Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Nan EnstadLadies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Nan Enstad

Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn…

byNan Enstad

Paperback | August 12, 1999

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At the beginning of the twentieth century, labor leaders in women's unions routinely chastised their members for their ceaseless pursuit of fashion, avid reading of dime novels, and "affected" ways, including aristocratic airs and accents. Indeed, working women in America were eagerly participating in the burgeoning consumer culture available to them. While the leading activists, organizers, and radicals feared that consumerist tendencies made working women seem frivolous and dissuaded them from political action, these women, in fact, went on strike in very large numbers during the period, proving themselves to be politically active, astute, and effective.

In Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure, historian Nan Enstad explores the complex relationship between consumer culture and political activism for late nineteenth- and twentieth-century working women. While consumerism did not make women into radicals, it helped shape their culture and their identities as both workers and political actors.

Examining material ranging from early dime novels about ordinary women who inherit wealth or marry millionaires, to inexpensive, ready-to-wear clothing that allowed them to both deny and resist mistreatment in the workplace, Enstad analyzes how working women wove popular narratives and fashions into their developing sense of themselves as "ladies." She then provides a detailed examination of how this notion of "ladyhood" affected the great New York shirtwaist strike of 1909-1910. From the women's grievances, to the walkout of over 20,000 workers, to their style of picketing, Enstad shows how consumer culture was a central theme in this key event of labor strife. Finally, Enstad turns to the motion picture genre of female adventure serials, popular after 1912, which imbued "ladyhood" with heroines' strength, independence, and daring.

Nan Enstad is assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Title:Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn…Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.75 × 1 × 0.68 inPublished:August 12, 1999Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231111037

ISBN - 13:9780231111034


Table of Contents

1. Cheap Dresses and Dime Novels: The First Commodities for Working Women2. Ladies of Labor: Fashion, Fiction, and Working Womens Culture3. Fashioning Political Subjectivities: The 1909 Shirtwaist Strike and the Rational Girl Striker4. Ladies and Orphans: Women Invent Themselves as Strikers in 19095. Movie-Struck Girls: Motion Pictures and Consumer Subjectivities

From Our Editors

The Industrial Revolution was a pivotal era and by the early 1900s, women made up a portion of the American workforce. But as they struggled to gain fair treatment in the workplace, they also experienced dissent among their ranks. Many leaders of women’s unions spurned such materialistic commodities as pulp fiction and the latest fashion frenzies believing that they distracted ladies from the nobler pursuits. Nan Enstad takes a gander at the interrelationship between politics, pop culture and early women’s issues in Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure.

Editorial Reviews

Enstad's imaginative reading of the goods consumed by working-class women in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century offers a fresh and illuminating perspective on and advances our understanding of the lived experience of work and leisure in the Gilded Age and Progressive era. A wonderful book, full of fresh insight and thoughtful revisions of important historiographical debates. Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure is deeply and widely informed, engaging fully with social and cultural history and making sophisticated critical use of cultural studies.