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

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  22 reviews
What did young, independent women do for fun and how did they pay their way into New York City's turn-of-the-century pleasure places? Cheap Amusements is a fascinating discussion of young working women whose meager wages often fell short of bare subsistence and rarely allowed for entertainment expenses.

Kathy Peiss follows working women into saloons, dance halls, Coney Isl...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 6th 1987 by Temple University Press (first published January 1st 1985)
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Anne Sanow
Thorough and fascinating study, and the academese is less turgid than many a dissertation-cum-book. My suggested companion read is the autobiographical novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which depicts various working-class female characters attending theater and other vaudeville acts, etc.--in other words, it brings this study to life.
Rachel Jones
I don't wish I could work 14 hour days in a sweatshop, but I do wish I could go to Coney Island in the days of Luna Park.
So I was mostly reading this for the purposes of writing an essay on how working-class women in turn-of-the-century North America experienced their sexuality, and this book is positively brilliant for learning about that. It draws extensively on primary sources (as you would hope I guess, but I digress...) and paints a vivid picture about how individuals' experiences were shaped by their class, gender and ethnic backgrounds.

One aspect I found particularly interesting was the phenomenon of "treat...more
David Bates
Kathy Peiss’s 1986 work Cheap Amusements is a social history of working class women, mainly the young daughters of immigrants, in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. New jobs for young women in department stores, factories and offices, rather than in domestic service, drove tensions within working class families, especially immigrant families, and a shifting emphasis within the Women’s Movement. With a clearer distinction between work time and leisure time, and with some funds at thei...more
Vicki Ghilardi
Sep 05, 2013 Vicki Ghilardi rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: feminists, pop culture enthusiasts
Shelves: non-fiction
Studying work by Peiss is standard fare for courses that touch on cultural history, sexuality, gender, and American pop culture. She’s written landmark stuff that many historians continue to work off of. Which makes this 1985 work a scholarly classic.

Working-class women are the focus, particularly immigrant women or daughters of immigrants, living in NYC between 1880 and 1920. She takes on a highly diverse demographic to explore women’s changing relationship to work and to the home.

Marla McMackin
In Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-century New York City (1986), Katherine Peiss explores the social experiences of young working-class women between 1880 to 1920, looking for clues to the way they constructed and gave new meaning to their lives. She utilizes extensive archival sources on working-class life in New York, ranging from records of middle-class reformers who descended upon the city to oral testimonies of young white women who ventured into the developing sp...more
Jaime Rispoli-Roberts
At the end of the 19 century and the beginning of the 20th, new leisure activities emerged. As New York became more industrialized many girls of working class immigrant families had to find work outside of the home. Although women’s lives were often restrictive during this time, the new autonomy that developed as a result of becoming a wage earner, gave working class girls the chance to develop their own leisure culture. Businessmen were quick to pick up on this and many new activities were crea...more
A good, well-written book that illustrates an oft ignored topic- the leisure patterns of young women. Peiss details the processes of commercialization that led to the ideal of the "new woman" in the lives of young working class women in Manhattan. She accurately asserts, however, that leisure patterns varied greatly by class, nativity status, and educational level. Although they experienced greater integration with men than the generations before them, Peiss suggests that only until the 1970's w...more
The subtitle should not be read as if Working Women were the Cheap Amusements of Turn-of-the-Century New York. This book about how working women found amusements for what leisure time they had and how the purveyors of amusement changed to garner their business. Women were paid a lot less then men so they got men to spend money on them. They went to dances in clubs and then in public dance halls. Later with the reform movement some stayed in settlement houses. There was a difference between those...more
This was a great read and lots of history, nicely detailed.
Using the case studies of dance halls, amusement parks, and movie theaters, Peiss not only chronicles the leisure pursuits of white, working-class women in the period 1880-1920, but argues that the heterosocial desires of these subjects in fact shaped 20th century mass culture from the bottom up.
Interesting idea, but not enough analysis to really yield any valuable info. Peiss uses biased sources without discussing their shortcomings and sloppily uses ideas of class and gender.
A short, intensely readable look at the leisure time of working class women in turn of the century Manhattan. Highly recommended.
Rachel Pollock
Fascinating look at what working women did for fun in the early years of the 20th century. Probably going to be useful for my thesis.
Very informative on a topic not often discussed. A great attempt to be balanced and gives all sides of issues a voice.
Nicole G.
Documents how the new category of women workers spent their leisure time, and how it affected society at large.
Parts of it were fun and interesting but overall, despite the promising title, it was a little dry.
Probably one of the best works of popular history I've ever read. Kudos, Kathy Peiss.
loved it! Great perspective on what women were doing work and fun, and how society felt!
One of the best history books ever, particularly for the new "textualized" school.
Read the first 4.5 chapters. Great topic but dang was this dry.
This book is spellbinding. I found it at Goodwill.
Shane Hallam
Not my taste, but well researched and written.
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