Beyond the Strike Kitchen: Housewives and Domestic Politics, 1936-1973
LaBarbera-Twarog, Emily E.
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The broad sweep of this project is a study of how domestic politics evolved to influence policy and act as a conduit for working-class women to increase their political participation as housewives. Critical to this process is to understand the relationship between working-class housewives and institutions, specifically women’s labor union auxiliaries. Housewives have often been interpreted as a conservative group that allowed the traditional family model to go unchallenged. This dissertation pokes holes at this characterization as we see working-class housewives defend the rights of wage-earning women, challenge the notion and construction of equality from an economic standpoint, and demand full access to a "good" life for white and African American workers. By tracing their steps from the home to the factory into the broader community and eventually national politics, this dissertation reveals a hidden history of working-class housewives who used a strategy of domestic politics in the public sphere to participate in the democratic process. An examination of CIO auxiliaries such as the UAW Women’s Auxiliary and the Congress of Women’s Auxiliaries allows us to rethink key topics in labor and women’s history such as consumption (cost of living campaign and the evolution of the American standard of living), political participation through legislative campaigns, and coalition building on a local and national level. Each of these issues points to an understanding of the political and economic priorities of working-class families during this period and the role of housewives in developing their organizing strategies within the labor movement. Furthermore, I examine their relationships within the mostly male labor movement leadership as well as their work with national organizations and government agencies such as the Office of Price Administration. In doing so, I deepen the organizational studies of the CIO, and more specifically the UAW, in that it turns our attention to the role that working-class housewives played in the development of these two organizations. But, ultimately, the dissertation as a whole offers new perspectives into the histories of labor, women, and citizenship using themes of domesticity in the twentieth century.
Subjectlabor union auxiliaries