The concept of text mining is one that frightened me upon first hearing about it, but after putting it to use through Voyant, I realize how valuable this tool can be to analyze large pieces of text to locate themes and word relationships without having to read every single word. The major value in this is that the machine is able to evaluate the themes that exist within without bias, through purely factual word relationships. The Summary tool at first glance gives an overview to the document, but one is able to click on specific terms and the tools shift to show the data for that particular word.

The question that is posed and answered not only in Flanagan’s Gender and Urban Political Reform, but also The American City, is how did women act politically during the progressive era?

According to Flanagan, women during the first two decades of the 20th century were thought to be interested “in social, not political, causes and reforms,” and concerned with how power in civil society is ordered and exercised and the way in which power was yielded and conceptualized.” [1]

Based on the text mining of the American City data compared to Gender and Urban Political Reform, this idea is proven to be more prominent in women’s political history, but not necessarily limited to the municipal housekeeping. Through the use of Voyant’s cirrus tool and terms tool, it is evident that the words public, work, water, street, town, school, county, state, and municipal are among the most prevalent of terms in the text speaking on women’s’ involvement in politics. The word public alone is used 576 times within The American City text. [2]

Women are generally seen as the ‘caretaker’ segment of the population, as seen in these texts and still largely prevalent today. This may be the reason that, unlike men’s political involvement in the progressive era, were focused on bettering society as a whole and worried about public health over economics. This included advocation for better trash services and a better education system. [3]

At over 500 pages, it would take someone so much longer to sit down and read every page to come uncover the themes of The American City, which is why the data mining and text analysis is so valuable not only to a historian, but also a student of any kind. I cannot imagine reading 500 pages and then even having any idea of what was going on by the end of it with my brain processing all of that information, and I am fairly certain that if I were to have to make an educated statement about what I read there would be bias involved. This tool is truly invaluable, because it gives a completely unbiased examination of the information allowing the researcher to pull from the information that they initially were searching for and see trends with other words or phrases that relate.

I really enjoyed this assignment and I hope to be able to use it again in my university career at George Mason.

Thanks for reading!

[1] Flanagan, Maureen A. “Gender and Urban Political Reform: The City Club and the Woman’s City Club of Chicago in the Progressive Era.” The American Historical Review 95, no. 4 (1990): 1032-050. doi:10.2307/2163477. Pp. 1033.

[2] Grant, Arthur Hastings, and Harold Sinley Buttenheim. The American City. Vol. XIII. New York City, NY: Civic Press, 1915.

[3] Flanagan, Maureen A. “Gender and Urban Political Reform: The City Club and the Woman’s City Club of Chicago in the Progressive Era.” The American Historical Review 95, no. 4 (1990): 1032-050. doi:10.2307/2163477