Aron, Cindy S(ondik) 1945-
ARON, Cindy S(ondik) 1945-
PERSONAL: Born 1945. Education: Brandeis University, B.A., 1967; University of Maryland, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1981.
CAREER: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, professor of history, 2000—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Louis Pelzer Memorial Award, Organization of American Historians, 1980; American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, 1985.
(Author of introduction) Dorothy Richardson, TheLong Day, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1990.
Contributor to books, including The Reader's Encyclopedia of American History, edited by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1991; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Paula E. Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore, Routledge (New York, NY), 1997; and Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Paul Finkleman, Scribner (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor to academic journals and associated publications.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A history of prostitution in the United States from 1945 to 1980.
SIDELIGHTS: Cindy S. Aron's social histories explore points on the spectrum of work and play—and where they inevitably connect—in the history of the United States. Her first publication, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service: Middle-Class Workers in Victorian America, is a "perceptive and engaging case study of an important segment of the late-nineteenth-century middle class: the men and women who worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C.," wrote Richard R. John, Jr., in Business History Review. Using application files archived by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Treasury Department, Aron chronicles the evolution of the idea of what it means to be middle class in the United States. She contends that this changing perception of class, gender, and the nature of work itself, taking place largely from 1860 to 1900, laid the foundation of the modern version of white-collar bureaucracy.
In the middle 1800s, both men and women perceived federal employment to be a threat to their middle-class status. Men were socially conditioned to prefer the autonomy and independence of self-employment to the strictures of working for someone else. As for women, Victorian society allowed them to prefer leisure and selflessness in the family's home to organized work. Only by staying relatively free could they maintain their status as ladies and gentlemen of the middle class. However, "prospective clerks were compelled by economic hardship and family crisis to give up the autonomy of self-employment and the shelter of the home," commented John S. Gilkeson, Jr., in the Journal of American History. This involuntary drive to seek employment in civil service led to a rethinking of the concept of what it means to be middle class. "Gradually, men came to appreciate job security, making it an integral part of the middle-class work experience, whereas women worked to ensure that the office came to resemble a proper Victorian parlor, with indecorous practices like smoking strongly discouraged," John remarked. Lynn Y. Weiner, writing in American Historical Review, called the book "a fascinating account of the men and women who were part of the transition in middle-class labor in the second half of the nineteenth century. It will contribute to the current discourse on the history of labor segmentation and integration and is an important addition to the literature in American labor, social, and women's history."
Seemingly standing in opposition to a book about work, but still concerned with concepts of both work and leisure and how they intertwine, is Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States. Aron traces the history of vacations in the United States, from their origins as periods of leisure for the wealthy in the 1800s to the current entitlement— sometimes mandate—for a few weeks respite from the job each year. In the 1800s, only the very wealthy could afford to take vacations; most members of the labor force were compelled either by economic necessity or the prevailing Protestant work ethic to remain at their jobs. Slowly, the idea that some time off might be a good thing entered into the concept of work, as more and more people became economically capable of setting work aside for an extended period. Factory owners began to see that vacations improved employee morale and productivity, and they grudgingly accepted the practice.
But reconciling leisure time with the American work ethic has consistently been a problem with vacationers, particularly in the early days. Americans combined elements of work with their vacations. A vacation to a historical spot could be educational; a religious retreat involved spiritual work; therapeutic vacations allowed work on the mind and body. Idleness for its own sake is dispelled by the work of "re-creation" that restores and refreshes the workers' faculties. Modern technology has made it easier for vacationers to take their work with them via laptop computer and cell phone. "Each type of vacationing comes out in remarkably rich detail, due to impressive research and a keen ear for the telling anecdote," commented Rob Kroes in American Historical Review. However, Americans "remain prisoners of a 'persistent and continuing American suspicion of time spent away from work,' even at this point in our history where opportunities for leisure and the wherewithal to enjoy it are abundant," observed Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post Book World. Martin H. Levinson, writing in ETC: A Review of General Semantics, observed that Aron's book "is meticulously researched, written with wit and style, smartly illustrated with period photography, and entertaining and enlightening."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1988, Lynn Y. Weiner, review of Ladies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service: Middle-Class Workers in Victorian America, pp. 779-780; June, 2000, Rob Kroes, review of Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States, pp. 901-902.
Annals of the American Academy of Political andSocial Science, May, 1988, Cam Walker, review of Ladies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service, pp. 195-196.
Booklist, May 1, 1999, David Rouse, review of Working at Play, p. 1573.
Business History Review, spring, 1989, Richard R. John, Jr., review of Ladies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service, pp. 196-198.
Canadian Journal of History, August, 2001, Harvey Levenstein, review of Working at Play, p. 385.
ETC: A Review of General Semantics, fall, 2000, Martin H. Levinson, review of Working at Play, p. 378.
Journal of American History, June, 1988, John S. Gilkeson, Jr., review of Ladies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service, p. 278.
Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Kathleen A. Shanahan, review of Working at Play, p. 99.
New York Times, August 14, 1999, Felicia R. Lee, "The Vacation, a Measure of Behavior and Values."
New York Times Book Review, October 10, 1999, Andrea Higbie, review of Working at Play, p. 22.
Peoria Journal Star (Peoria, IL), David Reed, "Book Takes Look at How U.S. Vacations Evolved," p. F2.
Playboy, August, 1999, Paul Engleman, "Take a Break," p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1999, review of Working at Play, p. 228.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA), August 15, 1999, "And Thus It Was Ever So to European Tastes, Americans Take Their Vacations Too Seriously," p. G1.
Washington Post Book World, June 6, 1999, Jonathan Yardley, review of Working at Play, p. X02.
Women's Review of Books, October, 1999, Dona Brown, review of Working at Play, p. 9.
University of Virginia Web site,http://www.virginia.edu/ (January 30, 2004), "Cindy S. Aron."*