Educator Events

From Cholera to Clean Water: Daily Life in 19th-Century New York

From Cholera to Clean Water: Daily Life in 19th-Century New York


When: Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 6:30-7:30PM ET

Event Location: Zoom

Cost: Free; Suggested Donation

Virtual Teacher Professional Development Workshop
CTLE: 1 Credit

Join Dr. Gwynneth C. Malin as she discusses how our health today depends on a complex water supply and sewerage system built over 150 years ago and we often take clean drinking water and indoor plumbing for granted.

Although wealthy New Yorkers installed indoor flush toilets starting in the 1860s, the working-class and poor residents of New York’s tenements buildings relied on chamber pots and outdoor toilets, in some cases into the 20th century. Women living in the tenements carried heavy tubs of water for household use up multiple flights of stairs daily. In the mid 19th-century, city officials in New York began to take responsibility for water and sewers by building, operating, and maintaining new infrastructure as a public undertaking and then gradually replacing the private companies which had been providing these services previously. This talk will center visual sources, to show some objects of daily life in the tenements and to honor the inestimable contribution of the contract laborers, everyday citizens, engineers, politicians and sewer tourists, who made New York’s public water and sewer system happen.

Gwynneth C. Malin is a historian and an archivist by training and an academic administrator. She is the Administrative Director of Gallatin’s Master of Arts Program and Associate Faculty at the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at New York University. Her research interests focus on the intersections between local government, natural resources, and water infrastructure and her dissertation was titled How Water Became Public in Progressive-Era New York, 1883-1917. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, New York Archives, The Public Historian, The Journal of Archival Organization, and at Visit this website for more information on current projects.

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The Tenement Museum’s professional learning workshops for teachers are made possible, in part, through a generous grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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