Breaking the Gender Code: Women and Urban Public Space in the Twentieth-Century United States

Written by:
Georgina Hickey
Narrated by:
Sarah Beth Pfeifer

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
February 2024
11 hours 56 minutes
From the closing years of the nineteenth century, women received subtle-and not so subtle-messages that they shouldn't be in public. Or, if they were, that they were not safe. Breaking the Gender Code tells the story of both this danger narrative and the resistance to it.

Historian Georgina Hickey investigates challenges to the code of urban gender segregation in the twentieth century, focusing on organized advocacy to make the public spaces of American cities accessible to women. She traces waves of activism from the Progressive Era, with its calls for public restrooms, safe and accessible transportation, and public accommodations, through and beyond second-wave feminism, and its focus on the creation of alternative, women-only spaces and extensive anti-violence efforts. In doing so, Hickey explores how gender segregation intertwined with other systems of social control, as well as how class, race, and sexuality shaped activists' agendas and women's experiences of urban space. Drawing connections between the vulnerability of women in public spaces, real and presumed, and contemporary debates surrounding rape culture, bathroom bills, and domestic violence, Hickey unveils both the strikingly successful and the incomplete initiatives of activists who worked to open up public space to women.
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