Abstract

In the early twentieth century, Chinese peasant women's work in sericulture fused with modern factory production of raw silk, generating a nonclassic form of Third World capitalism. In Wuxi County, near the modern treaty port city of Shanghai, women worked long hours raising silkworms for daily incomes far below those men earned in grain farming. Escalating demand for silkworm cocoons helped stimulate a gendered division of labor in all types of work peasant households performed, with men seeking an array of nonfarm jobs to supplement their work in grain farming, while women pursued sericulture. As a result, male peasants in Wuxi migrated more frequently to urban locales in search of work, and women and children who were left behind became the poorest people residing in Wuxi villages. These findings demonstrate the control exercised over peasant women's labor in divergent forms of Third World capitalisms, and an increasing potential in such situations for the feminization of rural poverty.

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 82-106
Launched on MUSE
2000-02-01
Open Access
No
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