The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

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What historical reference is discussed on pages 211-212 in The Devil in the White City and what does it mean?

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Another important reference in these pages is the reference to Hull House and to Jacob Riis.

The 1890s were just before the real start of the Progressive Era and there were many elements of progressivism already at work.  There were "muckrakers" like Riis who were trying to publicize negative aspects of American life to encourage people to push the government for reform.  There were women like Jane Addams of Hull House who were creating settlement houses that were meant to help immigrants become more like middle class "native" Americans.  These were very important historical trends going on at the time this book is set.

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One of the most interesting historical references I saw on this page is a reference to Hollingsworth’s Columbia Cookbook, the cookbook for the modern woman.  This strikes me as the beginning of the modern women’s rights movement.  It shows how the role of woman was changing in modern times.

[It] was much more than just a cookbook.  Hollingsworth billed it as an overall guide to helping modern young housewives create a peaceful, optimistic and sanitary household.  The wife was to set the tenor of the day. (p. 211)

The book is said to contain interesting health and medical information, thus helping the modern woman use science to create a better household.  The woman runs the household in this book.  The woman’s knowledge saves the day.  It’s also practical in the modern industrialized world that was being created.

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