What Would Jane Say? City-Building Women and a Tale of Two Chicagos

City Beautiful, City Livable

What Would Jane Say? tells the tale of two approaches to city-building in the early 1900s and the people and ideas behind them. It also tells the story of what was created in Chicago and what could have been created.

In 1909, architecture giant Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennett, and the Commercial Club of Chicago developed the Plan of Chicago, primarily with personal and business interests in mind. They subscribed to the City Beautiful movement, which assumed that a city that was attractive and well organized would resolve the vexing troubles around them. At the same time, the formidable Jane Addams and many female contemporaries were engaged in city-building work of a different sort. Their achievements still resonate today, even if the women's names do not. They subscribed to City Livable ideas that addressed the social, economic, and cultural needs of the population.

After author Janice Metzger sets a detailed stage of Chicago at the turn of twentieth century--the players and the movements, the problems and the reform efforts, the conflicts and the possibilities--she takes readers into wonderful speculative chapters in the areas of transportation, law, housing, neighborhood development, immigration, labor, health, and education. What would Jane Addams and her peers say if they had been involved in the Plan of Chicago? Using painstaking research, historical detail, and a pinch of imagination, Metzger thinks she has a pretty good idea. . .

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Annago (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · January 26, 2010
WWJS explores, through fictional meetings, how Chicago might be improved today if the philosophy and work of the marginalized City Livable movement had been taken into account in the 1909 Plan of Chicago, which was driven by the City Beautiful movement. Urban planning is not my area of expertise,... ...more
By Jamie (Chicago, IL) · ★★★☆☆ · February 10, 2011
Perhaps the most striking thing about this book is how little has changed in Chicago politics and priorities in the last 100 years. Depressing. This is a great introduction to the rich history of women in Chicago, and has sparked my interest in learning even more. A little slow in spots, the imag... ...more
By Alisa (Laramie, WY) · ★★★☆☆ · February 12, 2010
Interesting read -- liked the premise, but it sometimes became too speculative and tidy to be strong scholarship. ...more