Research and Scholarship

My book manuscript, Home Work: Gender, Child Labor, and Education for Girls in Urban America, 1870-1930, explores how women social reformers embraced public school reform to regulate when and where girls labored in industrial cities. Using Chicago as a case study, I argue that women’s groups created new public school programs and regulatory bodies to address their social anxieties about girls, wage-earning, and domesticity in urban America.

Headline from the Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1912

Home Work demonstrates how women’s desire to protect girls from industrial capitalism increased the policing power of public school officials and gendered educational opportunities for male and female students. Middle-class white reformers argued that new girls-only programs like dressmaking could protect future female workers from dangerous labor conditions and cooking classes would foster healthier children in the tenement districts. Other women promoted school reform as vice prevention, arguing that greater educational resources for girls would curb sexual delinquency in the city. Together, women social reformers lobbied for girls-only vocational schools and shaped federal education policy by World War I.

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.