A City for Children

Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950

Marta Gutman

Marta Gutman

448 pages | 120 halftones, 14 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226311289 Will Publish September 2014
E-book $36.00 ISBN: 9780226156156 Will Publish September 2014
American cities are constantly being built and rebuilt, resulting in ever-changing skylines and neighborhoods. While the dynamic urban landscapes of New York, Boston, and Chicago have been widely studied, there is much to be gleaned from west coast cities, especially in California, where the migration boom at the end of the nineteenth century permanently changed the urban fabric of these newly diverse, plural metropolises.

In A City for Children, Marta Gutman focuses on the use and adaptive reuse of everyday buildings in Oakland, California, to make the city a better place for children. She introduces us to the women who were determined to mitigate the burdens placed on working-class families by an indifferent industrial capitalist economy. Often without the financial means to build from scratch, women did not tend to conceive of urban land as a blank slate to be wiped clean for development. Instead, Gutman shows how, over and over, women turned private houses in Oakland into orphanages, kindergartens, settlement houses, and day care centers, and in the process built the charitable landscape—a network of places that was critical for the betterment of children, families, and public life.  The industrial landscape of Oakland, riddled with the effects of social inequalities and racial prejudices, is not a neutral backdrop in Gutman’s story but an active player. Spanning one hundred years of history, A City for Children provides a compelling model for building urban institutions and demonstrates that children, women, charity, and incremental construction, renovations, alterations, additions, and repurposed structures are central to the understanding of modern cities.
Mary P. Ryan | Johns Hopkins University
“The ‘charitable landscape,’ is just one of the multiple layers of urban history that Marta Gutman has recovered and brought vividly to light. She has also exposed the complicated and intertwined relations of race and gender that were built into the urban fabric.  By book’s end, readers will be richly rewarded with a poignant recognition of the everyday human triumphs and losses that gave shape to the physical spaces of our cities.”
Michael Sorkin, director of the Graduate Urban Design Program at the City College of New York
“This beautifully crafted and original account describes the fraught creation of what became an everyday halcyon in Oakland, California: the building, beginning in the late 19th century, of a ‘charitable landscape’ to improve the lives of children.  Marta Gutman brilliantly brings to life a remarkable, and fortifying, coincidence of women’s will, civic spirit, and Progressive politics that ‘repurposed’ space to benefit—and create—the city’s smallest subjects.  Depicting a remarkable cohort that sought to remake the city by, among other things, converting saloons to kindergartens, this book uncovers a nexus of design and social life, rich with nuance and implication.  An exceptionally tender work.”
Karen Sánchez-Eppler | Amherst College
“With remarkable detail, nuance and clarity Marta Gutman recovers the history of Oakland’s charitable institutions for children in a way that offers transformative insights into the landscapes of age, gender, race, religion, philanthropy, and urban development. Gutman takes the ‘landscapes’ of her title literally—this is most powerfully a book about space, about the ideas, practices, and social and material conditions that enabled women to claim spaces for children.  In many instances they did this by repurposing buildings initially constructed with other intentions. Marta Gutman’s manner of writing history participates in this tradition of strategic repurposing garnering the materials of architectural history, women’s history, children’s history, and the history of urban reform to forge something new. This is  a wonderful book.”
Abbie Van Slyck, Connecticut College
“Remarkable. Based on extensive research, A City for Children is a sophisticated historical investigation into a wide range of charitable institutions built by women in Oakland, California, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries primarily to serve the needs of children. Gutman is particularly attentive to the racial politics that informed the development of these institutions, and like all of her work, this book promises to inform current public policy debates, not just about Oakland, but also about American cities in general.”
Carla Yanni, Rutgers University
“An outstanding book, based on creative research and innovative historical framing, A City for Children is the most comprehensive and nuanced study of the cultural landscape of charitable institutions.  Gutman’s expertise in the history of childhood, gender studies, and architecture make this an ambitious and path-breaking work.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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