“In masculine hands, logic is often a form of violence, a sly kind of tyranny.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
“And, actually, it is not by increasing her worth as a human being that she will gain value in men’s eyes; it is rather by modeling herself upon their dreams.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Chicago. The Windy City. In the middle of the country. Part of the so-called flyover area of the country. How little we recall that Chicago was the site of catalysts in the first half of the twentieth century, influencing events in America, and in some cases, around the world. Thomas Dyja reminds us in his recent book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, how Chicago changed events.
Confession time. I haven’t read the book yet. But I heard the author discuss it on a recent Freakanomics podcast. I am ashamed to say that as a native Chicagoland Hoosier, this podcast mentioned a few items that I didn’t know about.
The top ten ways that Chicago influenced the US and the world:
- Architecture. This rather goes without saying. Chicago is famous for its architecture.
- The blues. Interesting note: With the rise of rock and subsequent decline of blues from the pinnacle of music in the US, Chicago blues players started performing in the UK, and ended up influencing rockers like Mick Jagger.
- Ray Kroc. McDonald’s may not seem like one of Chicago’s healthiest influences, but McDonald’s actually brought food quality to fast food during its “wild west” phase.
- The University of Chicago. Or more aptly, the people associated with the university, like Kurt Vonnegut and Susan Sontag, and those who went on to found the Compass Theater, the birthplace of improv, and Second City. Note: I am reclaiming Vonnegut—who was born in Indianapolis—for Indiana as a Hoosier of influence.
- TV. The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and of course, Oprah, all came out of Chicago.
- The modern civil rights movement. The lynching of Chicagoan Emmett Till was on Rosa Park’s mind when she made her famous stand (or sit) on a Montgomery bus.
- Institute of Design. The New Bauhaus contributed influential educators, designers, and photographers, including one behind the next item on the list.
- Urban preservation. Richard Nickel, a student at the Institute of Design, set out to photograph the buildings of Louis Sullivan that were being demolished in the 1960s and 1970s, and thereby helped spark urban preservation in the US.
- The Second Sex. The author and Chicagoan Nelson Algren encouraged romantic partner Simone de Beauvoir to pen her feminist tour de force.
- Playboy. Note: Not one of Chicago’s finer contributions, in my opinion.
Thank you, Chicago, for the ways you have shaped our world. The list includes snapshots from the past, from the first half or so of the twentieth century. I can’t help but wonder what your legacy is for the second half of the twentieth century…and how you are influencing and changing our perceptions now in the twenty-first century. Perhaps time will tell, when we can look back and reflect on how the third coast made waves that rippled through the US and the world.