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Other titles in the Historical Studies of Urban America series:
City of American Dreamsby Margaret Garb
Synopses & Reviews
American cities are constantly being built and rebuilt, resulting in ever-changing skylines and neighborhoods. While the dynamic urban landscapes of New York, Boston, and Chicago have been widely studied, there is much to be gleaned from west coast cities, especially in California, where the migration boom at the end of the nineteenth century permanently changed the urban fabric of these newly diverse, plural metropolises.
Inand#160;A City for Children, Marta Gutman focuses on the use and adaptive reuse of everyday buildings in Oakland, California, to make the city a better place for children. She introduces us to the women who were determined to mitigate the burdens placed on working-class families by an indifferent industrial capitalist economy. Often without the financial means to build from scratch, women did not tend to conceive of urban land as a blank slate to be wiped clean for development. Instead, Gutman shows how, over and over, women turned private houses in Oakland into orphanages, kindergartens, settlement houses, and day care centers, and in the process built the charitable landscapeand#151;a network of places that was critical for the betterment of children, families, and public life.and#160; The industrial landscape of Oakland, riddled with the effects of social inequalities and racial prejudices, is not a neutral backdrop in Gutmanand#8217;s story but an active player. Spanning one hundred years of history,and#160;A City for Childrenand#160;provides a compelling model for building urban institutions and demonstrates that children, women, charity, and incremental construction, renovations, alterations, additions, and repurposed structures are central to the understanding of modern cities.
We like to say that our cities have been shaped by andldquo;creative destructionandrdquo;andmdash;the vast powers of capitalism to remake cities. But Marta Gutman shows that other forces played roles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as cities responded to industrialization and the onset of modernity. Gutman focuses on the use and adaptive reuse of everyday buildings, and most tellingly she reveals the determinative roles of women and charitable institutions. In Oakland, Gutman shows, private houses were often adapted for charity work and the betterment of children, in the process becoming critical sites for public life and for the development of sustainable social environments. Gutman makes a strong argument for the centrality of incremental construction and the power of women-run organizations to our understanding of modern cities.
In this vivid portrait of life in Chicago in the fifty years after the Civil War, Margaret Garb traces the history of the American celebration of home ownership. As the nation moved from an agrarian to an industrialized urban society, the competing visions of capitalists, reformers, and immigrants turned the urban landscape into a testing ground for American values. Neither a natural progression nor an inevitable outcome, the ideal of home ownership emerged from the struggles of industrializing cities. Garb skillfully narrates these struggles, showing how the American infatuation with home ownership left the nation's cities sharply divided along class and racial lines.
Based on research of real estate markets, housing and health reform, and ordinary homeownersand#8212;African American and white, affluent and working classand#8212;City of American Dreams provides a richly detailed picture of life in one of America's great urban centers. Garb shows that the pursuit of a single-family house set on a tidy yard, commonly seen as the very essence of the American dream, resulted from clashes of interests and decades of struggle.
About the Author
Margaret Garb is associate professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
1: Equal Rights, Equal Property
2: Staking a Claim in the Industrializing City
3: Health, Morality, and Housing
4: Cleanliness and Capital Investments
5: Selling Health, Independence, and Home Ownership
6: Reforming the Family Home and Improving Neighborhoods
7: Drawing the and#8220;Color Lineand#8221;: The Roots of Residential Segregation
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