Elizabeth Schroeder SchlabachNov 7, 2022
Dream Books and Gamblers
Black Women's Work in Chicago's Policy Game
University of Illinois Press 2022
Ubiquitous illegal lotteries known as policy flourished in Chicago's Black community during the overlapping waves of the Great Migration. Policy "queens" owned stakes in lucrative operations while women writers and clerks canvased the neighborhood, passed out winnings, and kept the books.
In Dream Books and Gamblers: Black Women's Work in Chicago's Policy Game (University of Illinois Press, 2022). Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach examines the complexities of policy and gender politics in Chicago. Policy provided Black women with a livelihood for themselves and their families. At the same time, navigating gender expectations, aggressive policing, and other hazards of the infromal economy led them to refashion ideas about Black womanhood and respectability. Policy earnings also funded above-board enterprises ranging from neighborhood businesses to philanthropic institutions, and Schlabach delves into the various ways Black women straddled the illegal policy business and reputable community involvement.
Vivid and revealing, Dream Books and Gamblers tells the stories of Black women in the underground economy and how they used their work to balance the demands of living and laboring in Black Chicago.