Stephanie J. Jass
of: Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Recipes for Reform: Settlement Houses, Americanization, Gender and Foodways in Chicago, 1880-1920
Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Waldo Clock Library Room
Dr. Marion W. Gray, Chair
Dr. Peter Schmitt
Dr. Gwen Raaberg
Dr. Lewis Carlson
During the late nineteenth century as tens of thousands of immigrants flooded American cities, public debate among reformers -- who tended to be middle-class, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants -- began to center on the best ways to assimilate these foreigners into American society. Although some Americanization groups stressed language and citizenship training, two major reform movements focused on foodways as an important tool of assimilation.
This dissertation examines how both the home economics and settlement house movements attempted to Americanize ethnic food practices. It describes why reformers saw foodways as a viable and meaningful avenue for reform, as well as the varied response that reformers got from their intended audience. Through an analysis of different Chicagoland home economics and settlement house programs, this study investigates the motivations for reformers and reveals their attitudes towards assimilation and social conformity. Moreover, this work examines the ways that attitudes towards actual foodways practice became a contested terrain between reformers and immigrants. This study also explores the gendered messages implicit in foodways reforms, as almost all reformers and immigrants involved in the programs were women. By changing immigrant foodways, reformers hoped to make foreign girls and women conform to a traditional American domestic ideal.
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