ABOUT THIS BOOK
When Juliette Kinzie first visited Chicago in 1831, it was anything but a city. An outpost in the shadow of Fort Dearborn, it had no streets, no sidewalks, no schools, no river-spanning bridges. And with two hundred disconnected residents, it lacked any sense of community. In the decades that followed, not only did Juliette witness the city’s transition from Indian country to industrial center, but she was instrumental in its development.
Juliette is one of Chicago’s forgotten founders. Early Chicago is often presented as “a man’s city,” but women like Juliette worked to create an urban and urbane world, often within their own parlors. With The World of Juliette Kinzie, we finally get to experience the rise of Chicago from the view of one of its most important founding mothers.
Ann Durkin Keating, one of the foremost experts on nineteenth-century Chicago, offers a moving portrait of a trailblazing and complicated woman. Keating takes us to the corner of Cass and Michigan (now Wabash and Hubbard), Juliette’s home base. Through Juliette’s eyes, our understanding of early Chicago expands from a city of boosters and speculators to include the world that women created in and between households. We see the development of Chicago society, first inspired by cities in the East and later coming into its own midwestern ways. We also see the city become a community, as it developed its intertwined religious, social, educational, and cultural institutions. Keating draws on a wealth of sources, including hundreds of Juliette’s personal letters, allowing Juliette to tell much of her story in her own words.
Juliette’s death in 1870, just a year before the infamous fire, seemed almost prescient. She left her beloved Chicago right before the physical city as she knew it vanished in flames. But now her history lives on. The World of Juliette Kinzie offers a new perspective on Chicago’s past and is a fitting tribute to one of the first women historians in the United States.