Women and the City

In honor of the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day here are three women who’s work on urban planning issues have shaped my enthusiasm for urbanization.

How Women Saved the City by Professor Daphne Spain, of the University of Virginia’s Department of Urban and Environmental Planning (and one of my former professors). Her book examines the lost contributions of women to the develop development of American cities.

Exploring this environment, Spain reconstructs the story of the “redemptive places” that addressed the real needs of city dwellers—especially single women, African Americans, immigrants, and the poor—and established an environment in which newcomers could learn to become urban Americans.

Her work as a professor has also inspired a number of women, including myself, first hand to redeem their cities as planning students and professionals.

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Rediscovering Dharavi by Kalpana Sharma.  Sharma is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, columnist and media consultant with special interests in environmental, developmental issues and gender.  Her book about Dharavi goes beyond the built environment of this 175 hectare slum, and explores the lives of its one million residents and their struggle.

…Dharavi is much more than cold a statistic. What makes it special are the extraordinary people who live there, many of whom have defied fate and an unhelpful State to prosper through a mix of backbreaking work, some luck and a great deal of ingenuity. It is these men and women whom journalist Kalpana Sharma brings to life…


The Death and Life of Great American Cities by urban activist Jane Jacobs.  Jacob’s achievements in the realm of urban planning are known urban planning students and professionals across the world for her recognition of the importance of strong communities and neighborhoods for cities to strive. The New York Times best describes her perspectives on cities that questioned traditional urban planning in the 1960’s:

Jacobs’s enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’s prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.

– Melissa

One comment

  1. I was walking in India Point Park, Providence, this evening and saw a bulletin board about Mary Elizabeth Sharpe who had the vision in 1962 to develop the waterfront as a park with connections to the harbor and residential districts. Her dream is now coming to fulfillment. There were many other women in East Coast cities, like Providence and New York, who saved historic districts from the bulldozers. Thanks for your blog – lots of good material.

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