Cheap Amusement Book Review

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Dereck Rickman
Scott Keys
History
9September2012
In the book, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Piess takes the reader on the journey of trials and tribulations in working-class women’s lives in the turn of the century. Going in depth of the unfair familial roles and societal female disparities, all the way to what women liked to wear and do for leisure, Piess allows the reader to step into a time machine and gives them a first-class look into what a woman’s daily life was like in late 1800’s and early 1900’s. By using ‘expert’ sources and ‘investigators’, Piess succeeds in her goal by honing in on a specific time and topic which allowed the reader to feel as if they were reading an in-depth history textbook on the matter, but failed at providing deeper substance and backbone through concrete details. Starting off by explaining the typical family roles in the turn of the century, Piess expresses how while the men may spend his evenings at a local saloon, at a baseball game or reading his daily paper, the women would often be expected to work her “double day”. Piess explains this concept of the double day to be that the woman is expected to go about her daily work day of typically “domestic servants, needlewomen, laundresses…” (Peiss 1986), and come home to start her other job, being the housewife. The housewife duties usually entailed cooking, cleaning, washing, scrubbing, and most importantly… making her husband and kids happy. All the while, when the woman got her hard earned paycheck, it was expected to go towards family needs. Even as young women in the family home, young working girls were expected to hand over their paychecks in their entirety while their male counterparts were only asked for a small portion of their earnings. Even though women were getting paid at lower wages and it being justified because women were seen as “temporary wage-earners who worked only until marriage” (Peiss 1986), Piess...
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