Family and Work: New Patterns for Village Women in Athens
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Family and Work: New Patterns for Village Women in Athens Susan Buck Sutton Recent inquiries into the position of Greek village women have revealed surprising complexities. The low levels of community power and restrictions on public appearances so obviously experienced by these women contrast with unexpectedly strong roles in familial decision -making, religious activities, and farming (Friedl, "Position"; Forbes; Macrakis and Allen). Such findings have rendered simpler assumptions concerning Greek women's roles obsolete and called for closer scrutiny of how their activities relate to the various circumstances in which they find themselves. This essay attempts such an investigation by exploring what happens to female work roles as village women move into Athens. The conclusion is reached that the economic structures found in that city, especially those which place much work in a non-familial setting, reverse major aspects of the village pattern. In this reversal, the manner in which migrant women advance the familial economy changes significantly. While village women generally labor beside their husbands throughout their lives, migrant women do not. Instead, they make major financial contributions to their families through their dowries and thereafter serve largely in supportive roles for spouses and children. Indeed, while generally working for wages before marriage, migrant women then devote themselves more exclusively to house, child and spouse care than do their rural counterparts. In such respects these Greek migrants are not unlike many middle class women throughout the world. During the last 150 years the housewife role has gained importance in those nations where work has become capitalized and industrialized. This situation creates a tension between home and job that encourages restriction of female activity to the former, a process sometimes called marginalization because women come to occupy a more peripheral economic position than before (Rohrlich-Leavitt, "Conclusions" 620). Although varying in their data base, theoretical orientation, and comprehensive33 34 Susan Buck Sutton ness, discussions of marginalization exhibit great consistency in identifying an increased strain between home and job as the key element .1 As shown in this essay, the case of Greek village women in Athens gives further support to such ideas. In turn, characterizing the work role changes undergone by Athenian migrants as marginalization clears up some confusion caused by the seemingly mismatched set of behaviors in which they sometimes engage. The escalating urban dowry system, for example, has puzzled those who assumed such an institution would fade in this most westernized of Greek settings. When viewed in the context of marginalization, however, it is shown as a specifically Greek response to the altered position which migrant women experience. Such conclusions follow from a case study of the women from one particular village on the island of Amorgos. The easternmost of the Cyclades, Amorgos is a long, narrow, mountainous island whose recent demographic history is midway between those islands completely abandoned in the rush toward the capital and those whose population has been secured, at least temporarily, by tourism. During 1974-75, and again in 1980, I conducted anthropological fieldwork on migration from the island to Athens.2 Although not initially focused on the issue of gender roles, this research provided unexpected information on the topic which I then pursued in more depth. Interviews conducted with 25 village women and 25 migrant women between 30 and 80 years of age showed an alteration of work activities for the latter. When juxtaposed with the few other studies touching on work roles for urban Greek women, such data show the contrasting economic structures of Amorgos and Athens to have rendered very different female work role patterns (Cavounidis; Dubisch ; Friedl, "Kinship"; Lambiri; Moustaka; Sandis; Symeionidou -Alatopoulou; Typaldou-Dodge; Voutiras). Presentation of these ideas begins with the personal histories of two Amorgian women which illustrate the contrast between village and Athenian work roles. The connection between the former and the economic structures found on Amorgos are discussed. An explanation for the work role changes migrants experience is then sought in the new economic structures they find in Athens. Finally, some general considerations concerning marginalization in Greece are posed. Anna and Dimitra Individual life histories reveal the complexity of decision-making in a fashion sometimes masked by aggregate statistics. This discussion of Family and...


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