Cover for Wikander: Protecting Women: Labor Legislation in Europe, the United States, and Australia, 1880-1920. Click for larger image

Protecting Women

Labor Legislation in Europe, the United States, and Australia, 1880-1920

Enacted in almost every industrial country a century ago, protective legislation directed toward women provoked bitter controversy, pitting men against women, women against women, and elected officials against political parties. Strong conflicts arose over what constituted "protection." Does this kind of legislation help preserve womenıs capacities to mother, or is it intended to preserve menıs jobs? Does protective legislation help achieve workplace equality? Does it give the state the right to intrude into private family life and, if so, how far?

In this international collection, thirteen historians explore the origin and array of protective labor legislation directed at women. The authors analyze ideologies, attitudes, and effects of legislation across womenıs classes, among employers and workersı organizations, and in both bourgeois and socialist feminist groups. Their essays raise profoundly disturbing questions and provide startling insights as to why the debates that originated more than a hundred years ago are still unresolved. The contributors are from Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.


"Superb. . . . Illuminates the ways that motherhood as cultural role, public discourse, political strategy, and lived experience intersected with welfare state development, labor market expansion, and definitions of citizenship."--Eileen Boris, author of Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States


Ulla Wikander is an associate professor of economic history at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. Alice Kessler-Harris is a professor of history and the director of womenıs studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. N.J. Jane Lewis is a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics.

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