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Fit work for women

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: Fit work for women
Date published: 1979
Publisher: London : Canberra, ACT : Croom Helm ; Australian National University Press
This book presents a collection of papers which discuss the origins of the domestic ideal and its effects on activities usually undertaken by women: not only on women's wage work, but also on activities either not defined as work or accorded an ambiguous status. It begins with a discussion of how Evangelical aims led to the formation of the ideology of domesticity, which was subsequently moulded to other purposes by economic forces. Within this ideology, the one public arena considered suitable for work by upper-class women was philanthropy. The second paper examines this activity, discussing its immediate and long-term effects on both official policy and on women of the middle and working classes. A study of landladies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brings to light new aspects of the ideology of domesticity and has interesting implications for theories of women's autonomy, as has the paper in which the little-discussed working-class radical suffragists are examined. The effects of the domestic ideal on Labour Party and trade union attitudes to feminists are themes in both this study of the suffragists and in the succeeding paper on militancy and acquiescence among women wage workers today, which questions the stereotype of the passive woman worker. Modern society is further analysed in a discussion of how and why the legal system reinforces activity specialisation according to gender, and in an examination of why both pre-pre-war capitalism and the modern Welfare State have been unable to meet the needs of dependents. The final paper deals with the nature of domestic work, highlighting inadequacies in current theory and suggesting a new approach to the domestic labour debate. This collection reflects the increasing recognition that in order to understand women's roles today, it is necessary to examine not only their current manifestations, but also their origins and early development.


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