Alice Hamilton, Grace Abbott, and Frederic C. Howe were members of a well-educated, white middle-class that burgeoned around the turn-of-the-century in the United States, and they embraced “Progressivism” and pacifism. In the flow of people, ideas, and culture that criss-crossed the North Atlantic, creating the intricate networks that formed an “international consciousness,” Hamilton, Abbott, and Howe were also involved.
In Chicago and Cleveland, however, their encounters with European culture were informed by shifting conventions of gender. At Hull-House in Chicago, Hamilton and Abbott
observed the social transformations induced by mass immigration, and were forced to admit their education was not directly relevant. Drawing upon pragmatism and feminism, they learned to emphasize the subjectivity of experience, to view culture as a cooperative balance of diverse values, and to conceive of identity and knowledge as products of social and historic circumstances. By using these principles, they came to perceive American and European domestic spaces as two parts of an inclusive community.
In Cleveland, corruption and chaotic growth convinced Howe that reform must be
initiated by “public-spirited” men who privileged collective well-being, were familiar with “civilized” European cities, and experimented with reform. Mayor Tom L. Johnson, who tried to reclaim local democracy with tent meetings, three cent fares, public (municipal) ownership of key utilities, amongst other reforms, commissioned architect Daniel H. Burnham to develop the Group Plan (1903), which drew heavily upon Beaux-Arts traditions, before rebuilding downtown. Inspired, Howe returned to Europe to study male civic leadership. The purpose of an international community, as he perceived it,
was the unlimited exchange of information between public-spirited men.
Internationalism was therefore gendered. This dissertation argues this happened within American cities where Hamilton, Abbott, and Howe had novel experiences and encountered European people, ideas, and architectural traditions as they were integrated within Chicago and Cleveland during an intense period of trans-Atlantic sharing. By using collective biography to examine the effects of domestic gendered experience on perceptions of internationalism, this dissertation reveals how local and global traditions converged in
ways that altered definitions of power, culture, and community at local, national, and international levels