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IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY, San Francisco boasted a thoroughly modern downtown, a specialized district of tall, densely packed commercial buildings . After the earthquake and fire of 1906, Market Street, San Francisco’s spine and the center of its downtown, was quickly and substantially rebuilt with stylish buildings that made up an increasingly dedicated landscape of shopping and offices, displacing other prequake institutions, including museums and religious buildings. At the intersection of Market Street and Powell Street (Figure I.1),substantial stoneclad buildings created a relatively uniform street frontage along Market, lining the sidewalk with plate-glass show windows that created a landscape tailor-made for window shopping. Above this tall first story, regular rows of windows hinted at the warren of cellular offices necessary in the heart of any modern city. This landscape was punctuated by signature early skyscrapers,including the Flood Building (at center in Figure I.1) and the Call Building, visible down Market Street. This image also suggests the lively mixture of uses and people that made up San Francisco’s downtown. Businessmen in suits and coats; middle-class women shoppers in long dresses and large hats; suited women who might have worked in offices; children (including some boys who might have been hawking newspapers); INTRODUCTION WOMEN IN PUBLIC xi and policemen, whose presence helped to maintain order—all share this intersection . Early-twentieth-century descriptions of Market Street emphasize this sort of bustling modernity and the cosmopolitan mixture of its crowds: Before noon Market Street is a bustle of business men. At noon the bright-eyed blooming youth of the office forces debouche for luncheon and a “how d’ye do.” Then come the down-town cars to discharge shopping matrons, and forth come the butterflies of leisure and of pleasure. Towards the half light the bees buzz out again and turn drones for the hour before dinner (the five-o’clock promenade). Playtime has commenced. Actor, soubrette and ingenue, both professional and amateur, soldier and sailor, clerk and boulevardier, workingman and workingwoman, a dozen tongues, a dozen grades of color, a dozen national costumes—miner from the desert, cowboy from the range, chekako or sourdough from Alaska; upper, lower and half world; full of the joy of being, of forming one of the lively throng, exchange greetings more or less conventional, gaze in the brilliant store windows, buy—or hope to—and go to dinner, clubward, homeward, to restaurant and boarding-place.1 Writers at the turn of the nineteenth century presented Market Street as a space for all classes, ethnicities, and races—and for both sexes. This was“the thoroughfare alike of the strolling shopper and the hurrying businessman.”2 While women were one component of this heterogeneous crowd, their presence in public was still problematic in the public imagination.As late-nineteenth-century etiquette books made clear, the heterogeneity of urban space offered serious challenges to female respectability. To retain their propriety, women were advised to avoid interaction with strangers, a job accomplished by making themselves xii Introduction Figure I.1. View north on Powell (on the left) and east on Market Street, c. 1910, showing the men, women, and children who made up the crowds on the sidewalks of Market Street. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. inconspicuous, dressing modestly, never walking rapidly or talking loudly, and quickly entering the more sanitized space of department stores.3 In this book I explore how women in varying class positions experienced this urban environment, negotiating the gaps between the urban landscape as it was built and as it was imagined to be, concentrating on the case of San Francisco. Focusing on women’s use of modern public spaces and how those spaces were built and managed in relation to women’s presence within them, I explore the complicated relationship between gender structures and the built environment.4 I concentrate on the everyday use of ordinary public spaces—streets, streetcars, shops, restaurants, and theaters—examining how women used them, which women used them, and how they were changed and expanded in response to women’s presence within them, while also considering the larger social and political consequences of women’s everyday occupation of these spaces. In doing so, I build on the work of a number of historians,including Christine Stansell,Mary Ryan,and Sarah Deutsch, who have explored the history of women in urban public spaces, illuminating the relationship between gendered ideology and experience...


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