"Companionship and a Little Fun": Investigating Working Women's Leisure Aboard a Hudson River Steamboat, July 1919
Editor's Note: This article, "'Companionship and a Little Fun': Investigating Working Women’s Leisure Aboard a Hudson River Steamboat, July 1919," written by Austin Gallas and published in Lateral 11.2 (2022). https://csalateral.org/issue/11-2/companionship-and-a-little-fun-investigating-working-women-leisure-hudson-river-steamboat-1919-gallas/#:~:text=The%20investigator's%20written%20account%20offers,Hudson%2C%20and%20how%20Progressive%20reformers
Article Abstract: This article provides an in-depth consideration of a single report penned on the night of July 27, 1919 by a private detective employed by New York City's Committee of Fourteen (1905-1932), an influential anti-vice and police reform organization. A close reading of the undercover sleuth's account, which details his experiences, subjective judgments, and general observations regarding moral and social conditions while aboard the "Benjamin B. Odell", a palatial Hudson River steamboat enables us to enrich our grasp of the courtship and pleasure-seeking practices popular among working women and men active in New York City's heterosocial and largely segregated amusement landscape during the so-called "Red Summer". Specifically, the report reveals how wage-earning women articulated femininity and sought individual freedoms, companionship, pleasure and romance via Hudson River steamboat excursions.
Austin Gallas recently earned a PhD in Cultural Studies from George Mason University, where he currently teaches in the Department of Communication. His dissertation is titled "Value of Surveillance: Private Policing, Bourgeois Reform, and Sexual Commerce in Turn-of-the-Century New York." Austin's current research interests include undercover surveillance in New York City history, Progressive Era urban police reform, American literary journalism during prohibition, and the sexual and gender politics of the American minimum wage debate of the 1910s.
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