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

By Kathy Peiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
THE CONEY ISLAND EXCURSION

If dancing was working women's winter passion, then excursions were the height of the summer season. A network of picnic grounds, beach resorts, and amusement parks ringed Manhattan, attracting thousands of young women like Agnes M., a twenty-year-old German immigrant who had worked as a milliner, dressmaker, and domestic servant. "I have a great many friends in New York and I enjoy my outings with them," she observed in 1903. "We go to South Beach or North Beach or Glen Island or Rockaway or Coney Island. If we go on a boat we dance all the way there and all the way back, and we dance nearly all the time we are there." Her favorite resort, though, was Coney Island, "a wonderful and beautiful place." The special appeal of Coney's amusement resorts to working women is suggested in Agnes' description of an outing with a German friend, newly arrived in New York. "When we had been on the razzle- dazzle, the chute and the loop-the-loop, and down in the coal mine and all over the Bowery, and up in the tower and everywhere else, I asked her how she liked it. She said: 'Ach, it is just like what I see when I dream of heaven.'" 1 Coney took young women out of the daily round of tenement life and work, but at the same time, it allowed them to extend their culture to the resort, whose beaches, boardwalk, and dancing pavilions were arenas for diversion, flirtations, and displays of style.

Agnes did note that her passion for Coney Island was not shared by those of higher social standing, who questioned the resort's re-

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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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