History ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-12-2019


This dissertation argues that American beaches, within the world of leisure and pleasure, were significant contested spaces of social change and debate. Overtime, from about 1880 to 1940, social restrictions loosened at the beach, allowing men, women, and people of color to express themselves in ways that had been previously controlled, curtailed, or proscribed. The emergence of mass popular amusements at the beach attracted a wide array of the American population. Both working-class and middle-class Americans absorbed the culture of new beach attractions, such as amusement parks, piers, boardwalks, and bathhouses. In doing so, they interacted more with each other and, in turn, defined themselves by the type of beach vacations they could take. By 1940, the beach had become an essential vacation destination for Americans of all backgrounds.

As more Americans from diverse backgrounds began taking vacations and visiting leisure spaces, beachgoing became a national experience. Beaches could accommodate those visitors who wanted long vacations, day-trippers, and people visiting just for an afternoon excursion. The beach became a quintessential American leisure destination where Americans experimented with gender roles and social interactions.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Virginia Scharff

Second Committee Member

Durwood Ball

Third Committee Member

Shannon Withycombe

Fourth Committee Member

Cathleen Cahill




beach, leisure, women, gender, popular attractions, African American leisure

Document Type