Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ida Susser

Subject Categories

Education | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies


New York, Urban, Women, Youth


Thirty years of neoliberal policies have left New York a divided city, with ever-rising rates of income inequality and widening social disparity. Structural transformations associated with global capitalism have led to divergent experiences for male and female youth coming of age in the 21st century. Girls are experiencing greater social integration and social mobility whereas, boys are facing social exclusion and limited opportunities. As young men precariously forge new transitions to adulthood, young women are constructed as ideal flexible subjects, benefiting from feminist achievements, and advancing in the new service economy. Yet in reality, girls continue to face gendered base violence, sexism, and burdens of responsibilities. Through this lens, I examine how gender operates as an organizing principle in young people's lives today in the Lower East Side (LES) of New York City.

This study also documents how people create cultural alternatives that reflect their values and progressive politics and analyzes how this has been down in the past. It offers an organizational case study of The Lower Eastside Girls Club in an effort to increase our understanding of the history and significance of a successful struggle to educate, employ, and carve out a safe space for women and girls in neoliberal New York. It documents how the Girls Club builds upon a legacy of grassroots initiatives in the LES, including the settlement house movement of the Progressive Era and Mobilization for Youth of the 1960's.

This study asks: what should an education accomplish in a democracy? (Giroux 2013) It examines the limitations of the Girls Club's engaged practice of uplift and empowerment in relation to its progressive politics and critical pedagogy. I suggest that education is a terrain in the "right to the city" (Lefebvre 1968), and that the Girls Club, in constructing alternative models of education and community engagement, is locally engaging in a broader struggle for social justice, albeit with limited success. This study concludes with an analysis of Girls Club's efforts to push forth a community-led development model that puts women and youth at the center, melding the politics of Jane Addams and Jane Jacobs and offering an alternative urban vision.