How women emerged as a distinctive class in the burgeoning society of New York City in the post Civil War era is explored from an original viewpoint in this interesting study. Female class relations, ``ladies'' and working women, were symbiotic. The laborers had their sexual and social demeanor regulated by their middle-class sisters, who had the leisure to act as ``self-appointed exemplars of virtue.'' The women of the working class come to life in Stansell's identification of their lot. Adrift from family ties, they entered the labor force, many resorting to prostitution and crime, which provoked the philanthropy of genteel bourgeois women, social reformers and the rise of the settlement house movement. The neighborhoods of the poor, the tenements and bawdy houses of 19th century New York are portrayed as important elements in women's history. Stansell teaches at Princeton University.