My book manuscript, Home Work: Gender, Labor, and Education for Girls in Urban America, 1870-1920, explores how women social reformers created new vocational schools, coursework, and guidance programs specifically for female students between 1870 and 1920. Using Chicago as a case study, I argue that women embraced public school reform to address their social anxieties about girls, wage-earning, and domesticity in urban America. White middle-class reformers in particular hoped that new programs like dressmaking and cooking could protect girls from dangerous labor conditions, curb sexual delinquency in the city, and prepare students for efficient homemaking. Home Work demonstrates how women’s well-meaning reform efforts cemented inequalities of gender, class, and race in Chicago public schools and shaped federal education policy by World War I. This project also draws on oral histories, letters, and yearbooks to uncover how female students experienced new school programs designed to prepare them for work (both in and outside the home) in progressive-era Chicago.
My research on gender, labor, and school reform has been published in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and A Girl Can Do: Recognizing and Representing Girlhood (ed. Tiffany R. Isselhardt). This research was supported by the Illinois State Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the History Department at Texas State University.