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This article explores the changing contours of the relationship between gender and the distinction between public and private spaces in western cities. Our account returns to the emergence of a modern understanding of public and private spaces to highlight its class and gender connotations. Then, focusing on middle-class women's experiences of public spaces, we use examples from the mid-nineteenth century and the late-twentieth century to illustrate continuities and changes. We emphasize persistent but evolving exclusions from the category “public,” which have been sustained in part by changing delineations of “public space” associated with consumer activities. In developing our argument, we question representations of public spaces invoked in arguments about its decline and argue for a politics sensitive to different experiences of such spaces.