Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York

By Kathy Peiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
PUTTING ON STYLE

In the twentieth century, youth is regarded as a distinctive stage of life, a time of self-expression and experimentation before the experience of marriage, children, and work. Clearly applicable to middle- class teen-agers, who can nurture a separate culture in high schools and colleges, 1 this notion of youth may not seem relevant to the working-class adolescents of 1900, who felt the pinch of financial responsibility at an early age and subordinated individual desires to the family's survival. Nevertheless, working-class youth spent much of their leisure apart from their families and enjoyed greater social freedom than their parents or married siblings, especially married women. Despite maternal efforts to make the home a place of recreation, they fled the tenements for the streets, dance halls, and theaters, generally bypassing their fathers' saloons and lodges. Adolescents formed social clubs, organized entertainments, and patronized new commercial amusements, shaping, in effect, a working- class youth culture expressed through leisure activity.

Young working-class men had a long history of creating organizations for their own sociability. Militias and volunteer fire companies, for example, provided a structure for the bachelor subcultures of the mid-nineteenth century. By the 1890's, gangs and social clubs had taken over this function. Certain forms of commercial recreation in the nineteenth century, such as pool halls, billiard parlors, and dime museums, were also identified with unmarried men, particularly the lodging-house population. The pattern of age segregation among

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Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter One - the Homosocial World of Working-Class Amusements 11
  • Chapter Two - Leisure and Labor 34
  • Chapter Three - Putting on Style 56
  • Chapter Four - Dance Madness 88
  • Chapter Five - the Coney Island Excursion 115
  • Chapter Seven - Reforming Working Women's Recreation 163
  • Conclusion 185
  • Notes 189
  • Index 237
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