and how these places were changed in response to women’s presence. Using the diaries of three women in San Francisco (Annie Haskell, Ella Lees Leigh, and Mary Eugenia Pierce, who wrote extensively about their everyday experiences), Sewell studies their accounts of day trips to the city and combines them with memoirs, newspapers, maps, photographs, and her own observations of the buildings that exist today to build a sense of life in San Francisco at this pivotal point in history.

Working at the nexus of urban history, architectural history, and cultural geography, Women and the Everyday City offers a revealing portrait of both a major American city during its early years and the women who shaped it—and the country—for generations to come.

Women and the Everyday City

Jessica Ellen Sewell is Member of the School of Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

Women and the Everyday City

Jessica Ellen Sewell takes her readers on an invigorating jaunt through women’s history. She shows more vividly than ever before how a generation of women took command of public space and moved decisively and exuberantly onto the streets, and all the way to the voting booths.

Mary Ryan, Johns Hopkins University

Women and the Everyday City illuminates how the shifting geography of consumption transformed women’s physical experience of the city-scape and increased their comfort at exerting rights to public space. Sewell makes a significant new contribution to the understanding of urban space and power.

Sarah Deutsch, Duke University

Sewell deserves congratulations for uncovering a long overlooked slice of local history, and those interested in learning more about this great period of San Francisco are encouraged to read Women in the Everyday City.

Beyond Chron

Adds welcome depth to our knowledge of this place, suggesting complexities of the past that nostalgia can blur.

San Francisco Chronicle

Written with passion and enthusiasm.

Journal of Architectural Education

Women and the Everyday City is an elegantly written analysis of the central role of gender and class in facilitating and changing the segregation ideals of nineteenth-century culture.

Architectural Theory Review

Sewell provides us with a wealth of important information about the gendered landscape of turn-of-the-century San Francisco.

Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

In addition to her analysis of quotes from personal letters, diaries and public advertisements, Sewell’s book is very accessible in its compelling cultural analysis of historical images, maps, and city plans, enabling her to appeal to a wide academic audience interested in both the politics of space and gender.

Material Culture

Sewell persuasively demonstrates that as San Francisco’s female workers and consumers expanded their use of the city’s public spaces, they challenged and transformed the ideological conventions and political restrictions of their day.

Buildings & Landscapes

San Francisco’s women remain particularly understudied, making the publication of Women and the Everyday City: Public Space in San Francisco, 1890-1915 a welcome addition to the city’s historiography and to the literature on the relationship between gender and public space. This book makes a compelling argument for the necessity of considering the built environment into our understandings of gender, city development, and political movements, and should be read by all interested in these topics as well as in the history of San Francisco.

Planning Perspectives

Women and the Everyday City

Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction: Women in Public

1. Sidewalks and Streetcars
2. Errands
3. Dining Out
4. Spectacles and Amusements
5. Spaces of Suffrage

Epilogue: Everyday Landscapes
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Women and the Everyday City

UMP blog - Occupy Wall Street: A reminder of how radical spatial politics have changed.

As I was leading a walking tour of downtown San Francisco that highlighted women suffragists’ use of public space, my group encountered the activists of Occupy San Francisco marching down Market Street. 100 years earlier, Market Street had been central for suffragists giving speeches, selling suffrage goods, parading in the Labor Day parade, and speaking to voters in person and through ads in nickelodeons, streetcars, ferries, and on the street. Here we saw this same deeply symbolic space in the center of the city being activated once again by a growing political movement.

Read the full article.

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By the author: San Francisco Woman Suffrage Downtown Walking Tour