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Current R., Williams T. H., Freidel F., Brinkley A. American History: a survey. 7th edition; New York, 1987.


 

Chapter 18. The Age of the City

The progress of industrialization and the rapid expansion of commerce changed the face of American society in countless ways. Nowhere, however, were the effects of these changes more visible than in the cities. It was there that most of the factories and corporate offices were located, there that the new economic system had its seat. And it was from the city that there emerged a new set of social and cultural values that would ultimately extend to most areas of the country. The United States was becoming an urban nation.

The change did not come easily. The rapid growth of the urban population placed an enormous strain on the capacities of most metropolitan communities. Roads, sewers, transportation facilities, housing, social servicesall proved inadequate to the new demands being placed on them. Urban political systems fell victim to corruption and ineptitude. And American sensibilities often rebelled at the new and intimidating pace of urban life. Indeed, the crisis of the cities seemed to many Americans a symbol of all the many problems confronting a society in the throes of rapid and destabilizing change. Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley wrote: "Our cities, especially, are full of the disintegrated material of the old order looking for a place in the new."

Yet for all the problems, the city continued its rise to dominance in American societyin part because of economic developments over which individuals seemed to have little control, in part because the diversity and excitement of urban life proved alluring to increasing numbers of Americans. Traditional rural values changed slowly in response to the influence of the urban environment, but change they did. By the end of the nineteenth century, the city had clearly emerged as the central focus of American economic, social, and cultural life.

The New Urban Growth

The great folk movement from the countryside to the city was occurring simultaneously throughout much of the Western world, as industrialization and the factory system changed the face of Europe as well as the United States. From countries or regions that were industrializing slowly or not at all, people moved to other countries or other regions that were industrializing rapidly. Rural people from both America and Europe, therefore, made their way to the business and industrial centers of the United States in search of opportunity.

The City's Lure

"We cannot all live in cities, yet nearly all seem determined to do so," Horace Greeley wrote soon after the Civil War. " 'Hot and cold water,' baker's bread, gas, the theatre, and the streetcars . . . indicate the tendency of modern taste." The city attracted people because of the many conveniences it offered years before such things reached the village or the farm. It drew people because of its institutions of entertainment and cultureits theaters and amusements, its libraries and museums, its superior schools and colleges. It attracted people, above all, because it offered more opportunities for employment and higher wages than the countryside afforded. The lure of the city persisted despite the disappointments and hardships it presented to those who moved there.

In the half-century from 1860 to 1910, the rural population of the United States almost doubled, but the urban population increased sevenfold. In 1860, approximately one-sixth of the American people had lived in towns of 8,000 or larger; by 1900, one-third of the people lived in such places. The number of cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants was 16 in 1860 and 109 in 1910. And in 1920, the census revealed that for the first time, a majority of the American people lived in "urban" areasdefined as communities of 2,500 people or more. The combined population of New York City and Brooklyn (until 1898 a separate municipality) grew from 1.2 million in 1860 to more than 3 million in 1900. Even more spectacular was the growth of Chicago, which had 100,000 inhabitants in 1860 and more than a million at the end of the century. Towns and cities were getting bigger and more numerous in all sections of the country.

Natural increase accounted for only a small part of the urban growth. Urban families experienced a high rate of infant mortality, a declining fertility rate, and a high death rate from disease. Without immigration, cities would have grown relatively slowly.

Domestic migration accounted for a substantial portion of city growth, as Americans left declining agricultural regions and moved to more urban areas, where economic opportunities were presumed to be better. During the 1880s, the number of inhabitants was decreasing in two-fifths of Pennsylvania's total area, three-fifths of Connecticut's, more than half of Ohio's and Illinois's, and five-sixths of New York's. The decrease occurred almost entirely in farm areas, while increases were occurring simultaneously in the cities of the region. People did not always move directly from the farm to the city. Many tended to move first to a nearby village, then to a local town, and only then to the city itself. Ultimately, however, most migrants from the countryside found their way to the cities.

The 1880s saw as well the beginnings of a population change that would, in the early twentieth century, become one of the most important migrations in American history: the movement of blacks from the rural South to industrial cities. The poverty and oppression of the late-nineteenth-century South accounted for the movement more than did opportunities in the industrial North, for blacks arriving in the cities found relatively few prospects open to them. Factory jobs for blacks were rare and professional opportunities almost nonexistent. Instead, urban blacks tended to work as cooks, janitors, and domestic servants, and in other service occupations. Since many such jobs were considered women's work, black women often outnumbered black men in the cities. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were substantial black communities in over a dozen citiesmany of them in the South but some (Washington, Baltimore, Chicago) in the border states or the North. The movement of blacks out of the South remained limited, however, until what became known as the "Great Migration" began in 1915.

The Ethnic City

The most important source of urban population growth in the late nineteenth century was the arrival of great numbers of new immigrants from Europe and elsewhere. This immigration had done much to transform the nature of the industrial work force. It helped to transform the character of the nation's cities as well. The immigration had a profound effect, first, on the sheer size of the urban population. But it changed the social fabric of the city, too, in countless waysparticularly after 1880, when the flow of new arrivals began to include large numbers of people from southern and eastern Europe. By the 1890s, more than half of all immigrants came from these new regions, as opposed to fewer than 2 percent in the 1860s.

In earlier stages of immigration, the majority of the new arrivals had headed west. Most Germans, for example, had moved to the farming regions of the Midwest. Those who had chosen urban life had generally settled not on the East coast but in such Midwestern cities as St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee. Nearly all the Scandinavians had moved to farms in the Middle West or on the Great Plains. Immigrants who had settled in cities were often relatively well-educated and upwardly mobile people: businessmen, professionals, and skilled workersalthough significant minorities of many immigrant groups became unskilled urban workers. The Irish had presented a marked exception to the general pattern. Even before the Civil War, they had tended to congregate in Eastern cities as unskilled workers, although by the late nineteenth century many had begun to achieve new and enhanced social and economic levels.

The new immigrants of the late nineteenth century, in contrast, settled almost without exception in industrial cities, where they occupied largely unskilled jobs. They lacked the capital to buy land and begin farming in the West. They needed immediate employment, and only the citywith its factories, stockyards, railroads, and other industriescould provide it. The city had another appeal for them as well. As strangers in an alien land, they could find refuge in the city by living in communities with their fellow nationals.

The result was a radical transformation of life in the nation's large cities. By 1890, the majority of the population of the major urban areas consisted of immigrants: 87 percent in Chicago, 80 percent in New York, 84 percent in Milwaukee and Detroit. (London, the largest industrial city in Europe, had by contrast a population that was 94 percent native.) Equally striking was the diversity of the new immigrant populations. In other countries experiencing heavy immigration in this period, most of the new arrivals were coming from one or two sources. Argentina, for example, was experiencing a great influx of Europeans in this era, but almost all of them were coming from Italy or Spain. In the United States, no single national group dominated the new immigrant population. In the last half of the nineteenth century, 18 percent of the new arrivals came from Italy, 13 percent from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (itself a potpourri of different nationalities), 16 percent from Germany, 10 percent from Russia, 10 percent from Poland, 6 percent from Scandinavia, and 30 percent from Great Britain and Ireland. Other, smaller groups arrived from Greece, Canada, Japan, China, Holland, Mexico, and other nations. In some towns, a dozen different ethnic groups might find themselves living in close proximity to one another. No country had ever gathered its population from so wide a range of sources in so short a period of time.

Most of the new European immigrants were people from rural backgrounds, and the adjustment to city life was often a painful one. To help ease the transition, therefore, national groups usually formed close-knit ethnic communities within the cities: Italian, Polish, Jewish, Slavic, and other neighborhoods (often known as "immigrant ghettoes") that attempted to re-create in the New World many of the features of the Old. It was impossible, of course, to reproduce in the modern city the social fabric of the farm villages from which many immigrants came the seasonal work patterns, the intimate communal ties passed on from generation to generation, the strength of family life based on common economic activities. But the ethnic neighborhoods did provide immigrants with a sense of belonging to a coherent community. The newcomers could find newspapers and theaters in their native languages, stores selling their native foods, church and fraternal organizations that provided links with their national pasts. And they could move through large areas of the city surrounded by their fellow nationals, an experience that helped cushion them against the loneliness of being in a new land. The immigrants also maintained close ties with their native countries. They kept in contact with relatives who had remained behind. Some (perhaps as many as a third in the early years) returned to Europe after a relatively short time; others attempted to help bring the rest of their families to America.

The cultural cohesiveness of the ethnic communities clearly eased the pain of separation from the immigrants' native lands. Whether it helped immigrants to become absorbed into the economic life of America is a more difficult question to answer. It is clear that some ethnic groups (Jews and Germans in particular) advanced economically more rapidly than others (for example, the Irish). Why that was so is a matter of considerable controversy. But one explanation is that by huddling together in ethnic neighborhoods, immigrant groups tended to reinforce the cultural values of their previous societies. When those values were particularly well suited to American life as was, for example, the high value that Jews placed on educationthen this ethnic identification helped members of a group to advance. When other values predominatedmaintenance of community solidarity, strengthening of family ties, preservation of orderprogress was often less rapid.

Assimilation and Exclusion

In virtually all immigrant communities, the strength of ethnic ties had to compete against another powerful force: the desire for assimilation. Most of the new arrivals had come to America with romantic visions of the New World. And however disillusioning they might find their first contact with the United States, they usually retained the dream of becoming true "Americans." Even many first-generation immigrants worked hard to rid themselves of all vestiges of their old cultures, to become thoroughly Americanized. Second-generation immigrants were even more likely to attempt to break with the old ways, to assimilate themselves completely into what they believed was a genuinely American culture. Some even looked with contempt on parents and grandparents who continued to value traditional ethnic habits and values. The tension between the desire to become assimilated and the strength of ethnic ties was one that countless immigrants and their children wrestled with for years.

The arrival of these vast numbers of new immigrants, and the conspicuousness with which many of them clung to old ways and created culturally distinctive communities, provoked fear and resentment among many native Americans in much the same way earlier arrivals had done. Some people reacted against the immigrants out of generalized fears and prejudices, seeing in their "foreignness" the source of all the disorder and corruption of the urban world. "These people," a Chicago newspaper wrote shortly after the Haymarket bombing of 1886, "are not American, but the very scum and offal of Europe, . . . Europe's human and inhuman rubbish." Others had economic concerns. Native laborers, fighting to raise their incomes and improve their working conditions, were often incensed by the willingness of the immigrants to accept lower wages and to take over the jobs of strikers.

The rising nativism provoked a series of political responses. Henry Bowers, a self-educated lawyer obsessed with a hatred of Catholics and foreigners, founded in 1887 the American Protective Association, committed to stopping the immigrant tide. By 1894, membership in the organization reportedly reached 500,000, with chapters throughout the Northeast and Midwest. That same year, a more genteel organizationthe Immigration Restriction Leaguewas founded in Boston by five Harvard alumni. It was dedicated to the belief that immigrants should be screened, through literacy tests and other standards designed to separate the desirable from the undesirable. The League avoided the crude theories of conspiracy and the rabid xenophobia of the American Protective Association; its more sophisticated nativism was ultimately far more effective in winning public support for restriction.

Even before the rise of these new organizations, politicians were struggling to find some answer to the immigration question. Congress acted in 1882 to exclude the Chinese, who had been arriving in large numbers on the West Coast and who, among other things, made up a significant portion of the work force building the Western railroads. In the same year, Congress passed a general immigration law, which denied entry to certain undesirablesconvicts, paupers, idiotsand placed a tax of 50 cents on every person admitted. Legislation of the 1890s enlarged the proscriptive list and increased the tax. These measures reflected a rising fear that continuing unlimited immigration would exhaust the resources of the nation and endanger its social institutions. But the laws kept out only a small number of aliens and fell far short of fulfilling the hopes of either the American Protective Association or the Immigration Restriction League. Congress passed a literacy law in 1897, but President Grover Cleveland vetoed it. Powerful business interests, the employers of cheap labor, continued to oppose restrictions.

The Urban Landscape

The city was a place of remarkable contrasts. It had homes of almost unimaginable size and grandeur, and hovels of indescribable squalor. It had conveniences unknown to earlier generations and problems that seemed beyond the capacity of society to solve. Both the attractions and the problems were a result of one central fact: the stunning pace with which cities were growing. The demands of (and the potential for profit from) the urban population helped to spur important new technological and industrial developments. But the rapid expansion also produced misgovernment, poverty, overcrowding, traffic jams, filth, epidemics, and great fires. The pace of growth was simply too fast for planning and building to keep pace. "The problem in America," one municipal reformer said, 4'has been to make a great city in a few years out of nothing."

One of the greatest problems of this precipitous growth was that of finding housing for the thousands of new urban residents who were pouring into the cities every day. For the wealthy, housing was seldom a worry. The availability of cheap labor, and the increasing accessibility of tools and materials, reduced the cost of building in the late nineteenth century and permitted anyone with even a moderate income to afford a house. The richest urban residents often lived in palatial mansions in the heart of the city. Others of the rich, and many of the moderately well-to-do, took advantage of the less expensive land on the edges of the city and settled in new suburbs. Chicago, for example, boasted in the 1870s of having nearly one hundred residential suburbs connected with the city by railroad and offering the joys of "pure air, peace-fulness, quietude, and natural scenery." Boston, too, saw the development of some of the earliest "streetcar suburbs"Dorchester, Brookline, and others which catered to both the wealthy and the middle class. New Yorkers of moderate means settled in the new suburb of Harlem, on the northern fringes of Manhattan, and commuted downtown by trolley or river boat.

The majority of urban residents, however, could not afford to move to the suburbs or own their own housing. Instead, they stayed in the city centers and rented. And because demand was so high and space so scarce, they had little power with which to exact high standards. Landowners, to maximize their rental incomes, tried to squeeze as many residents as possible into the smallest available space. In Manhattan, for example, the average population density in 1894 was 143 people per acrea rate higher than that of some of the most crowded cities of Europe (Paris had 127 per acre, Berlin 101) and far higher than any other American city. More than a million poor New Yorkers were jammed into "tenements"a term that had originally referred simply to multiple-family rental buildings, but that had by the late nineteenth century come to be applied to slum dwellings only. The tenement, which first appeared in 1850, had been hailed as a great improvement in housing for the poor.

"It is built with the design of supplying the laboring people with cheap lodgings," a local newspaper commented, "and will have many advantages over the cellars and other miserable abodes which too many are forced to inhabit." But tenements themselves became miserable abodes. The typical structure was three to five stories high, with many windowless rooms, little or no plumbing or central heating, and perhaps a row of privies in the basement. A New York state law of 1879 required a window in every bedroom of tenements built thereafter, but developers generally complied by providing openings onto dank and sunless airshafts.

Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant and New York newspaper reporter, shocked many middle-class Americans with his sensational (and some would say sensationalized) descriptions of tenement life in his 1890 book How the Other Half Lives. Slum dwellings, he said, were almost universally sunless, practically airless, and "poisoned" by "summer stenches." "The hall is dark and you might stumble over the children pitching pennies back there."

Urban growth posed monumental challenges to the transportation systems of the nation's cities. Old downtown streets were often too narrow for the heavy traffic that was beginning to move over them. Some were paved with cobblestones, but most lacked a hard surface and were a sea of either mud or dust-depending on the weather. In the last decades of the century, more and more streets were paved, usually with wooden blocks, bricks, or asphalt; but paving could not keep up with the laying out of new thoroughfares. By 1890, Chicago had surfaced only about 600 of its more than 2,000 miles of streets.

It was not simply the conditions of the streets, however, that impeded urban transportation. It was the numbers of people who needed to move every day from one part of the city to anotherback and forth between their homes and their workplaces, churches, stores, and schools. Private vehicles could not answer the need; the solution lay in the development of mass transportation. Streetcars drawn on tracks by horses had been introduced into some cities even before the Civil War. New York had sixteen lines by 1866, using 800 cars and nearly 8,000 horses. But the horsecars, while faster than the omnibuses and other smaller vehicles that had served as public transportation in the past, were still not fast enough. As a result, cities embarked on new efforts to improve their mass transit. New York in 1870 opened its first elevated railway, whose steam-powered trains moved rapidly above the city streets on massive iron structures; but the trains inflicted noise, filth, and often dangerously hot embers on the pedestrians below. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities experimented with cable cars, towed by continuously moving underground cables. Richmond, Virginia, introduced the first electric trolley line in 1888, and by 1895 such systems were operating in 850 towns and cities, with a total of 10,000 miles of track. Boston in 1897 opened the first American subway when it put a mile and a half of its trolley lines underground.

Cities were growing upward as well as outward a result of the convergence of technological discoveries and the need for new space in the increasingly crowded downtown areas. The first modern "skyscraper," constructed in Chicago in 1884by later standards a relatively modest ten stories highinaugurated a new era in urban architecture. Once builders perfected the technique of constructing tall buildings with cast-iron and then steel beams, and once inventors produced the electric elevator to make possible quick and safe vertical movement, no obstacle remained to even higher buildings. The greatest figure in the early development of the skyscraper was the Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, who introduced many of the modern, functional elements to the genrelarge windows, sheer lines, limited ornamentationin an attempt to emphasize the soaring height of the building as its most distinctive feature. Sullivan's studentsamong them Frank Lloyd Wrightexpanded the influence of these innovations still further and applied them to low buildings as well as tall ones.

Strains of Urban Life

The increasing congestion of the city, and the slow development of new services to cope with that congestion, produced a number of serious health and safety hazards. One was fires. In one major city after another, major conflagrations in the late nineteenth century swept through downtowns, destroying blocks of buildings (many of them still constructed of wood) and forcing the almost total reconstruction of large areas. Chicago suffered its "great fire" in 1871, and Boston a disastrous fire the same year. Other cities experienced similar disastersBaltimore, for example, and San Francisco, where a tremendous earthquake produced a catastrophic fire in 1906. The great fires were terrible experiences for those who lived through (or died in) them. But they were also important events in the development of the cities involved. Not only did they induce new strategies to prevent or limit future firesthe construction of fireproof buildings, the development of professional fire departments, and more; they also forced cities to rebuild at a time when new technological and architectural innovations were available. Many of the modern, high-rise downtowns of American cities arose out of the rubble of great fires.

An even greater hazard than fire was disease, especially in poor neighborhoods with inadequate sanitation facilities. But while slums suffered the worst from disease, the entire city was vulnerable. An epidemic that began in a poor neighborhood could (and often did) spread easily into other neighborhoods as well. Even though the germ theory of disease was known to public health experts, few municipal officials recognized the relationship of sewage disposal and water contamination to such epidemic diseases as typhoid fever and cholera. As late as the turn of the century, most city dwellers relied on private vaults and cesspools for the disposal of human wastes. Flush toilets and public sewer systems began to appear in the 1870s; but for many years they failed to solve the problemlargely because such systems emptied their sewage into open ditches within the city limits or into streams nearby, often polluting the city's own water supply in the process.

Urbanization brought more than new conveniences and new insecurities. It also brought a new concept of time and organization. "The complex interrelationship of life in the modern city called for unprecedented precision," wrote Oscar Handlin. "The dictatorship of the clock and the schedule became absolute." Thus the modern city forced the rural people who were increasingly flowing into it to shift their notions of timewhich traditionally had been a matter of human whim and of such natural phenomena as the rising and setting of the sunto reflect the importance of precise scheduling.

Rural Americans and Europeans alike reacted to the city, therefore, with marked ambivalence. It was a place of strong allure and great excitement. Yet it was also a place of alienating impersonality, of a new feeling of anonymity, of a different kind of work, with which the individual could feel only limited identification. To many, moreover, it was a place of poverty and sin. Theodore Dreiser's 1900 novel Sister Carrie exposed one troubling aspect of urban life: the plight of single women (such as Dreiser's heroine, Carrie) who moved from the countryside into the city and found themselves without any means of support. Carrie first took an exhausting and ill-paying

job in a Chicago shoe factory, then drifted into a "life of sin," exploited by predatory men. The novel was so shocking to contemporary sensibilities that Dreiser's publisher attempted to suppress it for a time. But many women were experiencing in reality the dilemmas Carrie experienced in fiction. Living in conditions of extreme poverty and hardship, some drifted into prostitution.

The apparent sinfulness of the citywith its prostitutes, its foreigners with their strange customs, its saloons, its dance hallsappalled many long-time city dwellers and many recent migrants as well. Yet however ambivalent Americans may have felt about the city, urban influence grew steadily in the late nineteenth century. Not only those who lived in the city but many who remained outside it found themselves affected by urban customs and values. More and more, the city was setting the pattern for American character and culture.

The Machine and the Boss

New arrivals to the cities, and foreign immigrants in particular, faced severe obstacles. Many could not speak English. Few knew how to deal with the laws and customs of the new land. Large numbers found themselves indigent for long periods after their arrival before they could find work. There was, in short, an enormous demand for institutions to help immigrants adjust to American urban life.

Private charitable societies answered part of this need. But generally these organizations were run by middle-class humanitarians who insisted on middle-class standards of morality and had little understanding or appreciation of immigrant cultures. Many such societies operated on the assumption that poverty was more commonly a result of laziness and vice than of misfortune, and they confined their help to what they called the "deserving poor"those who truly could not help themselves (at least according to the standards of the organizations themselves, which conducted elaborate "investigations" to separate the "deserving" from the "undeserving"). Other charitable societiesfor example, the Salvation Army, which began operating in America in 1879, one year after it was founded in Londonconcentrated more on religious revivalism than on the relief of the homeless and hungry. Tensions often arose between native Protestant philanthropists and Catholic immigrants over religious doctrine and standards of morality.

The limitations of these private charitable organizations forced many immigrants to look elsewhere for assistance. They could not look to the government. It would be many years before government at any levellocal, state, or federalwould assume any substantial responsibility for welfare work. Instead, the main welfare agency was often the urban machineone of America's most distinctive political institutions. The machine owed its existence to the potential voting power of the large immigrant communities. Any politician who could mobilize that power stood to gain enormous influence. And so there emerged a group of urban "bosses"most themselves of foreign birth or parentage, many of them Irish (who had the advantage of English as a native language). The major function of the boss was to win votes for his organization. And to do so, he engaged in a wide array of activities. To win the loyalty of his constituents, a boss might provide them with occasional reliefa basket of groceries or a bag of coal. He might step in to save from jail those arrested for petty crimes. When he could, he found work for the unemployed. Above all, he rewarded many of his followers with political jobs and with opportunities to rise in the political organization.

Yet machines were not simply mechanisms for maintaining political power. They were also vehicles for making money. Machine politicians enriched themselves and their allies through various forms of graft and corruption. Some of it might be fairly openwhat the outspoken New York politician George Washington Plunkitt called "honest graft." For example, a politician might discover in advance where a new road or streetcar line was to be built, buy an interest in the land near it, and profit when the city had to buy the land from him or when property values rose as a result of the construction. But there was also a great deal of covert graft. A politician would award contracts for the construction of streets, sewers, public buildings, and other projects (usually at prices well above the real cost) on condition that he himself receive a portion of the contract moneythat is, a "kickback." In addition to awarding contracts, a municipal official could sell franchises for the operation of such public utilities as street railways, waterworks, and electric light and power systems.

Few city bosses were as expansively corrupt as William M. Tweed, boss of New York City's Tammany Hall. Tweed's notorious "ring" once spent over $11 million of city funds to build a modest courthouse originally budgeted at $250,000. And at times, apparently, Tammany officials raided the public treasury in even more direct and blatant ways. Tweed's excesses finally landed him in jail in 1872, but his organization survived his demise to become a prototype of the modern urban machine. Tammany leaders after TweedJohn Kelley, Richard Croker, and Charles Francis Murphyran organizations less personal in structure than Tweed had done. They created a well-ordered hierarchy, in which district and ward leaders exercised substantial autonomy. Loyalty to the organization itself became the ultimate value, survival of the organization the overriding goal. "A well-organized political club," Richard Croker once remarked, "is made for the purpose of aggressive warfare. It must move, and it must always move forward against its enemies. . . . If it is encumbered by useless baggage or half-hearted or traitorous camp followers, it cuts them off and goes ahead." Machine leaders also forged important economic relationships with local businessesespecially streetcar and utilities companies, dependent on government contracts and franchises. Tammany after Tweed was less exuberant in its excesses but more efficiently profitable.

Several factors made the continuation of boss rule possible despite the abuses and corruption. One, of course, was the power of immigrant voters, who were less concerned with political morality than with obtaining desperately needed services. The machine provided services; reformers usually did not. Another was the link between the political organizations and wealthy, prominent citizens who profited from their dealings with bosses and resisted efforts to overthrow them. Still another was the structural weakness of many city governments. Within the municipal government, no single official usually had decisive power or responsibility. Instead, authority was generally divided among many officeholdersthe mayor, the aldermen, and othersand was limited by the state legislature, which often had the ultimate authority over municipal affairs. The boss, by virtue of his control over his machine, formed a sort of "invisible government" that seemed to provide an alternative to the inadequacy of the regular government. He might not hold an official position himself. (Leaders of Tammany Hall, for example, seldom held public office.) But through his organization, on which the politicians of his party depended for election, he often controlled a majority of those who were in office.

The urban machine was not without competition. Reform groups frequently mobilized public outrage at the corruption of the bosses and often succeeded in driving machine politicians from office. Tammany, for example, saw its candidates for mayor and other high city offices lose almost as often as they won in the last decades of the nineteenth century. But the reform organizations typically lacked the permanence of the machine; and more often than not, their power faded after a few years. Only basic, permanent, structural change in the institutions of government, many critics of the machine were by 1900 beginning to argue, could effectively rescue the city from "boss rule."

Society and Culture in Urbanizing America

The rise of industry and the growth of cities had a profound effect on the way most Americans came to live their lives in the late nineteenth century. Americans realized that they were living in an era of rapid and remarkable change. Some welcomed the new ways, others feared them, but few could escape them.

For urban middle-class Americans, who were increasing rapidly in numbers, wealth, and influence, the last decades of the nineteenth century were a time of dramatic advances. Indeed, it was in these years that the United States began to build a distinctive middle-class culture that would eventually exert a powerful influence over the whole of American life. Other groups in society, however, viewed the changes of these years with less enthusiasm. Immigrants, blacks, factory workers, and many others experienced some marginal economic gains in these years; but they also became more aware of the enormous gap separating them from the more affluent middle class. The majority of Americans continued to live on farms or in small communities; as late as 1900, only 40 percent of the population was located in towns or cities of 2,500 inhabitants or more. And to them, the rise of the cityand the growing dominance of urban culture in American life as a whole often seemed threatening.

Even those who viewed the changes in American society with ambivalence, however, often found themselves drawn to the new culture in various ways. They purchased the new products of the industrial economy; they shopped in the new chain stores or mail-order houses; they observed or participated in organized sports and leisure activities. Whether they liked it or not, Americans were encountering the birth of a new mass culture.

The industrial era also had an important impact on the ideas and activities of intellectuals, artists, and educators. It became a time of greatly expanding educational opportunities, at least for some portions of the population; a time of revolutionary new scientific discoveries; and a time in which traditional spiritual beliefs found themselves severely tested.

The Rise of Mass Consumption

The rise of American industry could not have occurred without the growth of markets for the goods being produced. Although many Americans could not afford to buy the products of their factories, the growing middle class began to form a large mass market for industrial goods.

One important change was the emergence of ready-made clothing as the basis of the American wardrobe. In the early nineteenth century, most Americans had made their own clothingusually from cloth they bought from merchants, at times from fabrics they spun and wove themselves. The invention of the sewing machine and the spur that the Civil War (and its demand for uniforms) gave to the manufacture of clothing created an enormous industry devoted to producing ready-made garments. By the end of the century, virtually all Americans bought their clothing from stores; and partly as a result, much larger numbers of people were becoming concerned with questions of style.

There were also important changes in the way Americans bought and prepared food. The development of mass-produced tin cans beginning in the 1880s created a large new industry devoted to packaging and selling canned food. Refrigerated railroad cars were making it possible for perishablesmeats, vegetables, and other foodstuffsto be transported over long distances without spoiling. The production of artificially frozen ice made possible the proliferation of iceboxes in homes that in the past had not been able to afford them. For most Americans, the changes meant greatly improved diets, better health, and ultimately longer life expectancy.

Changes in marketing also served to alter the way Americans consumed. Small local stores began to face competition from national chain stores. The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (the A&P) began to establish a national network of grocery stores beginning in the 1870s. F. W. Woolworth created a chain of dry goods stores. Sears Roebuck established a vast market for its mail-order merchandise by distributing each year an enormous catalogue from which even people in remote rural areas could order new products.

In larger cities, the emergence of the great department stores helped to transform buying habits and to turn shopping into a more alluring and glamorous activity. Marshall Field in Chicago created one of the first department storesa place deliberately designed to create a sense of wonder and excitement. Similar emporia emerged in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities.

Uses of Leisure

Not only was American society becoming more attracted to consuming. It was also becoming more concerned with finding uses for leisure time, which was rapidly increasing for most people. Members of the urban middle and professional classes, in particular, found themselves with large blocks of time in which they were not at workevenings, weekends, even vacations. Factory workers in many industries found their hours declining (from an average of nearly seventy hours a week in 1860 to under sixty in 1900) and thus also had more time to engage in leisure activities. Even farmers found that the mechanization of agriculture gave them more free time to enjoy nonoccupational pastimes. Many Americans, in other words, were coming to live lives that were neatly compartmentalized, with rigid distinctions between work and leisure that had not existed in the past. The change produced a search for new forms of recreation and entertainment.

Among the most important responses to this search was the rise of organized spectator sports. And the most popular of all the organized sports was baseball, which was by the end of the century well on its way to becoming the "national pastime." A game very similar to baseballknown as rounders and derived from crickethad enjoyed limited popularity in Great Britain since the early nineteenth century. Versions of the game began to appear in America in the early 1830s, well before Abner Doubleday (who is erroneously believed to have invented the sport) laid out a diamond-shaped field in West Point, New York, in 1839 and attempted to standardize the rules.

By the end of the Civil War, interest in the game had grown rapidly. More than 200 teams or clubs existed, some of which toured the country playing rivals; they belonged to a national association of "baseball players" that had proclaimed a set of standard rules. These were amateur or semiprofessional teams. But as the game grew in popularity, it offered opportunities for profit, and the first salaried team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, appeared in 1869. Other cities soon fielded professional teams; and in 1876, the National League (which still exists) was organized, chiefly by Albert Spalding. Soon a rival league appeared, the American Association. Competition between the two was intense, and in 1883 they played a postseason contest, an early ancestor of the World Series. The American Association eventually collapsed; but in 1901, the American League was organized. And in 1903, the first modern World Series was played, in which the Boston Red Sox defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates. By then, baseball had become an important business and a great national preoccupationattracting paying crowds at times as large as 50,000, building substantial ball parks in which to play the games, and engaging the interest of many Americans through extensive reports of the contests in newspapers and magazines.

Baseball was from the beginning a sport that had great appeal to working-class people: Baseball players tended to be people from modest backgrounds; baseball crowds consisted to a great degree of urban laborers. The second most popular game, football, appealed for a time to a more elite segment of the population, in part because it arose in the colleges and universities. At first, football was a game played informally by rival student groups at the same school. Then, in 1869, the first intercollegiate game in America occurred between Princeton and Rutgers, with twenty-five men on each team. Soon other Eastern schools fielded teams, and the game began to become entrenched as part of collegiate life. Early intercollegiate football bore only an indirect relation to the modern game; it was far more similar to what is now known as rugby. By the late 1870s, however, the game was becoming standardized and was taking on the outlines of its modern form.

As college football grew in popularity, it spread to other sections of the country, notably to the state universities of the Midwest, destined soon to replace the Eastern schools as the great powers of the game. It also began to exhibit taints of the professionalism that have marked it ever since. Some schools employed as players "ringers"tramp athletes who were not even registered as students. In an effort to eliminate such abuses, Amos Alonzo Stagg, athletic director and coach at the University of Chicago, led in forming the Western Conference, or Big Ten, in 1896, which established rules governing eligibility. Football also became known for an appalling level of violence on the field; eighteen college students died of football-related injuries and over a hundred were seriously hurt in 1905. The carnage prompted the formation of a new intercollegiate association (which, in 1910, became known as the National College Athletic Association, the NCAA), which revised the rules of the game to make it safer and more honest.

A wide range of other sports also emerged, both as entertainment for spectators and as recreation for large groups of participants. Basketball was invented in 1891 at Springfield, Massachusetts, by James A. Naismith, a Canadian working as athletic director for a local college. Boxing, which had long been a disreputable activity concentrated primarily among the urban lower classes, became by the 1880s a more popular and in some places more reputable sport particularly after the adoption of the Marquis of Queensbury rules (by which fighters were required to wear padded gloves and to fight in rounds limited to three minutes) and the emergence of the first modern boxing hero, John L. Sullivan, who became heavyweight champion of the world in 1882. Nevertheless, boxing remained illegal in some states until after World War I.

Participation in the major spectator sports of the era was limited exclusively to men. But a number of nonspectator sports were emerging in which women became important participants. Golf and tennis seldom attracted crowds in the late nineteenth century; but both experienced a rapid increase in popularity among relatively wealthy men and womenusually the only people who could afford to join the exclusive clubs where facilities for the sports were available. Bicycling and croquet also enjoyed widespread popularity in the 1890s and also engaged women as well as men. Women's colleges were beginning to introduce their students to more strenuous sports as welltrack, crew, swimming, and (beginning in the late 1890s) basketball.

Other forms of entertainment emerged in the late nineteenth century to fill the leisure time of Americans. Traveling circusessuch as those run by P. T. Barnum and James Baileytook advantage of the railroad system to move from town to town and perform under large tents, which they carried with them. Wild West shows, vaudeville troupes, and black minstrel shows also traveled widely.

Mass Communications

The new urban industrial society required new vehicles for transmitting news and information. Consequently, American publishing and journalism experienced an important change in the decades following the Civil War. Between 1870 and 1910, the circulation of daily newspapers increased nearly ninefold (from under 3 million to more than 24 million), a rate three times as great as the rate of population increase. And while standards varied widely from one paper to another, American journalism began to develop the beginnings of a professional identity. Salaries of reporters increased greatly; many newspapers began separating the reporting of news from the expression of opinion; and newspapers themselves became important businesses.

One striking change was the emergence of national press services, which made use of telegraphic communication to supply papers throughout the country with news and features and contributed, as a result, to the standardization of the product. Such services furnished the same news to all their subscribing papers, and syndicates provided their customers with identical features, columns, editorials, and pictures. By the turn of the century important newspaper chains had emerged, of which the most powerful was William Randolph Hearst's. By 1914, Hearst controlled nine newspapers and two magazines.

Another major change occurred in the nature of American magazines. In the past, most weekly and monthly periodicals had been literary journals. Now, beginning in the 1880s, there appeared a new kind of magazine, designed to appeal to the masses and achieve a mass circulation. One of the important pioneers of the popular magazine was Edward W. Bok, who took over the Ladies' Home Journal in 1899 and, by employing writers who aimed their material at a mass female audience, built the circulation of the journal to over 700,000. By the end of the century, there was a large array of popular magazines, priced at 5 to 15 cents, some of them with circulations of up to 1 million.

What made these new mass-circulation publications possible was the growing importance of advertising in American commercial life. New industries needed above all to create new markets, and advertising was, many believed, the best way to do so. Not only did the amount of advertising increase in the decades after the Civil War, but the nature of the advertisements changed as well. Instead of small-type announcements listing products and prices, merchants began to use pictures, bold headlines, and enticing slogans. They attempted to make advertising a vehicle not just for alerting the public to the existence of a product but also for stimulating a demand for that product among people who might otherwise not have had any interest in buying it.

Intellectual Life

In addition to the important changes in popular culture that accompanied the rise of cities and industry, there were profound changes in the realm of "high culture"the ideas and activities of intellectuals. Such changes occurred in many areas, but the single most profound intellectual development in the late nineteenth century was the widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution. The doctrine was associated most prominently with the English scientist Charles Darwin, although it was in fact the culmination of many years of theorizing by many people. It argued that the human species had evolved to its present state from earlier forms of life (and most immediately from apes) through a process of "natural selection."

Darwinism challenged almost every tenet of traditional American faith. If the evolutionists were right, then human beings were not necessarily innately endowed by God with a higher nature. They were only biological organisms, another form (even if the highest form) of animal life. History, Darwinism suggested, was not the working out of a divine plan, as many Americans had believed. It was a random process dominated by the fiercest or luckiest competitors.

The theory of evolution met widespread resistance at first from educators, theologians, and even many scientists. By the end of the century, however, the evolutionists had converted most members of the urban professional and educated classes to their point of view. Even most middle-class Protestant religious leaders had accepted the doctrine, making significant alterations in theology to accommodate it. Evolution had become enshrined as an irrefutable theory in schools and universities; virtually no serious scientist any longer questioned its basic validity.

Most urban Americans at the time failed to see, however, that the rise of Darwinism was contributing to a deep schism between the new, cosmopolitan culture of the citywhich was receptive to new ideas such as evolutionand the more traditional, provincial culture of the rural areaswhich remained wedded to fundamentalist religious beliefs and older values. Urban Americans smugly assumed that Darwinism had become as basic a scientific truth as the idea that the earth revolved around the sun, that challenges to it were now restricted to only a few superstitious people. In fact, opposition to the theory of evolution remained strong and deep among vast numbers of Americans. Indeed, the late nineteenth century saw not only the rise of a new, liberal Protestantism more in tune with new scientific discoveries. It also saw the beginning of an organized Protestant fundamentalism, which would gain in strength in the ensuing decades and would make its presence felt politically in the 1920s and again in the 1980s.

Out of the controversy over Darwinism emerged a wide range of new intellectual currents. There was the Social Darwinism of William Graham Sumner and others, which industrialists used so enthusiastically to justify their favored position in American life. (See p. 506.) But there were also more sophisticated philosophiesamong them the doctrine that became known as "pragmatism" and that seemed to many to be peculiarly the product of Americans and peculiarly suited to the nation's changing material civilization. William James, a Harvard psychologist (and brother of the novelist Henry James), was the most prominent publicist of the new theory, although earlier intellectuals such as Charles S. Peirce and later ones such as John Dewey were at least equally important in its development and dissemination. According to the pragmatists, who accepted the idea of organic evolution, modern society should rely for guidance not on inherited ideals and moral principles but on the test of scientific inquiry. No idea or institution was valid, they claimed, unless it worked. Even religious beliefs, James insisted, were subject to the test of experience. If faith helped an individual understand his or her world, then it was valid for that person; if it did not, then it was not. "The ultimate test for us of what a truth means," James wrote, "is the conduct it dictates or inspires."

An expanding network of social scientists soon brought this same concern for scientific inquiry into areas of thought long dominated by traditional orthodoxies. New economists, such as Richard T. Ely and Simon Patten, challenged old economic assumptions and argued for a more active and pragmatic use of the discipline. Sociologists such as Edward A. Ross and Lester Frank Ward urged the application of scientific method to social and political problems. Historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles Beard challenged prevailing assumptions by arguing that economic factors more than spiritual ideals had been the governing force in historical development. John Dewey, for many decades one of the most influential of all American intellectuals, proposed a new approach to education that placed less emphasis on the rote learning of traditional knowledge and more on a flexible, democratic approach to schooling, one which enabled students to acquire knowledge that would help them deal with the realities of their society. The scientific method, he believed, would be the governing principle of this new, "instrumental" education.

The Arts in Urban America

Foreign observers and even some American intellectuals in the late nineteenth century often viewed the culture of the United States with contempt. "There is little to nourish and delight the sense of beauty there," wrote the English critic Matthew Arnold in 1888. Mark Twain, a more knowledgeable critic, expressed an equally dismissive view of American culture in 1873, when, in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, he published a novel satirizing the new urban-industrial society. The book's titleThe Gilded Agesuggests its message. To Twain, Warner, and others, American life, despite its glittering surface, was essentially acquisitive and corrupt, with little cultural depth.

Whatever the quality of culture and society in late-nineteenth-century America, it was clear that the growth of industry and the rise of the city were having profound effects on them. Some writers and artiststhe local-color writers of the South, for example; even Mark Twain, in such novels as Huckleberry Finnresponded to the new civilization by evoking an older, more natural world. But others grappled directly with the modern order, exposing its problems and offering solutions.

One of the strongest impulses in late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American literature was the effort to re-create social reality. There were, of course, many writers who continued to produce novels and poetry of adventure and romance; indeed these books generally attracted the greatest popular audiences. But the nation's most serious writers began to probe more compelling issues: the oppression and suffering that they believed the urban-industrial society had created. The trend toward realism found an early voice in Stephen Crane, whoalthough best known for his novel of the Civil War, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)was the author of a powerful indictment of the plight of the working class: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893). Crane's glum descriptions of urban poverty and slum life created a sensation among the book's many readers. Theodore Dreiser was even more influential in encouraging writers to abandon the genteel traditions of earlier times and turn to the social dislocations of the present, both in Sister Carrie and in later novelsThe Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and othersthat explored the injustices of the American economic system.

Many of Dreiser's contemporaries joined him in chronicling the oppression of America's poor. Frank Norris published The Octopus in 1901, an account of a struggle between oppressed wheat ranchers and powerful railroad interests in California. Another novel, The Pit (1903), attacked exploitation in the grain markets of Chicago. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906) exposed abuses in the American meatpacking industry and helped to inspire legislative action to deal with the problem. Kate Chopin, a Southern writer who explored the oppressive features of traditional marriage, encountered widespread public abuse after publication of her shocking novel The Awakening in 1899. It described a young wife and mother who abandoned her family in search of personal fulfillment. It was formally banned in some communities.

One of the greatest, and certainly one of the most prolific, of the literary realists was William Dean Howells. Unlike the writers who focused on extremes of poverty and injustice, Howells described the common and the average, exposing the shallowness and corruption in ordinary American life styles. In The Rise of Silas Lapham (1884), he offered an unflattering portrait of the self-made businessman. His later novels, written during the more turbulent years of the 1890s and the early twentieth century, dealt more explicitly with social problems and injustices.

Other critics of American society responded to the new civilization not by attacking it but by withdrawing from it. Some, such as Henry Adams, chose intellectual withdrawal. His great autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams (1906), portrayed a man disillusioned with and unable to relate to his society, even though he continued to live in it. Others retreated physically from the United States. Henry James, one of the preeminent writers of the era, lived the major part of his adult life in England and Europe and produced a series of complex, coldly realistic novelsThe American (1877), Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Ambassadors (1903), and many othersthat showed the impact of Europe on Americans and his own ambivalence about the merits of the two civilizations.

American art through most of the nineteenth century had been undernourished and overshadowed by Europe. Most major American artists received their education overseas, painted in a European style (although many chose American subjects), and exhibitedif they exhibited at allin foreign galleries. By 1900, however, important changes were already well under way. Now, nearly every major American city had a museum or gallery of at least modest proportions in which native artists could display their work and in which European masterpiecesmany of them purchased by the great industrial magnatescould be seen. And a number of American artists, although they continued to study and even at times to live in Europe, broke from the Old World traditions and experimented with new styles. John La Farge, for example, made use of light and color in ways that anticipated the French impressionists. Winslow Homer, perhaps the greatest American artist of the era, was vigorously and almost blatantly American in his paintings of New England maritime life and other native subjects. James McNeil Whistler was one of the first Western artists to appreciate the beauty of Japanese color prints and to introduce Oriental concepts into American and European art.

By the first years of the new century, however, some American artists were turning even more decisively from the traditional academic style (a style perhaps best exemplified in America by the brilliant portraitist John Singer Sargent). Instead, younger painters were exploring the same grim aspects of modern life that were becoming the subject of American literature. Influenced by the work of the French impressionists, but shaped too by the tenor of American urban life, members of the so-called Ashcan School produced work startling in its naturalism and stark in its portrayal of the social realities of the era. John Sloan, for example, attempted to capture the dreariness of American urban slums in his paintings; George Bellows caught the vigor and violence of his time in paintings and drawings of prize fights; Edward Hopper chose as his theme the grimness (and often the loneliness) of the modern city. Ultimately, some of these young artists would move beyond the Ashcan revolt to explore the fields of expressionism and abstraction; they showed their interest in new forms when, in 1913, they helped stage the famous Armory show in New York City, which displayed the works of the French postimpressionists and some American moderns. For a time, however, their work closely paralleled that of the naturalist writers of the era.

Toward Universal Schooling

A society that was coming to depend increasingly on specialized skills and scientific knowledge was, of course, a society with a fundamental need for effective systems of education. The late nineteenth century was, therefore, a time of rapid expansion and reform of American schools and universities.

Most influential, perhaps, was the spread of universal free public education. That had long been an ideal of American society, but only after the Civil War did it truly begin to become a reality. In 1860, for example, there were only 100 public high schools in the entire United States. By 1900, the number had reached 6,000. And by 1914, that number had doubledand along with it the number of students attending high school. Even more spectacular was the expansion of elementary education. By 1900, compulsory attendance laws were in effect in thirty-one states and territories. Most of this expansion, however, occurred in urban areas; regions with few major citiessuch as the South and parts of the Middle Westtrailed far behind the urban-industrial areas in providing public education to their citizens. And in the South in particular, such educational facilities as existed were largely unavailable to blacks.

Although opportunities for education above the high-school level did not expand to nearly the same degree as those below it, colleges and universities were proliferating rapidly in the late nineteenth century. They benefited particularly from vast new resources made available by the national government. The federal government, by the Morrill Land Grant Act of the Civil War era, had donated land to states for the establishment of colleges to teach, among other things, agriculture and the mechanical arts. After 1865, particularly in the South and West, states began to take advantage of the law to strengthen existing institutions or to found new ones. In all, sixty-nine land-grant institutions came into existence in the last decades of the centuryamong them the state university systems of California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Supplementing the resources of the government were the millions of dollars contributed by business and financial tycoons, who endowed private institutions. The motives of the magnates were various: They were influenced by the gospel of wealth; they believed that education would ease class tensions; they realized that the demands of an industrial society called for specialized knowledge; or they were simply vain. Men such as Rockefeller and Carnegie gave generously; among the schools that benefited were Harvard, Chicago, Northwestern, Syracuse, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. Other philanthropists founded new universities and thereby perpetuated their family namesVanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Duke, Tulane, and Stanford.

Charles W. Eliot, who became president of Harvard in 1869 at the age of thirty-five and remained in that position for forty years, pioneered a break with the traditional curriculum. The usual course of studies at American universities emphasized classical and humanistic courses; and each institution prescribed a rigid program of required courses. Under Eliot's leadership, Harvard dropped most of its required courses in favor of an elective system and increased its course offerings to stress the physical and social sciences, the fine arts, and modern languages. Soon other institutions in all sections of the country were following Harvard's lead.

Eliot also renovated the Harvard medical and law schools, raising the requirements and lengthening the residence period; and again the Harvard model affected other schools. Improved technical training in other professions accompanied the advances in medicine and law. Both state and private universities hastened to establish schools of architecture, engineering, education, journalism, and business. The leading center for graduate study, based on the German system with the Ph.D. degree as its highest award, was Johns Hopkins University (founded in 1876). In 1875, there were only 399 graduate students in the United States; by 1900, the number had risen to more than 5,000.

Education for Women

The post-Civil War era saw, too, an important expansion of educational opportunities for women although such opportunities continued to lag far behind those available to men (and were almost without exception denied to black women). More than half of all high-school graduates in the late nineteenth century were girls; and some of these students naturally looked for opportunities to extend their education further.

A number were able to do so by attending existing universities. At the end of the Civil War, only three American colleges (one of them Oberlin) had been coeducational. But in the years after the war, many of the land-grant colleges and universities in the Midwest began to admit women along with menin large part because of their inability to attract enough male students to fill up their space. And some private universities (notably Cornell and Wesleyan) began admitting small numbers of women, in an effort to promote a new sexual egalitarianism.

But the idea of coeducation did not prevail as the foundation of women's education in this era. Instead, most women hoping for schooling beyond the secondary level turned to the growing network of women's collegesmost of them developed as the result of donations from philanthropists. A few women's colleges had struggled to establish themselves early in the century. Mount Holyoke, for example, opened its doors to eighty students in 1836 as a "seminary" for women. It did not become a full-fledged college until the 1880s. By then, however, many new female institutions had emerged: Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Wells, and Goucher. Some of the larger private universities created on their campuses separate colleges for women (such as Barnard at Columbia and Radcliffe at Harvard). Proponents of women's colleges saw the institutions as places where female students could find the greatest outlet for their own skills and creativity, where they would not be treated as "second-class citizens" by predominantly male student bodies and faculties.

The new women's colleges confronted a complex task. On the one hand, they were committed to providing their students with wide opportunities to expand their intellectual and even professional horizons. On the other hand, they felt the need to defend themselves against charges that higher education was not, as many men and even some women believed, too "arduous" for women's presumed delicate physical capacities. At times, the administrators of women's colleges displayed a firm determination to prove that their students were capable of doing the same demanding work as men. At the same time, however, they often included special programs of physical activity, to strengthen their students for the "ordeal" of education. And many women's colleges included as well training in traditional women's roles.

The female college was among the first examples of an important phenomenon in the history of modern American women: the emergence of a distinctive women's community. Most faculty members and many administrators were women (almost always unmarried). And the life of the college produced a spirit of sorority and commitment among educated women that had important effects in later years, as women came to spearhead many reform activities. Most female college graduates ultimately married, but they married later than their noncollege counterparts. A significant minority, perhaps over 25 percent, did not marry at all but devoted themselves to careers. Leaders of Bryn Mawr remarked at times that "our failures marry." And while that was surely an exaggeration, the growth of female higher education clearly became for some women a liberating experiencepersuading them that they had roles to perform in society other than as wives and mothers.

 


 

 



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