My book manuscript, Domestic Vocations: Educating Girls for Work in Urban America, explores how women social reformers created new vocational schools, coursework, and guidance programs specifically for female students between 1880 and 1930. 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. Domestic Vocations demonstrates how women’s well-meaning reform efforts cemented inequalities of gender, class, and race in Chicago public schools by 1930. 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.
I’ve published my research on women, girls, and vocational school reform in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and presented at meetings of the American Historical Association, Urban History Association, and History of Education Society. This research was supported by the Illinois State Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and Loyola University Chicago.