Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure

1043 Words5 Pages
September 19, 2006 Hst 328 Thur. 1:40 Nan Enstad’s Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure is an in depth analysis of working women in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. She explains how working women helped to shape the consumer culture of the period by the purchase of entertainment and clothing that was made for them alone. They also shaped the culture by their choice of fashion. Not only did these women engage in consumerism, they formed certain social practices based on the items they purchased and connected it all together with their workplace culture. Working women wove this popular culture into their developing sense of themselves as ladies, workers, and Americans. Many factors of working-class consumption helped to shape their life experiences. The first way in which they did this was the act of purchasing items that were marketed directly to young women of the labor class. “Working-class women, as much as their more wealthy counterparts, wound these commodities into their own culture based in display, self-statement, and glamour.” (Enstad, 18) Working women purchased cheap fiction known as dime novels. Women would often save up for weeks just to be able to purchase one book. Another common purchase of the working class woman was clothing. Similar to the novels, women would save up by skimping on their lunches to buy a dress from what the middle class called “slop” dress makers. These dresses were cheaper imitations of middle class fashion and would often fall apart, but the women bought them regardless. Many women also saved money to buy scraps of fabric from the garment shop they worked in and would spend what little time they had outside of work sewing dressing for themselves. Another way in which women of the labor class shaped their experience through consumer culture was their avid reading of dime novels and their manner
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