Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Abstract

Between 1912 and 1930, taxi dancers joined thousands of unmarried working-class women who moved beyond the domestic sphere to actively engage in public, market-oriented roles that transformed urban culture. During this time, a new form of commercialized entertainment emerged to bridge women's work with the popularity of social dance. Taxi dance halls or "closed dance halls" were unregulated commercial dance venues where taxi dancers contracted their services as female dance instructors to a male-only clientele. Occupying an ambiguous line between "illicit" and respectable entertainment during the 1920s, taxi dance halls catered to the transient, non-family, and socially isolated men for whom no adequate provisions for public dancing had been made. Despite moral reformers' efforts to stigmatize taxi dancing as a "deviant" occupation that bordered on prostitution, many working women justified taxi dancing by the high wages that they received.

With this as a contextual framework, my dissertation examines the emergence of taxi dancing as a profession for working-class women, tracing its rise in popularity in the 1920s and 1930s and slow decline in the post-World War II period. Taxi dancers' work culture, the circumstances of their employment, their work conditions, and the changing nature of services and clientele will be the primary focal point. The socio-economic and cultural meanings for both women workers and male patrons of the taxi dance hall will be discussed in the context of larger national issues relating to women's work, gender constructions, and race and class identity during the early to mid-twentieth century.

Comments

By the author's request, access to the full text of this document is only available to current students, faculty, and staff of Loyola University Chicago.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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