Register today for the Berks co-sponsored AHA 2021 Panel Discussion: Caring for Money: How Intimate Laborers Employed Creative Strategies to Resist the Undervaluation of Their Labor, 1900-2020
Tuesday, June 15 at 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST
Please join us for a panel discussion exploring three 20th and 21st century movements among workers performing emotional and caring labor: domestic workers, daycare workers, and cocktail waitresses. How have care workers defined the economic value of their labor to the public? What creative strategies have they used to advocate for improved wages and working conditions? Co-sponsored by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Labor and Working-Class History Association.
Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, Associate Professor of Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas Woman’s University
Ari Rotramel, Vandana Shiva Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies at Connecticut College
Justine Modica, PhD Candidate at Stanford University
Comments to be provided by panel chair Annelise Orleck, Professor of History at Dartmouth College.
Please RSVP here for the Zoom link.
Care workers have historically relied on an array of creative strategies to advocate for improvements in wages and working conditions. The intimate nature of emotional and caring labor facilitates relationships between care workers and the consumers of their services, relationships that shape the strategies workers use to self-advocate. In their 2012 book on home care workers, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State, Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein underscored the persistence of the idea that care should somehow be free: “For some feminist ethicists, the notion of a care work economy represents an oxymoron. Care and market just don’t mix; just like love and money, they exist apart in hostile worlds.” Workers who perform caring labor must not only work and self-advocate, they also bear the burden of educating the public about the economic value of their labor. For this reason, the labor activism of care workers has often taken different forms than those prevalent among industrial and service sector workers.
In this panel, we examine the ways that workers who provide caring and emotional labor have creatively resisted perceptions that their work should exist outside the market. As scholars of gender and labor in the fields of History, Multicultural Women’s Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies, we employ different approaches to examine how groups of women care workers have historically contested the undervaluation of their labor. In this panel we examine three different stories: how Black women domestic workers in the early 20th century used labor organizing to assert their claims on the rights of citizenship, how Seattle’s daycare workers in the late 20th century coordinated a citywide education campaign to inform the public about the economic value of caring labor, and how domestic workers and cocktail waitresses contended with the sexualization of their labor in the first decades of the 21st century. By examining these three groups of care workers, whose labor struggles took place at different points over the past 120 years, we suggest continuities in the ways workers who provide intimate and caring labor have challenged misperceptions of their work across race, time, and region. This session will appeal to scholars interested in women, labor, and social movements in the 20th and 21st centuries.