City Space in St Louis
I’m Katie Myerscough, a PhD candidate in American Studies. I study part-time and work in Personnel at Marks and Spencer. I’m also a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester where I lead class discussions on American history, African-American literature and culture, and the southern United States. Like all busy students I prioritise my workload to meet my commitments; good time management is an essential skill to have at university and beyond.
How I got here
I went to the University of Oxford as an undergraduate and studied History. I was the first member of my family to go to university. After I finished my degree I tried a few different jobs; I’ve worked in museums, retail, and administration. I travelled around the world for a year and when I returned I started a Masters at the University of Manchester. I loved studying at Manchester, because it’s a very inclusive environment where I felt free to express my ideas and opinions, and I was supported to continue my own independent research into topics which interested me. American Studies is a very varied discipline, where you can study film, literature, politics, history and today’s society. Due to the really vibrant academic community at Manchester I decided to take the plunge and enrol for a PhD.
When I finally finish my PhD I will have a doctorate, which means that I will be Dr Myerscough and I can apply for jobs as a university lecturer and write books and articles about my work. I want to go into education of some sort, as I am fascinated by how people learn and how teachers can support different types of learners.
My PhD is about city space and how it can be used to convey and construct ideas about gender, class, ethnicity and race. The particular city I focus on is St. Louis between 1890 and 1925. This period in American history is loosely described as the Progressive era. Groups of reformers, politicians, business leaders, artists and journalists were worried about the state of the urban environment and the people who lived in them, so set about finding innovative ways to help American cities progress in a positive and healthy way. The progressive programs were interested in housing and schools, but also in the development of mass entertainment, fairs, and festivals.Progressive policies almost always focused upon helping white Americans. During this time there was a massive amount of discrimination against African-Americans, and I look at how Progressive ideas could work to further that discrimination through segregation of city space.
To fully research St. Louis, the city plans, and Progressive programs created there I’ve visited the city and used the archives in its various libraries and universities. The archives I’ve used are very varied and include newspaper reports, maps, city plans, investigative reports, photographs and posters. Using archives is exciting because they offer a window into what people thought about the space they lived in, and how they tried to shape it.
It’s important to understand what people thought about urban space and how they demonstrated their hopes and fears for the places where they lived. Many of these fears are long-standing and are still around today. For example, why are certain areas of any city seen as dangerous? Why and how has that feeling been generated? Is it because there has been chronic under-investment in that area? Do the people who live there have the same access to schools, hospitals, parks and recreation as others? If not, why not? Asking questions about the city’s past can help understand its present and future.
Here are some websites you may want to look at:
http://www.baas.ac.uk/ For the British Association of American Studies: great for resources and opportunities in American Studies in Britain.
http://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/meet-me-at-the-fair-the-native-american-model-school-the-philippine-reservation-and-maintenance-of-the-colour-line-at-st-louiss-worlds-fair/ This is something I wrote for U.S Studies online. This is a great forum for new writing from postgraduates and early career scholars. This piece relates to my work on race and ethnicity at the World’s Fair held in St. Louis in 1904.
http://www.mohistory.org/ This is one of the places in St. Louis where I did my archival research.
http://www.aaihs.org/blog/ For African-American intellectual history and great think pieces concerning contemporary events.