Ateliers > Histoire féministe du travail

Histoire féministe du Travail


SESSION 1: Jeudi 2 novembre, 10h30–12h30 

Gender, labour and State intervention


Présidence : Ragnheiður Kristjánsdóttir, University of Iceland


The gendered and classed burden of participation in institutions of self-management in Yugoslav factories

Archer, Rory (School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, UC London)


This paper explores autochthonous understandings of the institutions of self-management on the Yugoslav factory floor according to workers. Some workers engaged enthusiastically with workplace institutions of self-management and the League of Communists of Yugoslavia while other workers kept participation to a necessary minimum or even avoided such activities. Based on oral history research undertaken amongst working class Yugoslavs and the qualitative analysis of factory documents, the paper expands on some of the ambiguous ways that one's position in social space and gender impacted upon participation and attitudes towards these institutions during late socialism (1976-1989). I argue that participation in institutions was both classed and gendered. For working class women, particularly those in unskilled positions like cleaning, couriering or food preparation, their labour was devalued according to dominant Yugoslav factory hierarchies. As a consequence, participation in the institutions of self-management yielded different results than of more skilled workers, (most of whom were male).



Foreign Domestic Servants Moving to Antwerp and Brussels between 1850 and 1910

Verbruggen, Thomas Centre for Urban History, University of Antwerp

During the nineteenth century, Antwerp and Brussels evolved from a regional textile centre and provincial capital into respectively the main port city and national capital of a rapidly industrialising nation state. From the 1850s onwards, this caused a general feminisation of the international migration field of these cities (Greefs and Winter 2016, Debackere 2016; Coppens 2017). Most of these women were single domestic servants. This paper aims at identifying differences and uncover changes in the migration trajectories and profiles of these foreign domestic servants and relate these differences and changes to the changing opportunity structure at origin and destination, innovations in the transport and communication infrastructure, and the evolution of the networks used by these women. The main source material for this research are the local foreigners’ files of these cities. These unique sources provide extensive information about the profile and trajectory of nearly all foreigners who entered Belgium in a given year. 1850, 1880, and 1910 are chosen as sample years because they provide a long term perspective and enable to take, amongst others, the effects of the potato crisis of 1845 and the agricultural crisis of 1875-1890 into account. In total, about 1700 foreign domestic servants moved to Antwerp and Brussels in these years. As such, this paper sheds new light on how women coped with new opportunities, crises, and periods of change and used certain types of networks and newly established transport infrastructure in order to migrate and find employment in a foreign city.



Strategies of survival and coping daily life – women’s work and livelihood in post-revolutionary Iran 1979-2014

Nekomanesh, Sepideh Stockholm University


This paper explores women’s survival strategies, issues of work and livelihood in a patriarchal Islamic and post-revolutionary context. Furthermore, the livelihood of women was impacted by economic upheavals such as eight years of war and international economic sanctions during the studied time period 1979-2014. The paper will discuss the discourse of the Iranian regime which focused on “honourable women’s work” in opposition to “immoral consumerist women”, and it will examine how women reacted to the discourse and through their day-to-day struggles tried to build their lives in relation to it. Moreover, my presentation will elaborate on how their wage-work has changed gender relations within their families.

The paper is based on fieldwork carried out in Iran 2014 were I made in-depth interviews with 13 women. Through a social constructivist theoretical lens and the oral history methodology, the agency and survival strategies of the women are highlighted. Despite formal and informal hinders, the interviewed women had been breadwinners during the studied time period, some of them in the formal economy others in the informal economy. My study shows that despite all these hinders, women’s role as economic and political agents have been strengthened in post-revolutionary Iran, and the women have challenged stereotypical gender roles. I will elaborate my argument by focusing on two time periods: the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988 and intensified sanctions 2005-2014.          



Colonial labour laws in India and the culturing of industrial work at Madras Cotton mills

Warrier, M V Shobhana Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi

The paper studies how colonial labour laws in India sought to protect women from arduous and hazardous work, secure their morals and preserve their role as mothers even as they worked. In the process, the laws reduced women’s access to work, raised their cost to employers. The laws reconfigured the prevailing gender ideology to define the nature of women’s labour in an industrial context.

The Factory Act of 1881 marked the beginning of the colonial government’s endeavours to align labour regulations and industrial management in India with British laws and practices. Factory Commissions regularly reported on the conditions at work, suggested additional mandates, such as excluding women from underground, hard or hazardous work. Separate spaces for women were deemed appropriate at the workplace, along with creches and maternity benefits, over time.

These laws operated at multiple levels. The tendency for factory owners to ignore the laws provided an opportunity for workers to mobilise themselves into unions demanding their legal rights. At the same time, some laws deemed to privilege women divided workers. Laws and inquiries preceding them set off debates on equal wages, minimum wage and family wage. Such debates led to union demands and action, in turn, impinging on regulation.

The legal framework enabled the reproduction of traditional values in systemic order: women would be let off earlier or given three days of menstrual leave. Unions, recognised under the Trade Union Act, allowed women to resist sexual harassment. Overall, the laws provided the framework for culturing life at the mill cities, produced new types of inclusion and exclusion for women, as well as new ambivalences in gender relations.


COMMENTATEUR: Trige Andersen Society for Labour History, Denmark


SESSION 2 : Jeudi 2 novembre, 14h-15h30

Women in industry and male work spaces

PRESIDENCE: Leda Papastefanaki, University of Ioannina


Defenselessness and disgreceful working conditions Mosaics from the unwritten histroy of women industrial workers in Hungary

Acsády, Judit HAS Centre for Social Sciences Institute for Sociology (Budapest)

Women employees are in a far more miserable position economically and socially compared to men fellow workers” – claimed Ilona Weltner at a grand workers’ meeting organized by the Association of  Women Workers in the Vigadó Hall in 1905 in Budapest.

The presentation aims to give an overview of how the available archive and sporadic secondary sources represent and describe the conditions of the female labour force and women’s organizing from the period of the developing Hungarian industry. Besides the turn of the 20th century two more significant periods are going to be highlighted in the paper to be able to see long term tendencies. One is the epoch of the extensive industrialisation in the 1950’s and the second is fifty years later, the first decade of the 21st century following the transitions. Women’s employment was one of the crucial questions of the state socialist economies. It received a special attention because of the emancipation politics of the Communist Parties. On the base of the available sources on the working conditions of women industrial workers the paper aims to provide further aspects to the examination of the dilemma, whether women’s employment contributed to the process of their emancipation and individual autonomy or maintained pressures, vulnerability and powerlessness and recreated their secondary position.



“There were some women workers whose hands were working even faster than the machines…’’ Between tradition and modernization; female labour in the Greek cigarette industry, 1920-1970

Betas, Thanasis  University of Thessaly, Greece

The main characteristic of the Greek cigarette industry throughout the twentieth century was the domination of female workforce and a gender division of labour. The introduction of machines and the gradual automation of production, from the 1920s onwards, resulted in an even bigger division of labour within the production process and created new professional specialties. The use of technology at the Greek cigarette industry, did not concern only men, nor were the new posts that mechanization created intended exclusively for men, as both men and women were occupied at the machines. But there was a clear differentiation and gender segregation in the relationship of men and women regarding the technology and the roles they assumed in the labour process.

As far as female labour is concerned, it was not homogeneous. Together with the mechanization of production, the existence of more traditional posts required manual work that was carried out by women. Some of the “fastest” packers were “upgraded” as women in charge and placed at the head of the women workers. In this way, in addition to the higher wages they received in comparison with the others, they seem to have gained reputation and prestige among the women workers.

In this paper we draw our attention on the specific role of female labour in the Greek cigarette industry at the age of its modernization and development. In which way the technical and gender labor division interweaved is going to be traced through our case. To examine these issues, we have used directly relevant material from Greek cigarette factories archive: staff records, employee cards, labor union records, board of directors records, technical compositions and payrolls, as well as photos and oral testimonies. 


Men diggers and women carriers': The labour division in public works in colonial North India

Jha, Madhavi Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

By the end of the nineteenth century, the division between men as diggers and women as carriers became a part of the famine code. Always an age sex gradation in the pay had been maintained within the different classes or types of workers, the primary reason being differences in dietary needs. What was the story of this changing norm from diet to task?

What were the reasons cited for these changes? In this paper, I first trace the evolution of the norms around sexual division of labour in the government reports on public works, specially in the famine codes. Next, I examine how these ideas get interpreted and reworked in the work sites by the 'technical experts' – the engineers and the administrators. The archives also contain evidence of the different kinds of responses of the women labourers to the tasks allotted to them on the works. I reflect on how women themselves negotiated the emerging practices around gender and work.

The sources for the proposed paper include official records (mainly Revenue and Agriculture Department and Public Works Department), official reports, newspapers and the contemporary commentaries on economy in English and Hindi. While the paper looks at both famine and non-famine public works to study the sexual division of labour, I also propose to reflect on the very use of archives generated around famines and scarcities to write about women's work. Both on the question of how do we overcome the archival thinness on questions of women's labour as well as how do we understand the archival appearance of women labourers in specific moments like famine, scarcities and other crises.


De-railing tradition: Exploring gendered workplace cultures in the rail and sea transport industries of Australia and Britain.’                                                                                        

Kirkby, Diane University Melbourne -  Robertson, Emma La Trobe University

At the end of the 20th century Australia had the most sex-segregated workforce in the OECD; despite  women’s efforts to get into occupations considered ‘non-traditional’ for them, the Australian labour market remained ‘obstinately segregated by sex’ (Pocock 1998; 2003).  ‘Tradition’ proved very hard to dislodge. Our research is exploring the origin, longevity and meaning of these workplace categories, how the intersection of ‘tradition’ and masculinity in specific workplaces shaped the experience of women, and how these travelled between Britain and Australia. Our paper will concentrate on key occupations in transport industries (railways and se

afaring) where rugged masculinity in workplace culture was a long established tradition that could be harnessed to a shared struggle and militant unionism but left little room for women and femininity.  We ask how the gender dynamics of work changed over the 20th C., and what impact this had on the traditions of  work cultures and the economic and social rewards of a gendered  hierarchy


COMMENTATOR: Warrier, M V Shobhana Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi



SESSION 3 : Jeudi 2 novembre, 16h-17h30

Female labour and economic development: Ester Boserup’s contribution

CHAIR: Nekomanesh, Sepideh* Stockholm University


Revisiting the labour surplus theory: Ester Boserup and Gunnar Myrdal parting ways

Trige Andersen, Nina Society for Labour History, Denmark

In the 1930s the Danish development economist – later civil servant and UN consultant – Ester Boserup and the Swedish economist and Social Democrat Gunnar Myrdal traversed the same socialist, marxist, non-communist intellectual circuits in the Nordic countries, eg. attending the so-called Brunnsvik-meetings (Thing 1996; Andersen 2002). From 1947 they became colleagues when Gunnar Myrdal and Ester Boserup – as well as her husband Mogens Boserup, also an economist – were working for the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva (Barber 2008).

In various ways, the Boserup couple and Myrdal came to play a part in the emergence of 20th century globalized ideas about labor in motion, but they also came to radically different conclusions in their analysis of developing economies.

Though the work of Ester Boserup continued to be used and referred to, the Myrdalian universe became much more influential. 

In the late 1950s the Boserup couple contributed to the Myrdal-headed research project published in 1968 as Asian Drama. By then the Boserups had officially resigned from Myrdals project due to fundamental disagreements, in particular with Myrdal’s persuasion of the necessity of authoritarianism in developing countries and his adherence to the idea of “surplus” labor and population growth as a development burden (Desai 2006). Ester Boserup held the exact opposite view: that population growth was an asset to development. She instead elaborated her own theoretical ideas on development (see e.g. Boserup 1965 and 1981). Meanwhile the labour surplus theory remained central not just in efforts to legitimize institutionalized labor export from first the Philippines and later other South- and Southeast Asian countries, but also in the research- and policy agenda of the International Labor Organization.

The paper revisits the labour surplus theory as it was articulated and instrumentalized in the 1950s-1980s by using the parting ways of Ester Boserup and Gunnar Myrdal as vantage point.



Revisiting ‘Boserup Revisited’: The International Labor Organization and the Construction of Social Knowledge on Rural Women in the Global South

Boris, Eileen  University of California, Santa Barbara       


In 1981, feminist economists Lourdes Benería from Spain and Gita Sen from India, both working in the United States, challenged reigning assumptions about the impact of economic development on rural women. Published in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the premier venue for women’s studies,“Accumulation, Reproduction, and ‘Women’s Role in Economic Development’: Boserup Revisited” was an appreciation and critique of what in a decade had become a ur text: Woman’s Role in Economic Development (1970) by Danish civil servant and UN consultant Ester Boserup. This work was reshaping how development practitioners thought about the impact of technology and training on women’s status in Africa and Asia, generating the new field of “Women in Development”(WID). 

This paper links intellectual and institutional history to explore the production of knowledge about women and development that “Boserup Revisited” represented. Benería drew upon participatory action research that she gathered as coordinator of the ILO’s Programme on Rural Women, a sub-section of the World Employment Program, the ILO’s initiative during the UN’s Second Decade of Development. These studies covered women’s income generating activities, including informal street trading, agriculture, domestic labor, and assembly work. Many appeared in the ILO sponsored Women and Development: the Sexual Division of Labor in Rural Societies edited by Benería and published in 1982 but commissioned during her tenure at the ILO. Also coming out of these efforts in part was Maria Mies pathbreaking The Lace Makers of Narsapur: Indian Housewives Produce for the World Market, also from 1982.Grounded in ILO archives and analysis of these studies, I historicize the very terms that scholars continue to deploy by locating them in the political economy and ideological struggles of the Cold War, global feminism, third world liberation, and an emerging neoliberal globalization.



Women and Work on the Market Periphery: Plantations, Female Labor, and Economic Development in an Age of Dependency                                                                                         

Jensen, Jill  University of Redlands, USA

Into the post-WWII era, plantations stood as a special form of economic activity, innately linked with dependency via relations forged by mounting global market interactions. Studies considering plantations––including those coming from the International Labor Organization (ILO), and focused to a large measure on female versus and in addition to male labor––evaluated key factors of vital importance to Ester Boserup in her path-breaking work. In her writing, Boserup did not fully ignore the plantation, nor the workers who labored therein, but neither did she incorporate “estate labor” in her economic development theories. This paper queries upon ways we might use Boserup’s ideas to analyze ILO efforts in this regard.

In such regard, my paper highlights comparable factors between ILO studies on plantation labor and those appearing in Boserup’s work on development economics. Following the adoption of the ILO’s Plantation Convention, #110 in 1958, the agency launched a world-wide survey of plantation workers so to review productivity and economic contributions, yet in concert with evaluation of standards of living and working conditions. The ILO aimed, as did Boserup herself, to support technical progress through economic and social development and, importantly, its studies drew comparisons between specific cases on plantations.

I refer to studies and reports generated by the ILO’s Committee on Work on Plantations and assess these in light of Boserup's theories of—and approaches to—development and evolving agricultural labor systems in the 1960s and 70s. What roles did a woman play and what economic and social contributions did she make as she worked for family sustenance, with small plot farming, or moving in and out of paid work, casual, or part-time work? In the end, though, were plantations different, when taken into consideration for development programs? Did they necessitate unique models for development? Finally, how might we best gain insights into “on-the-ground” assessments in reference to women, men, families and labor systems on plantations during this important time, with shifting ideas about economic growth and dependency.


COMMENTATEUR: Silke Neusinger       



SESSION 4 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 9h-10h30

Women’s work effects on politics and home


Présidence : Jackie Clarke University of Glasgow, UK       


Considering the home/work continuum in the history of feminist economics: a genealogical approach     

Tamboukou, Maria University of East London, UK

Women’s work, either waged or unwaged has initiated a range of approaches and debates that have shaped the field of feminist labour history. What has however remained under discussed is what I have called the home/work continuum, quite simply the fact that women’s work has historically been an assemblage of industrial and caring labour, always paid, underpaid and unpaid, situated both inside and outside ‘the home’ and that the boundaries between these different labour modes have historically been porous, blurring and untheorized in their entanglement. In this paper, I attempt a genealogical approach of the home/work continuum, particularly looking at Jeanne Bouvier’s historical study of the lingerie industry in France. Although there have been some references to this study in the existing literature of women’s involvement in the garment industry, it has been mostly used as ‘a data source’ rather than examined and evaluated as a feminist economic study in its own right. It is in this study that the term of ‘industrial homework’ first emerges to become a crucial component of the home/work continuum wherein female labour has been entangled to the present day, as an assemblage in feminist labour history that has yet to get a fully fleshed political economy analysis. 


Suffrage, gender and class. Intersectional reflections on women’s suffrage and the construction and constraints of a lawful citizen in Iceland    

Kristjánsdóttir, Ragnheiður University of Iceland & Þorvaldsdóttir, Þorgerður The Reykjavik Academy  


In Iceland, as elsewhere in Europe, women’s suffrage “challenged the gendered meaning of political citizenship” (Blom, 2012, 600). Linking  together feminist theories of intersectionality, women´s agencies, and citizenship, this paper examines how socio-cultural categories like class, age, nationality, race/ethnicity, (dis)ability or health and marital status, have affected women’s capacities to participate in politics, at the polling station as lawful voters, and as respectable candidates for parliamentary or municipal elections.

On the 19th of June 1915, when Icelandic women gained the right to vote and eligibility for parliament, the new women voters were faced with two intersecting categories which prevented them in fulfilling their full potential as citizens on equal standing to men. On one hand, women´s suffrage was severely limited by age, as the age limit set for women was 40, while it was 25 for (most) men. It should be noted though that in 1915, the suffrage was not only granted to Icelandic women for the first time, but also to male workers or farmhands, but the age limit for the disenfranchised men was 40 as well, so gender as well as economic and social position, served to severely diminish the numbers of new voters. The second and longer lasting intersectional hindrance, was socio-economic class. Economic status or poverty, thus continued to be a stumbling block, since receiving poor relief, resulted in the loss of the suffrage until 1934, but it was often the unfortunate result of sickness or disability, old age, or widowhood.



Léonie Chaptal and the nursing labour market in 19th - 20th century France  

Belliard, Corinne M. Sorbonne Nouvelle 


For this Second Conference of the European Labour Network, I would like to concentrate on the transition from care to cure work brought forward by Léonie Chaptal (1873-1934) in nursing. Born into a French high Bourgeois Catholic family, she first committed herself to volunteer work in the suburbs of Paris in a poor neighbourhood infested with tuberculosis. She then opened up courses to train private nurses and social workers. The fallout from this shift was the decline of charitable societies and the professional development of nursing.

The object of this paper is to go beyond Léonie Chaptal’s secular societies and her “maison-école” training for first (paid nurses) and then second-class (paid care-governess) students to focus on the nursing labour market. How did Léonie Chaptal turn care and cure work into a private service and become a supplier? To what extent did nursing degrees favour private practices? Why did Léonie Chaptal size with the paying of private fees? How did Léonie Chaptal come to distinguish between free hospitals and private hospitals?

The idea here is to review the existing historiography of unpaid and paid work, of volunteers and professionals in nursing. I will particularly look at various public speeches including her address at the Office Central des Oeuvres de Bienfaisance (O.C.O.B.) on French and foreign hospitals. I will also reconsider her Morale professionnelle de l’infirmière (1932).

Although Léonie Chaptal managed to set up strong educational infrastructures offering honourable professions for women, her main involvement in nursing remained in the private market. The French State definitively turned a bill into an act enshrining the profession of social workers in 1946, that is to say twelve years after her death.


COMMENTATEUR: Marica Tolomelli, Université de Bologne




SESSION 5 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 11h-12h30

Women workers’ agency

PRESIDENCE : Susan Zimmermann Central European University


Women's experience in the labour dispute of  flight attendants in 1979

Corsi, Roberta Independent researcher      

In February 1979 a strike to renew national collective agreements of  flight attendants paralyzed Italian air transportation for a long period.  The primary strike actions were called by Comitato di lotta, rallying support from a majority of these professional workers where women were significantly represented.

Also as part of grass roots political activism in the 1970's workers, regarded as being in a "privileged" position, chose to provide themselves with the means of achieving their goals undermining traditional union dynamics in national collective bargaining. Many different political experiences converged in this labour dispute; including the feminist perspective represented by Collettivo Alitalia set up in 1976.   What significance did the pressing needs of women  have in this struggle? What balance did these needs create  in the relation between man and woman inside the movement?

Analyzing historical sources and personal testimonies we will try to answer these questions in order to reconstitute this part of the Italian union's history from a gender perspective.


Discriminations genrées, répression syndicale et résistances au travail: le cas des ouvrières d’une blanchisserie parisienne ( 1975- 1994)                                                                              

Tabutaud, Amandine Université Paris Saclay

The report offers to question the gender disparities in female workers of a laundry in the Paris area, employing until 200 people, mainly women, from the mid seventies to the early nineties.

Based on a corpus of trade-union and the Health and Safety Executive records, we will enlighten the discriminatory practices these female workers are victim of, and their capacity of action faced with these constraints.

Immersed in a harsh and violent working background, where hygiene and safety rules are not respected (use of chemical and noxious products, no airing, heavy loads to carry, vapours or hectic rates), these women suffer not only the gender-related division usually found (a limited outlook of career evolution, low salary, payment per piece, a fragmented task) but on top of that they suffer the unapologetic sexism of their boss through his words and acts.

In the same way that their conditions of worker and woman is denigrated, the trade-union commitment of some of them is deeply fought by this same management. The crackdown, occasionaly violent, brought to light thanks to legal proceedings, is resulting into a daily bullying towards the union representatives. Those automatic practices lead to situations of impediment to work and to boycott the feminine militancy.

Tangled into dominative relations linked to their class and gender, these workers don’t remain resourceless. They deploy classical or exceptional, protesting or preventing forms of resistance and/or bypassing in a more or less visible way.   


What kind of possible sisterhood? Cooperative efforts and difficulties in the encounter between women unionists, radical feminists, and housewives (1970s Milan, Italy)                                                     

Frisone, Anna European University Institute         

With this paper I aim at giving an account of my research about the complex reflections developed by women in the Seventies on the relation between paid work and housework, public services and private managing of social needs.

In the 1970s Italian women unionists, involved in the struggles of the second-wave international women’s movement, decided to permeate traditional union politics with a feminist approach. They promoted the creation of new inter-professional and united structures (Coordinamenti) through which developing and supporting alternative views on productive relations and reproductive needs. The breaking of the dichotomy between public and private spheres was at the top of their agenda in order to re-think that between paid work and care work. Indeed, many attempts were made to get housewives involved in the activities of the Coordinamenti.

I will focus on a peculiar experience, which took place in Milan, where a group of working-class housewives got involved in a workshop held by the radical feminist Lea Melandri but inscribed in the framework of a programme managed by the trade unions and specifically by women unionists. I retraced the history of this workshop through both archival and oral sources: by integrating them, I have been able to understand the meaning and the transformative power of this experience, set at the intersection among multiple activist environments.

In the paper I will firstly delineate the birth of a specific feminist thought among Italian women unionists and then I will analyse the complex and sometimes confrontational relationships developed among women unionists, housewives and feminist activists.


The Female Staff in International PTT between Unionism and Feminism

Savelli, Laura University of Pisa    

My contribution wishes to emphasize the role played by the postal and telegraphic militant women both discussion within feminism on women's work and the rights of workers, both in the elaboration of original proposals within the international union, meanly in  early proposals  that International PTT brought forward on the relationship between technological development of telecommunication systems and conditions and rights of employees of the sector.  The most interesting moment is between the two World Wars, when the presence of women in IPTT got no.-trivial, regarding the period; women on the board, in and the assignment to some female activist of preparing reports on specific issues, ranging from condition of women workers to examination of the impact of technological change on the staff of postal, telegraphic and telephone. In these years, and even more so in the early years after World War II, the IPPT influence extended beyond the Western countries, in the near and far East and Africa, countries where the postal telegraphic and telephone service came to be one possibility of no manual labour offered to women.                     


Women Workers, Everyday Life and Social Conflict in the Post-68 Factory: The Case of Moulinex

Clarke, Jackie University of Glasgow        

This paper draws on records of meetings between management and employee delegates at Moulinex in France in the 1970s to explore everyday life and social conflict in the factory. Moulinex was a domestic appliance company that employed large numbers of women in semi-skilled jobs, notably on assembly lines. This category of workers – known as OS (ouvriers spécialisés) – played a significant and visible role in the labour mobilisations of the 1970s (Vigna 2007) and women workers were often at the forefront of strikes at Moulinex in this period (Gallot 2012). Records of the statutory monthly meetings of management and delegates allow us to look beyond the strikes and gain insight into everyday interactions between labour and management in a workplace with a stark sexual division of labour. The practice of collecting questions for the meeting on the shop-floor means that these documents often highlight day-to-day concerns and frustrations of individuals or groups of workers, which are rarely visible in the more codified demands formulated by unions during strikes. The paper will consider how class and gender are articulated in these interactions, paying particular attention to issues such as hygiene, working conditions and the demarcation of factory space.



Women Workers’ Education as an International Claim (1955-1968) Connections between Belgian, French and Swedish trade unionist women                                                                                         

Laot, Françoise F University of Reims    

As well as labour history, workers’ education development needs to be studied at a global scale. Choosing the specific case of women workers’ education, this contribution intends to demonstrate how de-nationalising history is necessary to understand what was at stake in the national policies in the period after the Second WW. Studying the role of International organisations (IO), considered as spaces where exchanges occur and ideas circulate, this genealogic approach to vocational and adult education policies addressing women, will pay attention to the international labour movement. International trade unions (ITU), wrote Pernot, were “listened but rarely heard”. It is obviously the case for the theme of women workers’ education which, furthermore, beneficiated from the competition in which the ITUs were involved in the context of the Cold War and the decolonisation period. Within these ITUs, the three of them, the World Federation of trade Unions (WFTU), the International Federation of Christian Trade Union (IFCTU) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), this contribution will focus on some women who contributed to elaborating and disseminating new discourses linking education opportunities and women’s right to work within manifold networks. Among them, a Swedish unionist, Sigrid Ekendahl from LO, a Belgian, Marcelle Dehareng, employed by the ICFTU and three French union activists, Madeleine Colin from the CGT, Simone Troisgros from the CFTC-CFDT, Rose étienne from CGT-FO. They brought the women voices in their respective unions and in ITUs boards.

This contribution will show how all this occurred. It is based on a study carried on several archive collections from IO and ITUs as well as on first hand documents. It examines how a discourse on women workers’ education was elaborated and took consistence within diverse committees in which a little group of women joined and joined again from meeting to meeting.


COMMENTATOR:  Eloisa Betti University of Bologna



SESSION 6 : Samedi 4 novembre, 9h-11h

Rencontre avec les auteurs :

"Women’s ILO. Transnational Networks, Global Labour Standards and Gender Equity, 1919 to Present" (Brill 2017)


CHAIR/COMMENTATOR:  Marcel Van der Linden* International Institute for Social History

Eloisa Betti University of Bologna

Eileen Boris University of California – Santa Barbara

Dorothea Hoehtker ILO Century Project

Silke NeunsingerLabour Movement Archive, Sweden

Francoise Thebaud Université d'Avignon et des Pay de Vaucluse*

Susan Zimmermann Central European University



Le groupe de travail Histoire féministe du travail coproduit la session “Femmes et travail militaire“,avec le groupe Travail militaire. Voir le programme du groupe Travail militaire.





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