CHICAGO GIRLS by Edith Freund


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Poor Girl and Rich Girl confront the iron dictates of the double standard in 1890s Chicago--from High Society on down--in this first novel of unshaded sentiment and cumbersome characters. Gertrude Jahn, child of a stockyard wage-slave and an ever-pregnant mother, carefully saves her hard-earned money, leaves home, and meets handsome Myron Davis--heir to an insurance business in New York: they'll love, take off to N.Y., but Myron will never wed Gertrude, now ""Trudy Jones."" Meanwhile, heiress Margaret Marsh, still grieving over the death of her tycoon-father, comes home to Chicago from Boston, having recently graduated from MIT with a degree in biology: she's soon depressed by the aristocrats' callousness to the poor; she's also incensed at the ruling families' determination to raise daughters for twit-hood and procreation only. (""Women refuse to develop anything about themselves except their reproductive function and we have dressed that up to hide it from the world."") So, while Trudy, now called ""Pamela,"" is being ""sold"" to robber-baron Jay Darling by a regretful Myron, Margaret gets busy with good works--planning the Woman's Building at the 1893 Exposition site, founding a settlement house for women, confronting her own inbred elitism and a sickening family scandal, and wrangling over her love for scholarly Stephen Baxter. (He offers wedded bliss without bonds--but Margaret fears marriage.) Will Trudy and Margaret ever meet? Of course: they thrash out the matter of independence and choice on Sporting Isle, a tropical resort colony, which also contains a sateen prison of ""fillies""--among them Darling's ""Pamela,"" who's been in and out of opium addiction. Then the island greets the arrival of suitors Steven and Myron (who by this time is determined to marry Trudy-Pamela). And finally it's off to the Fair for all four. . . while somewhere in the environs Trudy's old mother hunts in vain for her ""little girl."" Hackneyed sob-stories with a veneer of feminism and a tacked-on cheery ending: earnest but lumpish.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1985
Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books--dist. by Simon & Schuster