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date: 27 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Feminist struggles for better jobs and rights at work shaped women’s labor history, a project that proclaimed that the history of work and workers was incomplete without understanding the relationship between unpaid domestic labor and employment. Despite the uneven trajectory of women’s labor in a diverse nation, three major themes characterize the history of gender, work, and capitalist development. First, the persistent power of gender on the structure of work meant that employers and policymakers classified women’s labor as unskilled, supplemental, and an extension of women’s “natural” roles as wives and mothers. Second, women’s calls for dignity and improved wages and working conditions included ethnic associations, women’s clubs, and mixed-sex and women-only unions. Third, state policies offered some women protection but made few strides toward equity, which would require acknowledging women’s differential family responsibilities and establishing decent standards for all workers, including those employed in households and in agriculture.

Keywords: work, labor, employment, domestic service, capitalism, unions, protective labor legislation, reproductive labor, domestic ideal, service sector

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