Georgina Hickey, Hope and Danger in the New South City: Working-Class Women and Urban Development in Atlanta, 1890-1945, 2003

Hickey writes from a historiographical moment when social history had been more fully entrenched in the discipline than Hertzberg did. “While social history has become firmly rooted in urban history,” she wrote, “cultural history is just beginning to make a significant impact on the field.” As such, she set out to show how the economic and political development of Atlanta during the rapid growth years of the early twentieth century was dominated by cultural debates that focused heavily on the role and meaning of women in urban society. Working-class women, lacking the political voice that some middle and upper-class women enjoyed, were particularly hot topics of debate. Hickey showed how the multiple meanings ascribed to women informed major political debates; for instance, inasmuch as women represented vulnerability, political reformers could use white women as a symbol to advance the Jim Crow agenda. On the other hand, women could also represent vice and temptation, and white and black women’s enjoyment of dance halls and other public pleasures led many to fret over Atlanta’s reputation. Hickey argued that, although women became distinctly racialized symbols in political discourse, white and black women of the working class often had more in common as women than they differed in terms of race. Moreover, she argued that women’s prominence in political debate declined as attention shifted from social and cultural issues to economic and political ones from the early to mid twentieth century.

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