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"In Labor Alone is Happiness": Women's Work, Social Work, and Feminist Reform Endeavors in Wilhelmine Germany--A Transatlantic Perspective

When social reformers in Wilhelmine Germany discussed "the social question" or "the woman's question," they often did so in a gendered way, pointing at the plight of overburdened female factory workers and the presumingly parasitical lives of middle- and upper-class women. In fact, work as opposed to leisure precluded happiness for one group of women in Wilhelmine Germany; lack of work made life difficult for another group. This article argues that women social reformers searched for ways to address both "the social question" and "the woman's question." They developed a vision of work which provided a new perspective on their own lives and the lives of working-class women. From the reformers' point of view, work was a remedy for a host of social problems and a means for the improvement of society as a whole. This transatlantic perspective highlights how much women social reformers on both sides of the Atlantic had in common. They shared a belief in high moral standards which was inseparably linked to a genuine appreciation of labor and work. This important place of women's work on the transatlantic reform agenda calls for further explanation.