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Book Reviews Beyond Dichotomy: Recent Books in North American Women's Labor History Alice Kessler-Harris. A Woman's Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences . Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990. xü + 168 pp. ISBN 0-8131-0551-X (cl); 0-8131-0803-9 (pb); $20.00 (cl); $10.00 (pb). Jeanne Boydston. Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. xx + 222 pp. ISBN 0-19-506009-1 (cl); $29.95. Phyllis Palmer. Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945. Women in the Pohtical Economy. Ronnie J. Steinberg, series editor. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. xviii + 214. ISBN 0-87722-585-0 (cl); 0-87722-901-5 (pb); $34.95 (cl); $16.95 (pb). Dorothy Sue Cobble. Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century. The Working Class in American History. Women in American History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. xiv + 327 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-252-01812-5 (cl); 0-252-06186-1 (pb); $34.95 (cl); $14.95 (pb). Elizabeth Faue. Community of Suffering and Struggle: Women, Men, and the Labor Movement in Minneapolis, 1915-1945. Gender and American Culture . Linda K. Kerber and Nell Irvin Painter, series editors. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. xviii + 295 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-8078-1945-X (cl); 0-8078-4307-5 (pb); $39.95 (cl); $14.95 (pb). Joy Parr. The Gender of Breadwinners: Women, Men, and Change in Two Industrial Towns, 1880-1950. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. xiii + 314 pp. ISBN 0-8020-5853-1 (cl); 0-8020-6760-3 (pb); $45.00 (cl); $20.95 (pb). Eileen Boris Labor history has located its origins in the politics of class and trade unionism; women's history, in the politics of gender and feminism. To argue that labor history is about class and women's history is about gender, however, not only narrows our scholarly sights but replicates the ideological spht between home and work that obscures the ways that each realm shapes the other. Rather than forming "separate tribes," as Richard Oestreicher recently contended, these two fields have crossed in women's © 1993 Journal of Women-s History, Vol. 4 No. 3 (Winter) 1993 Book Reviews: Eileen Boris 163 labor history for the enrichment of both.1 Historians of the female working class have pushed women's historians to confront differences between women by class and, to a lesser extent, race and ethnicity.2 Now some of us are insisting that not only do women compose part of the working class, but that men and institutions also have a gender.3 As papers presented at the 1991 North American Labor History Conference and the 1992 meeting, "Reworking American Labor History: Race, Gender, and Class," at the Wisconsin Historical Society testify, the engendering of labor history is well under way.4 Dissolving dichotomy is central to that process. Studies like the ones under consideration reflect intellectual struggles within feminist theory, particularly the rejection of essentialism, the recognition of differences among women, and the search for self-activity and female empowerment. Poststructuralism in the broadest sense—as a habit of critique and a mental framework, as a sensitivity to language and the multiplicity of identity— informs the rejection of the home /work spht that these works share. Sometimes conceived of as separate spheres, other times expressed as private /public, reproduction /production, community /shopfloor, and always seen as female/male, the home/work spht pulls apart what in various concrete historical circumstances not only co-exists but defines boundaries that overlap, indeed, construct each other. Paid labor, breadwinning , trade unionism, indeed the wage itself, become refigured in this new scholarship. These books remind us how different philosophical and social theories —whether Marxism, psychoanalysis, or poststructuralism—define our interpretations. They also suggest how women's labor history is beginning, in Dorothy Sue Cobble's words, to "reshape the conventional concepts and narrative of labor history" (p. 4). In various degrees, these authors deconstruct the basic conventions of the field and force rethinking of what too often historians of women and of labor have taken for granted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 162-179
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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