Working-Class Women and the Progressive Era Development of Public Administration: The Case of Margaret Bondfield

Published date01 August 2023
AuthorHindy Lauer Schachter
Date01 August 2023
Subject MatterPerspectives
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(7) 1457 –1473
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997231172150
Working-Class Women
and the Progressive
Era Development of
Public Administration:
The Case of Margaret
Hindy Lauer Schachter1
Using a case study of British trade union organizer Margaret Bondfield, this
article begins the task of adding a working class perspective to accounts
of women’s participation in Progressive era urban reform and expansion
of public policy while also showing how international networks of support
among trade union women undergirded American reform efforts. The
narrative expands the consideration of intersectionality and positionality in
analyzing women’s role in developing public administration.
women and public administration, progressive era, class, Margaret Bondfield
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries feminist scholars critiqued the gen-
dered approach to canon formation in public administration as other scholars
were doing in a range of social sciences, showing the gendered aspects
1New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, USA
Corresponding Author:
Hindy Lauer Schachter, Martin Tuchman School of Management, New Jersey Institute of
Technology, Newark, 420 E. 64 Street APT W10D NY 10065, USA.
1172150AAS0010.1177/00953997231172150Administration & SocietySchachter
1458 Administration & Society 55(7)
through which earlier disciplinary leaders had marked out who constituted
the intellectual progenitors in a given field (Hutchings & Owens, 2021;
Silverberg, 1998). Attention focused on the Progressive era because this
period was considered important in consolidating a self-conscious sense of
public administration as a field of study in the United States (Luton, 2002).
This article centers on adding a working class perspective to accounts of
Progressive era women’s participation in urban reform and public policy
The impetus for showing the importance of female voices to administra-
tive and policy initiatives in the Progressive era (ca. 1895–1919) had several
prongs. Skocpol (1992) and Skocpol et al (1993) showed that women active
in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs played a key role in state legis-
latures enacting mothers’ pensions and labor legislation. Stivers (1995, 2000)
analyzed the role of settlement house leaders such as Jane Addams in spur-
ring the development of social policies that supported the institutionalization
of medical and educational services and workplace safety as public sector
activities. A third avenue of exploration focused on women who were
involved in organizations such as the New York Bureau of Municipal
Research and the Taylor Society that sought to extend scientific management
insights to the public sector (Schachter, 2002, 2011). Multiple case studies of
the accomplishments of individual women associated with the settlement and
scientific management movements supported the second and third initiatives
(e.g., Alchon, 1992; Burnier, 2022; Felbinger & Haynes, 2004; McGuire,
2011; Stivers, 2002).
Twenty years ago this outpouring of scholarship constituted a necessary
act of unsettling the assumption that public administration thought depended
historically only on insights provided by males. It reconstituted academic
curricula to be more inclusive than the male dominated view of Progressive
actors supplied by the first public administration textbook (White, 1926) or
Waldo’s (1948) seminal analysis of Progressive thought. Today, however, the
three prongs of scholarship noted above seem themselves to have exclusion-
ary aspects of race and class as in each endeavor almost all of the women
proposed as progenitors are white, middle class Americans. Contemporary
theorists of intersectionality have questioned the extent to which women of
one race or class can be said to represent the entire population of women,
arguing instead that this equivalence imposes unity on a social category
whose members have many intersecting—and sometimes oppositional—
identities based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, and other characteristics
(Bearfield, 2009; Breslin et al., 2017; Crenshaw, 1991). Other theorists have
argued that the positionality of change agents—their social position—affects
the type of issues they tackled and strategies used so if analysts want to get a

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT