Journal of Women's History

Journal of Women's History
Volume 15, Number 4, Winter 2004
Special Issue: Women's Labors
Guest Editor: Eileen Boris



    Grever, Maria.
    Waaldijk, Berteke.
  • Women's Labor At Display: Feminist Claims to Dutch Citizenship and Colonial Politics around 1900
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    Subject Headings:
    • Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid (1898 : Hague, Netherlands)
    • Women -- Employment -- Netherlands -- History -- 19th century.
    • Women -- Netherlands -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
    • Feminism -- Netherlands -- History -- 19th century.
    • Women's rights -- Netherlands -- History -- 19th century.
      Inspired by their American and Danish counterparts, some five hundred Dutch women organized a national exhibition devoted to "Women's Labor" in 1898. The event took place near The Hague, lasted three months, and attracted over 90,000 visitors. The conscious and political focus on women's labor intended to show the ways in which women contributed to the Dutch nation and advocated decent employment for women as a prerequisite for citizenship. Many forms of women's labor were depicted, such as factory girls working behind machines and women from the East Indies demonstrating arts and crafts. At the exhibition conferences, teachers, social workers, and nurses spoke about their professions. This article tells the story of how the women's movement in a small, Western nation with a large colonial empire used an exhibition to put women's social position on the political agenda. In doing so, Dutch women transformed the public sphere.
    Lu, Weijing.
  • Beyond the Paradigm: Tea-Picking Women in Imperial China
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    Subject Headings:
    • Tea plantation workers -- China -- History -- Qing dynasty, 1644-1912.
    • Women -- China -- Economic conditions -- 1644-1912.
    • Women -- China -- Social conditions -- 1644-1912.
      This article explores the tension between women's labor and tea-picking through the Confucian norm of "womanly work." Using local gazetteer and poetry as major sources, it examines the economic roles and the lives of women tea-pickers over the course of China's imperial history. It argues that women's work in imperial China took on different meanings as ecological settings, economic resources, and social class shifted. The very commodity—tea—that these women produced also shaped portrayals of their labor, turning them into romantic objects and targets of gossip. But women tea-pickers also appeared as good women with moral dignity, suggesting the fundamental importance of industry and diligence as female virtues in imperial China.
    Maynes, Mary Jo.
  • Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Historical Perspective: European Spinsters in the International Textile Industry, 1750-1900
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    Subject Headings:
    • Women textile workers -- Europe -- History.
    • Europe -- Economic conditions -- 1789-1900.
      Current debates about globalization often treat it as a late-twentieth-century phenomenon. But many of the characteristics of the contemporary global economy are continuations of older trends: accelerating substitution of globally marketed products for local products, the rapid growth of the labor force producing goods and services for the international market, and the complex mediation of local and regional economic conditions within global power relations. One of the most significant aspects of globalization from a feminist point of view is its disruption of local gender divisions of labor and its impact on women's wage labor. The history of Europe's spinning industry as it moved from cottage to factory between 1750 and 1900 puts a new spin (so to speak) on accounts of globalization and gender. Europe's early industrial capitalist development brought regions of Europe into and out of production for globalizing markets through selective investment and disinvestments. Then, as now, women's work, and in particular the work of young women, played a key role in the region's "economic development."
    Blum, Ann Shelby, 1950-
  • Cleaning the Revolutionary Household: Domestic Servants and Public Welfare in Mexico City, 1900-1935
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    Subject Headings:
    • Women domestics -- Mexico -- Mexico City -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
    • Public welfare -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
      Historians of Mexican labor have long considered domestic service analytically elusive owing to its informal nature and the fact that it took place in private homes. Located at key junctures of legal and social reform during Mexico's early revolutionary period, domestic service comes into focus through examination of public welfare institutions where domestics appeared in multiple roles. Family law reform legalizing adoption provided protection against adoption of state wards as domestic servants. Federal maternal-child health programs, the outcome of discursive valuation of maternity and domesticity, raised the qualifications for certain kinds of domestic labor in institutional settings. Federal labor law included domestic service, establishing legal recourse against abuse but also codifying the low social status of domestic service. These early developments illuminate ways that revolutionary reforms intended to modernize Mexican family forms to support national economic goals simultaneously constructed a gendered informal labor sector.
    Bender, Daniel E.
  • "Too Much of Distasteful Masculinity": Historicizing Sexual Harassment in the Garment Sweatshop and Factory
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sexual harassment of women -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Sex discrimination against women -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Clothing workers -- United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
      Sexual harassment is often described only as a "common experience" to women's labors. An examination of the turn-of-the-century garment industry demonstrates how harassment did more than render work uncomfortable for women—it was central to how men constructed and protected definitions of skill and the naturalness of sexual segregation at work. Initial resistance to harassment by immigrant Jewish and Italian female workers was difficult. By the 1910s, however, working women in collaboration with elite reformers turned to strategies of unionization and languages of ladyhood. Yet their efforts tended to focus on the experience of harassment, rather than on its relationship to hierarchies of skill and pay. In addition, unionization focused attention on the harassment by bosses alone. Sexual harassment should be understood as a historically specific, unequal form of interaction and as a tool for the policing and naturalization of sexual difference at work.
    Guard, Julie.
  • Authenticity on the Line: Women Workers, Native "Scabs," and the Multi-ethnic Politics of Identity in a Left-Led Strike in Cold War Canada
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    Subject Headings:
    • Lanark Manufacturing Strike, Dunnville, Ont., 1964.
    • Women in the labor movement -- Ontario -- Dunnville -- History -- 20th century.
    • Women's rights -- Ontario -- Dunnville -- History -- 20th century.
    • Dunnville (Ont.) -- Ethnic relations -- Political aspects -- History -- 20th century.
      A 1964 strike by women workers in Dunnville, Ontario provides an exceptional perspective on the complex ways in which class, gender, and ethnicity unite in the construction of identity. The women strikers drew on left-wing traditions of feisty femininity to claim an identity as real workers and authentic unionists while also embracing multi-ethnic identities that distinguished them from the Anglo-Celtic middle class. Their claims to authenticity challenged pervasive assumptions, including those of their union brothers, who defined labor militancy as implicitly male and distorted memories of the strike. Yet the limits on the women's own constructions of these identities are evident in their inability to perceive the Native women who scabbed during the strike as workers. By contrasting the ways in which identity was claimed, assigned, and contested by different groups of workers, this story problematizes categories of identity that are often used uncritically in labor history.

Sex Work and Women's Labors Around the Globe

    Karras, Ruth Mazo, 1957-
  • Women's Labors: Reproduction and Sex Work in Medieval Europe
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex-oriented businesses -- Social aspects -- Europe -- History -- To 1500.
    • Women -- Europe -- Social conditions -- To 1492.
    • Human reproduction -- Europe -- History -- To 1500.
    Levine, Philippa.
  • "A Multitude of Unchaste Women:" Prostitution in the British Empire
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex-oriented businesses -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Great Britain -- Colonies -- History.
    • Women -- Great Britain -- Colonies -- Social conditions.
    Bliss, Katherine Elaine, 1968-
  • A Right to Live as Gente Decente: Sex Work, Family Life, and Collective Identity in Early-Twentieth-Century Mexico
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex-oriented businesses -- Economic aspects -- Mexico -- Mexico City -- History -- 20th century.
    • Women -- Mexico -- Mexico City -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
    • Group identity -- Mexico -- Mexico City -- History -- 20th century.
    Soh, Chung-Hee.
  • Women's Sexual Labor and State in Korean History
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    Subject Headings:
    • Comfort women -- Korea -- History.
    • Prostitution -- Korea -- History.
    • Women -- Korea -- Social conditions.

Women's History in the New Millennium

Book Reviews

    Fernandes, Leela.
  • Gender and Labor in Comparative Historical Perspective
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    Subject Headings:
    • Gabaccia, Donna R., 1949-, ed. Women, gender, and transnational lives: Italian women around the world.
    • Iacovetta, Franca, 1957-, ed.
    • Gills, Dong-Sook Shin, 1955-, ed. Women and work in globalising Asia.
    • Piper, Nicola, ed.
    • Lindberg, Anna. Experience and identity: a historical account of class, caste, and gender among the cashew workers of Kerala, 1930-2000.
    • Sharpe, Pamela, ed. Women, gender, and labour migration: historical and global perspectives.
    • Women -- Employment -- Italy -- History.
    • Women -- Employment -- Asia -- Congresses.
    Shaw, Stephanie J. (Stephanie Jo), 1955-
  • Race, Sex, and Women's Work
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    Subject Headings:
    • Harley, Sharon, ed. Sister circle: Black women and work.
    • Black Women and Work Collective, ed.
    • African American women -- Employment -- History -- Sources.
    Meade, Teresa A., 1948-
  • Labor and Gender in the Chilean Town and Country
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    Subject Headings:
    • Hutchison, Elizabeth Q. (Elizabeth Quay) Labors appropriate to their sex: gender, labor, and politics in urban Chile, 1900-1930.
    • Tinsman, Heidi, 1964- Partners in conflict: the politics of gender, sexuality, and labor in the Chilean agrarian reform, 1950-1973.
    • Women -- Employment -- Chile -- History -- 20th century.
    • Sex role -- Chile -- History -- 20th century.
    Nowak, Basia A.
  • Regendering the Working Class in Stalinist Russia
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    Subject Headings:
    • Goldman, Wendy Z. Women at the gates: gender and industry in Stalin's Russia.
    • Women -- Employment -- Soviet Union -- History.


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