My book manuscript in progress explores how female educators, social reformers, and trade unionists shaped the development of vocational programs for girls in progressive-era Chicago. Based on my dissertation, “Useful for Life: Women, Girls, and Vocational School Reform in Chicago, 1880-1930,” this project argues that female reformers created new vocational schools, courses, and guidance programs in progressive-era Chicago in their attempts to protect future working girls from dangerous labor conditions and ultimately prepare them for motherhood. I suggest that women’s competing views on “vocational” education for girls in this period reveal where branches of the women’s reform movement splintered on the issues of women, work, and family life. Drawing on oral histories, letters, and yearbooks, this project also highlights the experiences of female students who negotiated new vocational programs designed to prepare them for work in and outside the home in early-twentieth century Chicago.
My research on women, girls, and vocational school reform has been supported by the Illinois State Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and Loyola University Chicago.