Jacqueline Dussaillant, a graduate of the Catholic University of Chile’s outstanding history department and currently a professor in that institution, displays in this book deep research and innovative interpretation to give us a fascinating study of the ways that a growing middle class of Chilean women, beginning in the later nineteenth century, interacted with the new multifloor department stores to create a more vibrant social life in the heart of the old colonial capital of Santiago, along with new forms of female sociability and gender relations.

Dussaillant begins with an account of the changes in urban geography fundamentally brought about by Chile’s entry into the thriving Atlantic economy through the export of sodium nitrate, or salitre, and the subsequent rise in urban population and income. Already by 1875, Horace Rumbold, the British consul in Santiago, noticed the long quiet streets of private...

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