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Title page for ETD etd-12022011-085119

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hudson, Cheryl Anne
URN etd-12022011-085119
Title Making Citizens: Political Culture in Chicago, 1890-1930
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor David L. Carlton Committee Chair
Professor Gary Gerstle Committee Member
Professor Helmut Walser Smith Committee Member
Professor James A. Epstein Committee Member
Professor W. James Booth Committee Member
  • University of Chicago
  • Pragmatism
  • Progressivism
  • Charles Johnson
  • John Dewey
  • Robert Park
  • Jane Addams
  • Urban History
  • Democracy
  • Citizenship
  • Hull House
  • Race Relations
  • Immigration
  • Ethnicity
Date of Defense 2011-10-14
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the shifts that took place in the cultural and political meanings American citizens attached to their own citizenship at the dawn of urban modernity. Using Chicago as a case study, the dissertation looks at the construction of national identity from both the “top down” perspective of urban intellectuals, reformers and policy makers and the “bottom up” perspective of ordinary Chicagoans. It explores the ways in which both residents in and migrants to Chicago – black and white, native and foreign, plebeian and intellectual – altered their perceptions about the nature of the relationship of the individual citizen to the state and society during the tumultuous Progressive era.

At a time of unprecedented industrial development, Chicago’s population expanded dramatically as African American migrants from the South, native whites from the small towns of the East and Mid-West and immigrants from across Europe, poured into the city. Through an analysis of events such as the Pullman Strike of 1894, the First World War, and the 1919 Race Riot, this dissertation charts the ways in which Progressive reformers and urban intellectuals responded to the challenges posed to democratic citizenship by the new social composition of the city. It also demonstrates the ways in which ordinary Chicagoans worked to define their own identities with reference to the political traditions of the nation.

Ultimately, Progressive thinkers and reformers like philosopher John Dewey, social worker Jane Addams and sociologist Robert Park defined a modern American citizenship that worked, at best, as a pragmatic accommodation to urban living. Unfortunately, and despite the resistance of ordinary Chicagoans, Progressives replaced citizenship as the active, freely-chosen political status of individuals with a passive and essentialized cultural identity based upon membership of social groups. Thus, this dissertation locates the origin of modern identity politics in the sociology of the 1920s. It uncovers a trajectory of national redefinition begun by Progressives that was well-intentioned but which followed a course both fragmentary and destructive into the twentieth century.

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