The Saturated World: Aesthetic Meaning, Intimate Objects, Women's Lives, 1890-1940

Front Cover
University of Tennessee Press, 2006 - History - 273 pages
0 Reviews
The Saturated World: Aesthetic Meaning, Intimate Objects, Women’s Lives, 1890–1940 explores the way middle-class American women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries added meaning to their lives through their “domestic amusements”—leisure pursuits that took place in and were largely focused on the home. This pathbreaking study by Beverly Gordon demonstrates that these women elaborated on their everyday tasks and responsibilities by transforming them into playful, emotionally satisfying amusements. In doing so, they cultivated a heightened, aesthetically charged “saturated” state and created self-contained, enchanted worlds. Gordon explores a variety of female leisure activities of the era, including scrapbooking (collage making) party giving, dress-up, dollmaking, and collecting. Each chapter serves as a case study, and taken as a whole, the chapters provide a holistic overview of late nineteenth and early twentieth century women’s saturated worlds. In challenging the dismissal of domestic amusements, Gordon seeks to redress the assumption that women’s domestic activities were of less value than work done outside the home. In The Saturated World, Gordon seeks to restore women’s agency—to defy the assumption that women were passive pawns who acted only out of a lack of choice or power. Women chose these pursuits on their own, Gordon argues. She contends that they were operating out of a different paradigm of culturally invested meaning, based on domestic rather than workplace values. This did not in any way diminish their achievements. Richly illustrated, The Saturated World is an unusual combination of women’s history and material culture analysis that offers fascinating insight into women’s leisure activities. It is an ideal book for students of American studies, women’s studies, material culture, and popular culture.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


and Children 1880s
The Paper Doll House
ca 187585

8 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Beverly Gordon is chair of the Environment, Textiles, and Design Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Bazaars and Fair Ladies: The History of the American Fundraising Fair and Shaker Textile Arts.

Bibliographic information