Cover image for Cheap amusements : working women and leisure in turn-of-the-century New York
Cheap amusements : working women and leisure in turn-of-the-century New York
Peiss, Kathy Lee.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1986.
Physical Description:
xi, 244 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1580 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F124 .P38 1986 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F124 .P38 1986 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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 Island amusement parks, social clubs, and nickelodeons to explore the culture of these young women between 1880 and 1920 as expressed in leisure activities. By examining the rituals and styles they adopted and placing that culture in the larger context of urban working-class life, she offers us a complex picture of the dynamics shaping a working woman's experience and consciousness at the turn-of-the-century. Not only does her analysis lead us to new insights into working-class culture, changing social relations between single men and women, and urban courtship, but it also gives us a fuller understanding of the cultural transformations that gave rise to the commercialization of leisure.
The early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of heterosocial companionship as a dominant ideology of gender, affirming mixed-sex patterns of social interaction, in contrast to the nineteenth century's segregated spheres. "Cheap Amusements "argues that a crucial part of the reorientation of American culture originated from below, specifically in the subculture of working women to be found in urban dance halls and amusement resorts.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In recent years, historians have focused their attention on the life of ordinary people; in so doing, they have changed scholarly understanding of the past. Peiss's book adds two important ingredients to this new concern: the lives of working women (particularly immigrant daughters) and leisure, a topic just recently looked at by historians. Peiss studies the dancing craze, the rise of the nickelodeon, and the interest in amusement parks-all commercialized entertainments, and contrasts them with the street corner, the family picnics, and the lodge dances-home-grown working-class cultural expressions. She notes how each affected and interacted with the other. Cheap Amusements relies upon the firsthand testimony and observations of participants and raises many provocative issues. Recommended for college and public libraries.-J. Sochen, Northeastern Illinois University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 3
Chapter 1 The Homosocial World of Working-Class Amusementsp. 11
Chapter 2 Leisure and Laborp. 34
Chapter 3 Putting on Stylep. 56
Chapter 4 Dance Madnessp. 88
Chapter 5 The Coney Island Excursionp. 115
Chapter 6 Cheap Theater and the Nickel Dumpsp. 139
Chapter 7 Reforming Working Women's Recreationp. 163
Conclusionp. 185
Notesp. 189
Indexp. 237