Redesigning the American Dream

Z Papers is designed to answer the question, “What do we want?” with articles on vision and strategy for social change. What follows is an excerpt from Delores Hayden’s excellent book (1984; revised 2002) exploring the interconnections between feminism, domestic and public space, and the built environment.—eds

In the years between 1870 and 1930, home life provoked a phenomenal amount of political debate. Because this topic linked the Woman Question to the Labor Question, it attracted the attention of housewives, feminist activists, domestic servants, inventors, economists, architects, urban planners, utopian novelists, visionaries, and efficiency experts. Housework, factory work, and home were all susceptible to restructuring in the industrial city. Women and men of all political persuasions generally agreed that burdensome household work, as it had been carried out in the pre-industrial houses of the first half of the nineteenth century, left most women little time to be good wives and mothers. Industrial development was transforming all other work and workplaces, and it was expected that domestic work and residential environments would be transformed as well. Activists raised fundamental questions about the relationships between women and men, households and servants. They explored the economic and social definitions of “woman’s work.” They also raised basic questions about household space, public space, and the relationship between economic policies and family life concretized in domestic architecture and residential neighborhoods.

Many proposed solutions drew, in one way or another, on the possibilities suggested by new aspects of urban and industrial life: new forms of specialization and division of labor, new technologies, new concentrations of dwelling units in urban apartment houses or suburban neighborhoods. But domestic theorists also had to deal with a number of unwelcome consequences of these new developments: hierarchy in the workplace, replacement of handcraft skills by mechanization, erosion of privacy in crowded urban dwellings, and development of conspicuous domestic consumption in bourgeois neighborhoods. Although life in the isolated household was burdensome, inefficient, and stifling, many reformers feared that the socialization of domestic work would deprive industrial society of its last vestige of uncapitalized, uncompetitive, skilled work. That is, they worried about mother love and home cooking.

Three Models of Home

For the most part, the major domestic strategies of the time have been ignored or misunderstood by both historians and political theorists. William O’Neill, in his popular book Everyone Was Brave, scathingly condemned the leaders of the American nineteenth-century woman’s movement as “weak and evasive” activists, completely unable to tackle the difficult ideological problem of the family. He called them frustrated women who never understood that a revolution in domestic life was needed to achieve feminist aims. Betty Friedan, in her 1981 book The Second Stage, reiterated O’Neill’s views approvingly, as support for her mistaken belief that twentieth-century feminists were the first to introduce serious concern for domestic life into political organizing. Some contemporary writers still dismiss any serious theoretical concern with housework as a waste of time; they look to wage work to liberate women, much as Bebel did in 1883 and Lenin in 1919.

Almost all American women involved in politics between 1870 and 1930 saw domestic work and family life as important theoretical and practical issues. The material feminists argued that no adequate theory of political economy could develop without full consideration of domestic work. They debated both businessmen and Marxists with an eloquence that has rarely been equaled. The years between 1870 and 1930 produced three major strategies for domestic reform: Catharine Beecher’s capitalist haven strategy, a Marxist industrial strategy, and the material feminists’ neighborhood strategy. Finding a new approach requires that all of these strategies, and the experiences of trying to implement them, are clearly understood.

The Haven Strategy

The leading exponent of the home as haven, Catharine Beecher, explained the technological and architectural basis of a refined suburban home beginning in the 1840s. As discussed in Chapter 2 ["From Ideal City to Dream House"], she proposed to increase the effectiveness of the isolated housewife and to glorify woman’s traditional sphere of work. Beecher devoted her energy to better design. The housewife would be equipped with an efficient kitchen, adequate running water, and effective home heating and ventilation. She would have a better stove.

In The American Woman’s Home, Beecher suggested that the housewife devote more of her labor to becoming an emotional support for her husband and an inspiring mother for her children. Self-sacrifice would be her leading virtue. The home, a spiritual and physical shelter from the competition and exploitation of industrial capitalist society, and a training ground for the young, would become a haven in a heartless world. Beecher believed this division of labor between men and women would blunt the negative effects of industrial society on male workers. She argued that both rich and poor women, removed from competition with men in paid work, would find gender a more engrossing identification than class.

For Beecher, it was extremely important that the housewife do nurturing work with her own two hands. As she performed many different tasks each day, she was to be a sacred figure, above and beyond the cash nexus. Her personal services as wife and mother were beyond price. The biological mother was presented as the only focus for her children’s needs. The virtuous wife was presented as the only one who could meet her husband’s needs as well. The spatial envelope for all of this exclusive nurturing was a little cottage in a garden. Nature surrounding the home reinforced belief in a woman’s natural, biologically determined role within it. Beecher also showed how domesticity could be adapted to a tenement apartment or a single teacher’s residence.

The Industrial Strategy

The industrial strategy, as promoted by Bebel, is here illustrated by a view of women as paid workers making frozen dinners on an assembly line, 1945

The German Marxist, August Bebel, in his classic book Women Under Socialism (1883), wanted to move most traditional household work into the factory, abolishing women’s domestic sphere entirely. Bebel argued: “The small private kitchen is, just like the workshop of the small master mechanic, a transition stage, an arrangement by which time, power and material are senselessly squandered and wasted…. In the future the domestic kitchen is rendered wholly superfluous by all the central institutions for the preparation of food.” He also predicted that just as factory kitchens would prepare dinners, and large state bakeries would bake pies, so mechanical laundries would wash clothes and cities would provide central heating. Children would be trained in public institutions from their earliest years. Women would take up industrial employment outside the household, and the household would lose control of many private activities. The effects of industrialization would be general, and women would share in the gains and losses with men, although their new factory work would probably be occupationally segregated labor in the laundry or the pie factory. A life of dedication to greater industrial production and the socialist state would reward personal sacrifice in the Marxist version of the industrial strategy.

In Bebel’s version of home life, both nature and biology disappear in favor of industrial efficiency. Bebel believed that nurturing work should be done by women, but he tended to see women as interchangeable service workers. The demand that women nurture with a personal touch, so central to Beecher, was replaced by a sense that any day-care worker could offer a substitute for mother love and any canteen worker could serve up a substitute for home cooking. The spatial container for this interchangeable, industrial nurturing was to be the apartment house composed of industrial components and equipped with large mess halls, recreation clubs, child-care centers, and kitchenless apartments. Of course, service workers would need to be constantly on duty to keep these residential complexes running, but Bebel did not consider this service as labor of any particular value or skill. He underestimated the importance of the socialized home as workplace, even as he recognized the private home as workshop.

The Neighborhood Strategy

Midway between the haven strategy and the industrial strategy, there was a third strategy. The material feminists led by Melusina Fay Peirce wanted to socialize housework under women’s control through neighborhood networks. In contrast to the advocates of the haven approach, who praised woman’s traditional skills but denied women money, or the advocates of the industrial approach, who denied women’s traditional skills but gave women wages, the material feminists argued that women should be paid for what they were already doing. As Jane Cunningham Croly put it in [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton and [Susan B.] Anthony’s newspaper, The Revolution: “I demand for the wife who acts as cook, as nursery-maid, or seamstress, or all three, fair wages, or her rightful share in the net income. I demand that the bearing and rearing of children, the most exacting of employments, shall be the best paid work in the world.”

Material feminists agreed that women were already doing half the necessary labor in industrial society and should receive half the wages. They believed that women would have to reorganize their labor to gain these demands. The first reason for organizing was to present a united front; the second was to utilize the possibility of new technologies and the specialization and division of labor, in order to perfect their skills and to shorten their hours. Peirce argued that “it is just as necessary, and just as honorable for a wife to earn money as it is for her husband,” but she criticized the traditional arrangement of domestic work as forcing the housewife to become a “jack-of-all-trades.”

The neighborhood strategy inspired this sketch by Thomas Nast, 1870, of a harried, servantless housewife confronting her labors

Peirce’s proposed alternative was the producers’ cooperative. She envisioned former housewives and former servants doing cooking, baking, laundry, and sewing in one well-equipped neighborhood workplace. Women would send the freshly baked pies, the clean laundry, and the mended garments back to their own husbands (or their former male employers) for cash on delivery. Peirce planned to overcome the isolation and economic dependency inherent in the haven approach, and the alienation inherent in the industrial approach. While revering woman’s traditional nurturing skills and neighborhood networks as the material basis of women’s sphere, Peirce proposed to transform these skills and networks into a new kind of economic power for women by elevating nurturing to the scale of several dozen united households.

Peirce also overcame another great flaw in the haven approach. In the early 1870s, there were very few appliances, aside from Beecher’s own inventions and architectural refinements, to help the housewife who worked alone. Almost all of the major advances, such as clothes-washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and new kinds of stoves, were being developed for commercial laundries, breweries, hotels, hospitals, and apartment houses. They were designed to serve fifty to five hundred people, not one family. Peirce proposed, like Bebel, to use this technology, but to use it at the neighborhood scale, in a community workplace.

Peirce understood economic activity as both industrial production and human reproduction. She argued that her cooperative housekeeping strategies would lead to complete economic equality for women, because men could sustain farming and manufacturing while women ran the new, expanding areas of retail activity and service industries, in addition to their old standby, household production. Thus she retained a gender division of labor but planned to revise national measures of productive economic activity. In this part of her analysis, Peirce anticipated Richard Ely, Helen Campbell, and Ellen Swallow Richards, who attempted, beginning in the 1880s and 1890s, to introduce home economics (or domestic economy) into academic debates and public policy as the “economics of consumption” on an equal plane with the economics of production. All of the material feminists knew what many later Marxist and neoclassical economists alike have tended to forget: it is not the wage that defines work, it is the labor.

When Catharine Beecher, August Bebel, and Melusina Peirce framed their views of what the industrial revolution should mean to domestic life, they set up models of women’s work and family life marked by all the hopes and fears of the mid-nineteenth century. They accepted gender stereotypes so strong that not one of these three models incorporated any substantial male responsibility for housework and child care. Yet Beecher’s and Rebel’s models of home continued to shape home life and public policy for over a century. The haven strategy and the industrial strategy became the ruling paradigms for domestic life in capitalist and in state socialist societies where the paid employment of women was a fact, not a hope or a fear. Neither model of home life incorporated any substantial critique of male exclusion from the domestic scene. Both models disconnected household space from other parts of the industrial city and its economy. Attempts to repair their conceptual difficulties accelerated in the years after World War I, but neither model has undergone the total revision that would enable planners of housing, jobs, and services to create the spatial settings for modern societies where the paid employment of women is essential.

As a result, women have become disadvantaged workers in both capitalist and state socialist societies. If we look at the evolution of these two models, we see that there have been many ingenious modifications and ideological surprises as capitalists attempted to industrialize the haven strategy or state socialists attempted to domesticate the industrial strategy. The neighborhood strategy of Peirce met a rather different fate. Its adherents advanced their cause effectively in the United States and Europe, creating many interesting small experiments. As a result, they extended their argument for justice and women’s liberation, but never had to provide a framework for government policy.

The evolution of all three models of home in different societies during the twentieth century reveals a great deal about capitalism and the role of the state in advanced capitalist societies, socialism and the role of the state in state socialist societies, and feminism and the persistence of male economic control of female labor.

Three Models Translated Into Built Form

When nineteenth-century theorists generated three schematic models of how home life might be developed in industrial society, they also generated three schematic building programs for housing types, strongly related to three architectural styles. The haven strategy produced the program for the detached, single-family suburban house treated as a primitive, sacred hut. The industrial strategy produced the program for high-rise mass housing treated as an efficient machine for collective consumption. The neighborhood strategy produced the program for low-rise, multifamily housing treated as a village with shared commons, courtyards, arcades, and kitchens. The earliest formulations of the haven strategy and the industrial strategy required constant revision in the twentieth century. They evolved as models of family life with many borrowings from each other and from the neighborhood strategy. In the same way, basic programmatic deficiencies in the sacred hut model or the efficient machine model for housing were soon apparent. Architects, urban planners, and builders began to copy each other’s materials and details. Primitive hut buildings were realized with machine-aesthetic materials. Mass-consumption buildings were trimmed with primitive half-timbering. The designers of both kinds of projects also borrowed the rhetoric of the neighborhood strategy to declare that they “freed women for modern life” or that they offered “an unsurpassed sense of community,” although this rarely meant that they included significant, shared social services or spaces.

A building program is the implicit or explicit statement of spatial requirements to be fulfilled within the constraints of available sites, budgets, and technologies. The one thing that architectural style cannot do is transform the building program. So if the basic social model of home is outdated, or the basic economic model of home is not appropriate, then architectural design cannot save the situation. Architects cannot make outmoded family etiquette modern; they cannot make false economic definitions of market and nonmarket work equitable.

Few housing experts acknowledge this. Urban planners and social scientists have tended to divide the content and form of housing by focusing almost exclusively on programmatic analysis and treating aesthetics as irrelevant. Architects and art historians have tended to conflate content and form by focusing on the aesthetic analysis of design and subsuming the program under this formal discussion. Because program and style have often been analyzed as unrelated parts of a shelter planning problem, or as identical aspects of a housing design solution, contemporary practitioners in architecture and urban planning often sound confused.

Horatio West Courts, Santa Monica, 1919

The architectural historian Kenneth Frampton has written that modern architects, since the Enlightenment, have wavered between rationalism and piety, between the geometric Utopias of a designer such as Ledoux and the piety of a Gothic revivalist such as Pugin: “In its efforts to transcend the division of labor and the harsh realities of industrial production and urbanization, bourgeois and culture has oscillated between the extremes of totally planned and industrialized Utopias on the one hand, and, on the other, a denial of the actual historical reality of machine production.” For all their aesthetic differences, Pugin and Ledoux shared a nineteenth-century commitment to separate spheres for men and women, and to a male double standard of female conduct. Ledoux, after all, had temples to both virgins and prostitutes in his ideal city. Such romantic views of gender underlie the designers’ predicament: most modern practitioners have been unable to develop more subtle definitions of private and public domains. Thus housing is the great missed opportunity for the design professions in the last century. Under every modern economic and political system, most architects have failed to understand the social programming and the aesthetic complexities essential to the production of space for modern family life. They have, instead, tended to follow Beecher or Bebel, seeing women as pre-industrial hearth tenders, or as industrial wage workers identical to men. As architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable has put it, “Housing remains architecture’s and society’s chief unsolved problem.”

Just as the advocates of the haven strategy had secluded women in the home to keep the human race partly protected from the market economy (and then asked women to undertake wage work to help pay for the seclusion), so the advocates of the industrial strategy had demanded the full integration of women into the socialized labor of industrial society (and then asked women to keep the hearth fires burning too). Neither model of home life led to an acceptable building program for housing in the twentieth century….. Several million Americans in high-rise public housing may find their future aesthetic satisfaction depends on learning how best to modify these structures in social, economic, and aesthetic terms. If the tracts of suburbia fail to offer solutions, perhaps the history of the neighborhood strategy and its aesthetic offers some clues.

The models for the neighborhood strategy were the cloister and the village. The designers who favored this approach believed that in terms of housing, the whole must be more than the sum of its parts. For private space to become a home, it must be joined to a range of semiprivate, semipublic, and public spaces, and linked to appropriate social and economic institutions assuring the continuity of human activity in these spaces. The neighborhood strategy not only involved thinking about the reorganization of home in industrial society, it also involved defining “home” at every spatial level—from the house, to the neighborhood, the town, the homeland, and the planet. If the haven strategy stressed privacy, and the industrial strategy stressed efficiency; the neighborhood strategy highlighted accountability.

The academic village. Just as Benthani’s Panopticon prefigured later interest in the home as machine, so Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” at the University of Virginia prefigured later interest in the home as part of a neighborhood. Although Jefferson had also promoted the isolated family farm, his University of Virginia commission offered him the chance to build housing for students and faculty beginning in 1817. He organized the students’ rooms along an arcaded walk punctuated by pavilions serving as faculty residences and lecture halls. The scheme culminated in a domed library. Among the precedents for this project were French hospital designs of the late eighteenth century, but Jefferson also cherished the Carthusian monastery of Pavia, near Milan, as a model of collective living and he visited it before commencing his design work for Charlottesville.

An archetypal expression of the relationship between privacy and community, Pavia consisted of private cells for each monk, connected by a generous arcade to a communal dining room, church, and large estate (where produce was grown to support not only the praying monks but each of the lay brothers and agricultural workers necessary to provide the economic base for the spiritual activity). The cells looked like sacred huts. They were peaked-roof houses with walled gardens, heavy doors, small windows, and well-defined chimneys. The monks devised ingenious, flexible, minimal furnishings for each hut that still look modern. At the same time, the monastery was a collective. A broad arcade gathered the meditating monks into a common dining room. When Jefferson translated the spatial program at Pavia into the University of Virginia, in the early nineteenth century, the monks’ huts become the professors’ pavilions. There, too, hierarchies of labor were required: just as the monks had lay brothers, the young men had personal servants and the professors had household slaves. Using this monastic model, Jefferson’s design of the academical village still stands as an American statement about how to link individuals, households, and work spaces.

Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, as American women began to experiment with the neighborhood strategy and its implications for housing design, plans for courtyards and arcades appeared. Following the work of Caroline Howard Gilman, Jane Sophia Appleton, and Amelia Bloomer, Melusina Peirce began to develop a more thorough analysis of the architectural implications of cooperative housekeeping. When she proposed a housewives’ producers cooperative in 1868, she also introduced the idea of a model neighborhood of thirty-six houses with a single work center, a building with a central courtyard and arcades. Marie Stevens Rowland tried to develop this idea. In the 1890s, Mary Coleman Stuckert of Denver reiterated Peirce’s and Rowland’s ideas when she exhibited a model for an urban row house development with a central open space, central kitchen, and shared childcare facilities. In 1915, Alice Constance Austin tried to develop a new Californian city with the same centralized services. While they built relatively little, the influence of these material feminists on architects and planners in both the United States and Europe was considerable.

Quadrangles in the garden cities. The designers of the Garden Cities movement, including Ebenezer Howard, Raymond Unwin, and M.H. Baillie Scott, translated the material feminists’ ideas into built form. Their overall objectives included ending the split between town and country, easing the conflict between capital and labor through cooperative production, and ending the servant problem and the exploitation of women through cooperative cooking and dining. The physical framework for this activity was the new town of 30,000 people, designed around “cooperative quadrangles,” or living groups of about thirty households with a common dining room. Unwin’s sketch of the earliest cooperative quadrangle suggests an Oxford or Cambridge college, or a medieval village, which was the inspiration many designers, such as M. H. Baillie Scott, also adopted.

The cooperative quadrangle looked like home—albeit an institutional one. The inglenooks, half-timbering, stucco, peaked roofs, massive hearths, numerous chimneys, and the interior detailing with wood and handmade ceramic tile, recalled the Arts and Crafts movement led by Charles Ashbee and William Morris, and their polemics against the machine. The cozy feeling of these cloistered housing quadrangles was enhanced by flower gardens and vegetable gardens, shaded arcades and benches. Unlike the sacred hut houses of the early twentieth century that shared some of these materials and details, the quadrangles of the Garden City designers attempted to recreate the scale of larger social institutions, recognizing that the rural subsistence farmstead could no longer be the unit of aesthetic expression.

While the Garden Cities influenced planners all over the world, and one of Howard’s favorite architectural styles—Tudor revival—became popular with architects all over the United States, the program for the cooperative quadrangle was not part of the set of ideas fully realized in England and widely exported. In the United States, between 1910 and 1940, several housing developments were influenced by the Garden Cities approach. The concepts of neighborhood planning at Forest Hills, New York, developed by Grosvenor Atterbury in 1911, included the provision of an apartment hotel structure for singles and the elderly in a town square at the railroad station, as well as clusters of attached houses. Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, the designers of several major projects, began developing what they called the superblock in 1924 at Sunnyside, Long Island, where they created a small park at the heart of a moderate income housing development. In 1929 at Radburn, New Jersey, Stein and Wright designed a garden city “for the motor age,” restricting the domain of the automobile by developing pedestrian courtyards leading to a larger park system running through the project.

Courtyards and greens. Finally, one project synthesized the influence of Jefferson’s academical village, the feminist experiments, and the Garden Cities. The Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles, where Clarence Stein served as consultant to Robert Alexander and the other local architects, opened in 1942. A leisurely walk through the three parks of this project reveals mature trees, tended flowers, an expansion and contraction of landscaped spaces that is in striking contradiction to awareness that one is in the heart of a major city, in the center of a low-cost housing complex. Each housing unit, small or large, also has a private garden or balcony. Serpentine walls enclosing the gardens recall Jefferson’s influence.

Irving Gill was another brilliant designer in the American tradition who found low-cost housing with shared courtyards an interesting architectural problem. Trained in the office of Louis Sullivan, Gill tried to find a way to develop a vernacular style suited to Los Angeles and San Diego. He admired the adobe structures, arcades, and courtyards of the Spanish colonial style, but redefined these traditions with a pure geometry of cubes and circles. He used an innovative technological approach, with concrete walls poured in place in the ground and raised into position in the manner of traditional barn raising. If ever a designer was prepared to resolve the aesthetic and technical ambiguities of the twentieth century, it was Gill. His Horatio West Court in Santa Monica and his Lewis Courts in Sierra Madre both display his genius for manipulating shared spaces. The Lewis Courts were especially successful, so the client decided that middle-class rents could be charged for what started as a low-income housing project. In each case Gill also drew from the bungalow courts and courtyard housing schemes of Los Angeles as the strongest local tradition for multifamily housing design. Projects such as Bowen Court in Pasadena in the Craftsman-style by the Heinemann brothers, or the Andalusia in Hollywood, in the Mediterranean revival style by Arthur and Nina Zwebel, expressed many of the same commitments in program as Gill’s work, but were a bit more aesthetically flamboyant. In each case the use of lush landscaping and of local ceramic tiles heightened the sense of place. Los Angeles is the American city with the most interesting multifamily housing stock on the courtyard model, and the best projects are still worth studying.


Tynggarden, outside Copenhagen, Denmark. Site plan showing six courtyards housing 15 families each: (1) Central building with cafe and sports facilities; (2) Multi-purpose community buildings

Cohousing. Courtyard housing is the strongest typological response to the need to balance privacy and community. In the European tradition, as we have seen, a good many designers struggled to graft the ideas of the feminist exponents of the neighborhood strategy onto multifamily housing projects with extensive facilities for child care, shared meals, and community facilities. While the early-twentieth-century collective houses, apartment hotels, and family hotels of Scandinavia provided some good examples of the neighborhood strategy explored in terms of the machine aesthetic, a Danish housing project, Tynggarden, by the architectural firm, Vankunsten, carried on the social tradition of these experiments in the 1970s, and added new courtyards. Each family gave up 10 percent of its allocated interior square footage to create a shared neighborhood center for ten to fifteen families. They shared a courtyard that contained the mailboxes, the washing machines and dryers, a community kitchen, and a large two-level space for activities planned by the residents, from child care to classes to political meetings. The project’s combination of private and shared facilities provided an early example of cohousing. The designers also developed plans for the eventual expansion of the private units, to permit future flexibility for adding rental units or units for elderly dependents.

The designers liked the large red and cream-colored Danish barns in the agricultural area surrounding the project, and favored similar massing, color, and wood siding…. Adventure playgrounds filled the active courtyards, while grass, flowers, and vines grew in the quiet courtyards.

In 2002, Tynggarden continues as a successful project. It draws on the agricultural building types of the region, but goes beyond the recalling of stylistic details or the sacred-hut mentality to make a new community comfortable with a mixture of old and new spatial and rethinking private life technical forms: row houses and apartments, metal stairs, corrugated metal roofs, cars. The skyline of a village is simulated in the shed roofs of the community centers, with their place for solar panels, and their exaggerated, tall chimneys. What could be more sociable than a large front porch lined with mailboxes? Unlike the cooperative quad­rangles of the Garden Cities movement, which look a bit corny in their Tudor half-timbering, the courtyards of Tynggarden look backwards and forwards at the same time, carrying a complex social pro­gram and cultural agenda into a stylistic expression.

The Mothers’ House, Amsterdam, 1980

Transitional housing. Another European project of great interest is Aldo Van Eyck’s courtyard housing complex for single mothers in Amsterdam, Holland. Van Eyck gave care and attention to both social pro­gram and aesthetic realization. In this commission his client was an institution that had long served unmarried mothers. Van Eyck…made housing for children, housing for parents, counseling spaces, and a common dining facility in addition to offices and outdoor space. “The Mothers’ House” suggests what can be done to make institutional housing a truly supportive setting in aesthetic as well as social terms. A rainbow of colors animates the building; the courtyard is beautiful and serene. The kibbutz-like nature of the child-rearing spaces may seem too communal for many households, but the project helps these single parents make a transition, rather than offering them a permanent residence. The Mothers’ House is a project that helps sustain a new family form—the single-parent family—in urban society, rather than a model of a permanent collective settlement, such as the Israeli kibbutzim or American communes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which go beyond a neighborhood strategy into a shared communal life.

The City Of Women’s Equality

For the last two centuries, the quintessential American intellectual, political, and architectural dilemma has been: dream house or ideal city?…. The common sense of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the urban visions of Bernice Johnson Reagon, the political energy of the feminist campaigns of the municipal housekeeping advocates, the settlement workers, and the material feminists offer precedents. Other societies such as Denmark, Sweden, England, and Holland also provide examples of complex, innovative approaches to nurturing and earning, but no country has yet created an urban fabric and an urban culture to support men and women on equal terms as citizens and workers. As Janet Abu-Lughod wrote in 1974, “The city we seek as women is a human city in which all will share in the pleasures and pains, where women will be neither dolls nor drudges, and where the role specializations so idealized in the past—females nurturing and males laboring—will give way to whole and cooperating humans.”

The world awaits the city of women’s equality…. Its architecture will combine professional craft and political activism. Its social life will blend nurturing and services. Its neighborhoods will be vibrant when Americans’ diverse households transcend the architecture of gender to define for themselves their future patterns of housing, work, and family life.


Dolores Hayden is professor of architecture and American studies at Yale University and the author of The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History.