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Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America
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Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  41 ratings  ·  11 reviews
From nineteenth-century public baths to today's private backyard havens, swimming pools have long been a provocative symbol of American life. In this social and cultural history of swimming pools in the United States, Jeff Wiltse relates how, over the years, pools have served as asylums for the urban poor, leisure resorts for the masses, and private clubs for middle-class ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published April 23rd 2007 by University of North Carolina Press
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Simone

I just found this in the library and thought it sounded interesting, it was. The main takeaway point is that in the early days of swimming pools (1880ish) pools were segregated by gender and class and no one cared about race. But when pools started becoming less segregated by gender (mostly in the interwar period) the pools were then segregated by race. When (after much fighting) the pools were integrated, whites normally just stopped showing up to public pools, and retreated to private club poo
...more
Steve
Sep 16, 2010 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historians
Recommended to Steve by: NYTBR
While this may sound like a "fun" subject, Wiltse treats it very seriously. This is a work of historical scholarship, heavily annotated. His research to find the information that this book is based upon is very impressive.

This is a cultural history of swimming pools. First called "bathing pools" since they were pretty much used for bathing the poor, who did not have indoor plumbing. He then shows how the use of pools was split by gender/class/generation/race through the years. Pools were inter-
...more
Adam
Feb 19, 2008 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pool aficionadoes, social historians
I'd been debating to check this book out of the library, and while attending a recent re-opening of the Western Addition public library branch in San Francisco, I finally bothered to do just that. Of the 15 books I've finished so far this year, this one is my favorite. Wiltse shows what swimming pools illuminate about race/gender/class relations in the U.S., following how they began as racially-integrated but gender-segregated spaces to encourage hygiene and middle-class values amongst the lower ...more
Reggie Franklin
A well written yet sad history

It provides much insight into the history of pools, but this is a sad history that shows just how little progress has been made as a society.
Hannah
I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I gave it a good rating because it is very interesting, if overly academic. It's one of those books that reads like a college paper: each chapter begins with a concise summary of what will follow, broken down into thesis statements, followed by evidence, and conclusions. So essentially, you can get away with reading just the first and last paragraphs of each section, which is what I ended up doing when I couldn't stand the repetition in between. St ...more
Courtney Shah
Made so much sense. The discussion of race, class, generation, and sex was perfect.
Elise
Very impressive research of the history of the swimming pool in the US. It really expanded my views of how pivotal the swimming pool was in relation to gender and race relations, class division, immigration and urban (and later suburban) life from the late 1880's until present.
Kevin Fodness
A really excellent history of public swimming pools in the United States, and the overall degradation of public space. Describes the decline in the context of Putnam's concept of declining social capital.
Traci
So far this book has been very repetitive. It feels like someone was going for page count instead of fluidity of content. Hard to finish but will get through it one of these days.
Michelle Ireland
Very interesting topic. The author's style of writing is very academic so it makes for a slow read at some points. I enjoyed the book and appreciated the detail and the flow of the story.
Jana
An interesting look at swimming pools and how they have marked the racial climate of America.
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“Black Americans challenged segregation by repeatedly seeking admission to whites-only pools and by filing lawsuits against their cities. Eventually, these social and legal protests desegregated municipal pools throughout the North, but desegregation rarely led to meaningful interracial swimming. When black Americans gained equal access to municipal pools, white swimmers generally abandoned them for private pools. Desegregation was a primary cause of the proliferation of private swimming pools that occurred after the mid-1950s. By the 1970s and 1980s, tens of millions of mostly white middle-class Americans swam in their backyards or at suburban club pools, while mostly African and Latino Americans swam at inner-city municipal pools. America’s history of socially segregated swimming pools” 0 likes
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