Women who had been working got new opportunities to learn higher value skills Women who had been at home gained confidence that they could do hard “Men’s work”
Dr. Sara Diaz
WGST 303: The *isms: Race, Class, and Gender
Work & Family
• What is the institutional meaning of family in our lives?
• At what intersections does family sit?
• Functionalist approach—The function of family is reproduction.
• Constructivist approach—The meaning of family varies across
culture, class, history, etc.
Women and Work
• Women the world over have worked for
• Until 1865, most black women in the US were in
bondage and performed forced labor.
• In the US, 19th C working class white women
(many immigrants) worked in factory jobs.
• In the PNW many Japanese American women
worked in farming.
• Countless women of many ethnicities and races
worked at home caring for their families.
• Public/Private Binary – Feminist intervention
• Nation Building: White women’s role in building the new
American republic was to mother the next generation of patriotic
citizens within the private/domestic sphere.
• White women were protected from patriarchal violence in the
public sphere by the “cult of domesticity.”
• “Racial-ethnic” women were not seen as having a role in nation
building as mothers, but as laborers in the public sphere. Thus,
the “cult of domesticity” did not protect them when they were in
Importance of WWII
• WWII manpower shortages
• Work outside the home -> new skills and
• Gained camaraderie with other women
• eg) black women who had worked in isolation as
domestic servants now had an opportunity work
within a large community of women.
• Unions-had to fight for workplace safety and
equal pay issues.
Reflect on your own family formation and its relationship to
• Who was responsible for productive (waged) and reproductive
• Was the reproductive work distributed to household members
in traditionally or non-traditionally gendered ways?
• How did your family’s class, race, sexuality impact the division
of reproductive labor?
• Do the histories Dill outlines have any bearing on your family’s
division of labor? How so?