Cover image for The gendered worlds of Latin American women workers : from household and factory to the union hall and ballot box
The gendered worlds of Latin American women workers : from household and factory to the union hall and ballot box
French, John D.
Publication Information:
Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, 1997.
Physical Description:
viii, 320 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Squaring the circle / Tales told out on the borderlands / Women workers in the cathedrals of corned beef / Unskilled worker, skilled housewife / My duty as a woman / Talking, fighting, flirting / Women and working-class mobilization in postwar S√£o Paulo, 1945-1948 / Loneliness of working-class feminism / Morality and good habits / Household patrones / Oral history, identity formation, and working-class mobilization

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library HD6100.5 .G46 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Gendered Worlds of Latin American Women Workers examines the lives of Latin American women who entered factory labor in increasing numbers in the early part of the twentieth century. Emphasizing the integration of traditional labor history topics with historical accounts of gender, female subjectivity, and community, this volume focuses on the experience of working women at mid-century, especially those laboring in the urban industrial sector. In its exploration of working women's agency and consciousness, this collection offers rich detail regarding women's lives as daughters, housewives, mothers, factory workers, trade union leaders, and political activists.
Widely seen as a hostile sexualized space, the modern factory was considered a threat, not only to the virtue of working women, but also to the survival of the family, and thus, the future of the nation. Yet working-class women continued to labor outside the home and remained highly visible in the expanding world of modern industry. In nine essays dealing with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala, the contributors make extensive use of oral histories to describe the contradictory experiences of women whose work defied gender prescriptions but was deemed necessary by working-class families in a world of need and scarcity. The volume includes discussion of previously neglected topics such as single motherhood, women's struggle against domestic violence, and the role of women as both desiring and desired subjects.

Contributors . Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Mary Lynn Pedersen Cluff, John D. French, Daniel James, Thomas Miller Klubock, Deborah Levenson-Estrada, Mirta Zaida Lobato, Heidi Tinsman, Theresa R. Veccia, Barbara Weinstein

Author Notes

John D. French is Associate Professor of History at Duke University.

Daniel James is Bernardo Mendel Professor of Latin American History at Indiana University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Written by US and Latin America-based scholars of Latin American labor history, these essays are a major step toward producing fully gendered accounts of working women and men, that is, of the whole working class itself. In other words, the editors emphatically underscore the centrality of gender even for male workers, as amply demonstrated in Klubock's study of the all-male workforce in the Chilean copper mines. Most of the essays in this volume deal with women in urban industrial labor, as immigrants and rural migrants. They focus on the private lives and affective relations of these women, as well as the material conditions under which they live and their engagements in the public sphere of electoral politics and trade unionism. The studies are heavily weighted in favor of the southern cone (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) in the entire span of the 20th century, with only one on Guatemala in Central America. Inexplicably, there are no essays on Mexico, with its unique form of sweatshops and assembly plants known as maquiladoras, which employ mostly young, unmarried women and are located within easy reach of the US-Mexican border. Traditional research methodologies and sources (e.g., archival documents, statistics) are effectively complemented by wide-ranging use of oral history and testimonies that rescue the hidden voices of those doubly silenced by class and gender. Upper-division undergraduates and above. E. Hu-DeHart University of Colorado at Boulder

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