Women's Strikes and the Politics of Popular Egalitarianism in France, 1916-18 (CXX)

TitleWomen's Strikes and the Politics of Popular Egalitarianism in France, 1916-18 (CXX)
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsDowns, Laura Lee
EditorBerlanstein, Lenard R.
Book TitleRethinking Labor History: Essays on Discourse and Class Analysis
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
CityUrbana, IL, USA

Down's essay, "Women's Strikes and the Politics of Popular Egalitarianism in France, 1916-18," provides an excellent example of the ways in which women's labor practices disrupted the apparent coherence of gender meanings. The extraordinary mobilization of French women garment and munitions workers against inequality during World War I disturbed public officials' assumptions about gendered behavior. The inability of police to comprehend the possibility of women's political action led them to ignore the political dimension of women's protest and think only in terms of women's emotionality or sexuality as the underlying motives for protest. This was especially evident in the different reactions to the protest of "appropriately feminine" garment workers and "dangerously masculinized" women munitions workers. Downs challenges the binary oppositions contemporaries and historians have drawn between women's preoccupation with working conditions and wages (as though these were not also men's concerns) and men's alleged attention to "politics." She shows that historians' uncritical acceptance of the contemporary categorization of women's activities on the basis of gender ascriptions has blinded them to important dimensions of women's action. Excerpt of review by Laura L. Frader     http://www.academicroom.com/bookreview/rethinking-labor-history-essays-d...

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