From the earliest days of the Argentine feminist movement, activists of all political persuasions recognized the growth of the female industrial working class as a significant trend, though each understood that trend differently. Conservatives regarded increased female employment as a moral and medical threat to families. Socialists and Anarchists decried the exploitation of women as an example of the corruption of capitalist society. Members of the middle-class Radical party and independent feminists shared elements of both views, recognizing the perils of modern work. However, all feminists agreed that the presence of a female working class was an undeniable fact that could not be ignored or reversed; and women workers required protection from those dangers, a problem that could be solved through increased political activism and reform, though the form that would take was contested. The emergence of a female working class therefore provided the basis for Argentine feminism, yet the emphasis on the problems of working women failed to unify laborers with middle class activists as they diverged on priorities and methods. This paper explores the efforts of women’s rights activists to incorporate worker’s issues into their agenda and the response to that effort from labor activists and the government. At a time of increasing labor activism, legal reforms targeting women were part of a larger effort to appease the working class, and while these efforts did not have the desired effect in the short term, they helped set the stage for more sweeping reform movements later in the 20th century.


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pp. 73-88
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