Constructing the Patriarchal City

Gender and the Built Environments of London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago, 1870s into the 1940s

Maureen A. Flanagan
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1570-7
Publication: Apr 18

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1569-1
Publication: Apr 18

Ebook: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1571-4
Publication: Apr 18

342 pages
6 x 9
14 halftones, 6 maps

An original, comparative examination of how ideas about gender resulted in the consolidation of the patriarchal city in the Anglo-Atlantic urban world

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In the Anglo-Atlantic world of the late nineteenth century, groups of urban residents struggled to reconstruct their cities in the wake of industrialization and to create the modern city. New professional men wanted an orderly city that functioned for economic development. Women’s vision challenged the men’s right to reconstruct the city and resisted the prevailing male idea that women in public caused the city’s disorder.

Constructing the Patriarchal City compares the ideas and activities of men and women in four English-speaking cities that shared similar ideological, professional, and political contexts. Historian Maureen Flanagan investigates how ideas about gender shaped the patriarchal city as men used their expertise in architecture, engineering, and planning to fashion a built environment for male economic enterprise and to confine women in the private home. Women consistently challenged men to produce a more equitable social infrastructure that included housing that would keep people inside the city, public toilets for women as well as men, housing for single, working women, and public spaces that were open and safe for all residents.


"In Constructing the Patriarchal City , Flanagan employs a comparative approach that is revealing and oftentimes provocative; it will generate some new ideas for teaching urban history. She successfully blends theoretical, secondary, and primary sources in clear and effective ways. The four Anglo-Atlantic case studies work effectively to illustrate how key cultural and political factors influenced policies and practices but did not, ultimately, make huge differences in the gendered world of urban spaces and planning practices. The clarity of the author’s explanations of feminist geography and the complex ideas provide real insight and challenges for rethinking our paradigms.”
Janice L. Reiff, Professor of History and Waldo M. Neikirk Endowed Term Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles

"Flanagan chronicles how decisions made by powerful men in Anglo-Atlantic cities constrained and shaped the lives of women.... Constructing the Patriarchal City makes an important contribution to the history of planning. Connecting abstract planning principles with concrete results on the ground in four cities, Flanagan persuasively demonstrates the sexism implicit in the ideals of order and real-estate-based economic growth that have often governed planning practice."
— Urban History

"Flanagan reveals how leading men in four cities—London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago—wielded their political and financial influence to establish a metropolitan landscape that upheld their own ideals of masculinity, femininity, and the separation of spheres.... (Her) study adds a much-needed transnational perspective to the gendered critique of cities.... Flanagan’s account convincingly shows that civic leaders’ planning decisions were informed by assumptions about women’s proper place."
— American Historical Review

"(A)n in-depth look at the ways in which male ideals about urban life and spaces shaped four Anglo cities...and the lives of women within those cities.... Flanagan has done a good job of describing how the plans, projects, and processes of early urban planning were very much patriarchal.... (She) clearly show how gender dynamics shaped early modern urban planning in London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago." — Canadian Journal of Urban Research

"Flanagan does an excellent job of highlighting the familiar—moving people out of cities, creating the isolated suburban home and atomized neighborhoods, ignoring basic public services—and the less familiar— working to guarantee women’s safety in public spaces and promoting efforts to make the city a home.... (Her) research and conclusions are as provocative as they are engaging, and her insights open up a surprisingly understudied topic that will lead to further discussion, inquiry, and debate. Flanagan not only makes a convincing case for the importance of gender to understand these broader changes but also illuminates the persistence of patriarchy and the consequences of ignoring the women who challenged their vision of the built environment." — Journal of American History

Table of Contents

Introduction: “Our Cities Are Patriarchy Written in Stone, Brick, Glass, and Concrete”

Part I: The Unplanned City
1. Liberty, Property, and Gender in the Corporate City
2. Housing, Boundaries, and Gender in the Quasi-public City
3. The Disorder of Unembounded Bodies
4. The Urban Modern

Part II: Creative Destruction of the Diseased Organism
5. London: To Cure the Diseased Organism
6. Dublin: Property, Gender, and the Civic Unit
7. Toronto: Saving “Toronto the Good”
8. Chicago: City of Destiny
Conclusion: The Patriarchal City Consolidated


About the Author(s)

Maureen A. Flanagan​ is Emerita Professor of History at the​ Illinois Institute of Technology and Michigan State University​. She is the author of​ America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s- 1920s​, Seeing with Their Hearts: Chicago Women and the Vision of the Good City, 1871- 1933​, and Charter Reform in Chicago.


In the Series

  • Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin

    The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.