Women, work and value in postwar Europe, 1945-2015
From the ‘rubble women’ of the immediate postwar period to the ‘working mothers’ of today, women’s work – paid and unpaid - has been the object of intense political significance and public scrutiny. In popular and cultural representations, women’s work has variously been portrayed as heroic, disruptive, everyday, and abnormal. Bringing together historians, scholars of culture and society, and social scientists, this research network explores the ways in which women’s work has been valued in postwar Europe – by states, trade unions, employers, popular opinion, and of course by women themselves.
We hope that our research questions will be of interest not just to academics, but to policy makers, pressure groups, and female and male workers and employers:
- What has been the economic value of women’s work, not only to the postwar European economies, but also to family budgets?
- What has been the relationship between economic valuations of women’s work, and women’s own, subjective value attachment? And what kinds of value does society attach to particular kinds of work, beyond remuneration, and how is this gendered?
- What sorts of work have traditionally been coded female, and how has this changed over this period? Have the ways in which care work and affective labour are seen shifted significantly over time?
- What value judgments are attached to different forms of women’s work, and indeed to female paid labour more generally?
- What can cultural representations of women’s work tell us about how female labour is seen and valued?
- How do women define work – at home, out of the home, waged/unwaged?
- How do men react to women’s paid work? How do they value unpaid work? What are their reactions to shifts in the division of labour?
- How has valuing women’s work become an object of political struggle, e.g. in campaigns for equal pay, or in the feminist critique of unpaid domestic labour and the family as work?
- What role has been played by international organisations such as the UN, the OECD, and the ILO?
- What role has the state played in the development of women’s work (e.g. legislation for equal pay, encouraging women to take on particular types of work, women’s work in the public sector, provision of childcare, and so on?) What fundamental differences can be seen between capitalist and socialist systems, and their valuing of women’s work?
- Have women refused to take on particular sorts of work? In what circumstances have women been forced or coerced to work? What has been the impact of industrial action on the value placed on women’s work?
For further information: Josie.McLellan@bristol.ac.uk