Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 1
By viewing space as a social, economic, and political arena in which interests, desires, and hopes competed, the panel scrutinizes multilateral tug of wars among various actors who were eager to enlarge their sphere of influence. Motoe Sasaki’s paper takes up Protestant bourgeois New Yorkers’ church-based activism aiming at integrating the urban public sphere through masculinizing Protestantism. Heather Ruth Lee shows how marginal men, New York’s famine Irish and disenfranchised Chinese, dominated the Chinatown economy through brokering backroom deals and political exchanges. Rachel Hui-Chi Hsu’s paper charts the spatiotemporal working and the gender politics of Emma Goldman’s “Mother Earth family” culture, which showcased how the private space was turned into public, to reveal the inception of a diversified anarchist counterpublic. And Aaron Welt’s paper explores the origins of labor racketeering within the labor movement of Yiddish-speaking immigrant workers and the origins of working-class political and economic ideologies that countered reform, bourgeois, and statist interventions into New York’s industry and urban life more generally.
Through these cases, moreover, the panel interrogates the contradictory impulses of the Progressive Movement: while urban Progressivism had recourse to the power of public authority and bureaucracy, it attempted to preserve the fundamentals of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. In the interspace created by these cross currents, various actors found opportunities in Progressive Era New York to extend their interests, influences, and ambitions in the urban public sphere.