restricted access One: Sidewalks and Streetcars
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WHEN WOMEN LIKE ANNIE HASKELL went out in public, whether shopping, going to the theater, visiting, or for any other purpose, they took to the streets in order to get to their destinations. Streets, streetcars, and ferries made up a web of transportation that connected domestic spaces to one another and to other landscapes . The streets and the public transportation that ran on them were thus the most commonly encountered and inhabited public spaces for women. They were also the spaces in which women were most publicly visible. Even in the highly domestic and feminine world of visiting, most women (those without personal carriages) walked on the streets or took streetcars and, in San Francisco, ferries to get from their parlors to their friends’ parlors. As expressed in Annie Haskell’s diary entry, the experience of the transportation landscape was often frustrating, particularly for nonelite women, challenging their control over their time and their appearance in public, because transferring between and waiting for streetcars made it necessary for women to loiter on the streets and sometimes to get soaked in the rain. Women’s use of public transportation increased in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for several reasons. As cities expanded and housing was 1 ONE SIDEWALKS AND STREETCARS Oh, I have no language to express myself about the cars. I waited in a pouring rain for a half hour for the Castro, and not one came. Then I took the Valencia, stood up and walked up the hill in the mud. Merry Xmas. —Annie Haskell, December 25, 1906 increasingly segregated in neighborhoods with only a small number of shops and businesses, women were more likely to have to travel in order to do errands and to frequent amusements. In this period women’s reasons for going out also increased. Shopping became a more central activity with the increase of ready-made goods and with the expansion of new forms of retailing, such as the department store. Commercial entertainments and restaurants became a larger part of the lives of all people, and particularly those of women. In addition, an ever-increasing number of women had to travel daily in order to go to work. In California, as in the rest of the United States, the number of women working increased steadily from the mid-nineteenth century into the early twentieth. In 1880, only 8 percent of women in California worked for money, while by 1910, 17 percent of California women worked.1 Not only did an increasing number of women work, but also the work they did was increasingly likely to take them away from their immediate neighborhoods. The largest growth in women’s jobs was in white-collar positions, particularly in clerical work but also in sales, the professions, and management. Service positions outside private households, such as waitressing and hotel work, also increased significantly.2 Both white-collar and commercial service workplaces tended to be located downtown, so women commuted in increasing numbers, alongside the men they worked for. However, the increasing presence of women on the streets and streetcars was often problematic, as it conflicted with powerful ideas about the masculinity of public spaces. In order to present themselves as respectable, middle-class women were required to maintain a bubble of privacy around them in public even as they joined the throngs on downtown streets and crowded streetcars. At times the built landscapes they encountered helped them with this social task, but more often it made the task more difficult. By examining the imagined, built, and experienced landscapes of transportation in San Francisco in this chapter, I explore how ideas about women on the streets and on public transportation, as well as in the other spaces they inhabited, changed from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth. I argue that for middle-class women, the experienced landscape was shaped by a number of improvised strategies they used to negotiate a built landscape in which their presence was imagined as unnatural. Etiquette books reveal how attitudes toward women on the streets and on streetcars and their behavior there changed from the highVictorian era to the early twentieth century. As John Kasson argues in Rudeness and Civility, etiquette books are a rich source for recovering “changes in cultural practices, conduct, and consciousness ” that attended urban transformations in the nineteenth century.3 Etiquette books are, of course, conservative; they reflect upper-middle-class ideals rather than the ideals of a wider range of classes...


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