Specialized Themes

Gendered Work, Gendered Struggles: Women’s Activism at the Work-place in Long-term and Comparative Perspective
Session code
Date Time
Wednesday, August 24th / 09.00-12.30
Susan Zimmermann
Collegium Minus, XVII

Working women, who often labored under precarious conditions and without adequate compensation as day laborers, unpaid, occasional or unskilled “mass workers,” belong to those strata of workers whom the new global labor history has identified as the majority of the global workforce. When engaging in social and political struggle, and working to stabilize and improve their place in the factory, home, or other workplaces, these women faced political marginalization even amongst potential allies. They encountered male-dominated trade unions and social milieus when collaborating with the workers’ movement. They faced containment of working women’s class- and labor-related interests and activism when cooperating with women’s groups and women’s organizations. This Specialized Theme explores the agency and sometimes radicalism of working women as they struggled to secure the well-being of themselves and their communities. Their ideas and practices both accommodated and chal¬lenged the logic of modern economic life at the point of production and reproduction. The session explores continuity and change over place and time. It brings together research on women from various activist traditions and different backgrounds, and examines collaboration and conflict amongst working women locally and across borders. Taken together, the contributions stimulate comparative thinking on women’s activism in multiple workplaces, and regions of the world as well as in divergent political systems. Working women struggled to address the gender of class within systems that claimed to tame or overcome class difference – with ambiguous consequences. Elsewhere, working class men and women forged solidarity against class oppression – without resolving gender struggle within working class activism.