#GAReads | How 19th-Century Women Used Department Stores to Gain Their Freedom
Some 70,000 people, most of them women, showed up for the opening of Wanamaker’s “Grand Depot” in 1876. The Philadelphia department store was astonishing, lit by thousands of gaslights, filled with furs and gloves and fabrics, and filled with music thanks to a gigantic pipe organ.
But as much as women enjoyed being catered to by carefully dressed attendants and lounging at the 1,100 seats inside to talk over their purchases with their friends, they were actually doing more than shopping. They were experiencing a new kind of freedom—one ushered in by the concept of department stores.