A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Sep 19, 2014 - Architecture - 454 pages
American cities are constantly being built and rebuilt, resulting in ever-changing skylines and neighborhoods. While the dynamic urban landscapes of New York, Boston, and Chicago have been widely studied, there is much to be gleaned from west coast cities, especially in California, where the migration boom at the end of the nineteenth century permanently changed the urban fabric of these newly diverse, plural metropolises.

In A City for Children, Marta Gutman focuses on the use and adaptive reuse of everyday buildings in Oakland, California, to make the city a better place for children. She introduces us to the women who were determined to mitigate the burdens placed on working-class families by an indifferent industrial capitalist economy. Often without the financial means to build from scratch, women did not tend to conceive of urban land as a blank slate to be wiped clean for development. Instead, Gutman shows how, over and over, women turned private houses in Oakland into orphanages, kindergartens, settlement houses, and day care centers, and in the process built the charitable landscape—a network of places that was critical for the betterment of children, families, and public life. The industrial landscape of Oakland, riddled with the effects of social inequalities and racial prejudices, is not a neutral backdrop in Gutman’s story but an active player. Spanning one hundred years of history, A City for Children provides a compelling model for building urban institutions and demonstrates that children, women, charity, and incremental construction, renovations, alterations, additions, and repurposed structures are central to the understanding of modern cities.

What people are saying - Write a review

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


One New Ideas from Old Things in Oakland
First Imprints in San Francisco
Repurposed and PurposeBuilt in Temescal
The Noble Work for a Life Saving of Rebecca McWade
Free Kindergartens in Northern California
Six The Art and Craft of Settlement Work in Oakland Point
Playgrounds and Recreation Centers in Oaklands Neighborhoods
Institutional Life during the Progressive Era
Day Nurseries during the Interwar Years
Oral Histories and Interviews
Abbreviations Used in the Notes

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2014)

Marta Gutman is professor of architectural and urban history at the Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York and a member of the doctoral faculty of art history at The Graduate Center, City College of New York. She is also a licensed architect.