In Household Workers Unite Premilla Nadasen places African American female domestic workers at the center of a broader social movement that spanned the labor and civil rights movements. Using oral histories and archival records Nadasen uncovers the history of African American female household workers who struggled to achieve improved working conditions, social citizenship, and dignity for their profession from the s through the s. Through these organizations, Nadasen argues, black women workers who labored in the Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in. Household Workers Unite The Untold Story Of African American Women Who Built A Movement To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. Don't already have an Oxford Academic account? Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.
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Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Premilla Nadasen recounts in this powerful book a little-known history of organizing among African American household workers. She uses the stories of a handful of women to illuminate the broader politics of labor, organizing, race, and gender in late 20th-century America.
At the crossroads of the emerging civil rights movement, a deindustrializing economy, a burgeoning wo Premilla Nadasen recounts in this powerful book a little-known history of organizing among African American household workers.
Apr 19, Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement Premilla Nadasen Boston: Beacon,
At the crossroads of the emerging civil rights movement, a deindustrializing economy, a burgeoning women's movement, and increasing immigration, household worker activists, who were excluded from both labor rights and mainstream labor organizing, developed distinctive strategies for political mobilization and social change.
We learn about their complicated relationship with their employers, who were a source of much of their anguish, but, also, potentially important allies. And equally important they articulated a profound challenge to unequal state policy. Household Workers Unite offers a window into this occupation from a perspective that is rarely seen. At a moment when the labor movement is in decline; as capital increasingly treats workers as interchangeable or indispensable; as the number of manufacturing jobs continues to dwindle and the number of service sector jobs expands; as workers in industrialized countries find themselves in an precarious situation and struggle hard to make ends meet without state support or protection--the lessons of domestic worker organizing recounted here might prove to be more important than just a correction of the historical record.
The women in this book, as Nadasen demonstrates, were innovative labor organizers. As a history of poor women workers, it shatters countless myths and assumptions about the labor movement and proposes a very different vision. Get A Copy.
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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 19, Tonstant Weader rated it liked it Shelves: organizingissues. Household Workers Unite is a history of domestic worker organizing that can and should inform labor organizers who face new challenges in organizing people in the new labor markets created by the retreat from manufacturing and traditional forms of employment. Premilla Nadas Household Workers Unite is a history of domestic worker organizing that can and should inform labor organizers who face new challenges in organizing people in the new labor markets created by the retreat from manufacturing and traditional forms of employment.
Throughout the history of domestic worker organizing, black women have been at the forefront. For household workers, racism and sexism intersect to devalue their work and complicate their organizing. They were also denied the right to organize, though the challenge of organizing when each individual worked for another employer meant their campaigns had to focus on changing legislation and societal attitudes toward domestic employment.
When Congress had hearings about including household workers in the FLSA, they laughed about how that could end up with them having to wash dishes.
With courage and determination, women of color found ways to organize. They would do outreach on buses, work on educating employers and organizing employers as well as workers.
They lobbied for changes in the law and for minimum wage. They worked to professionalize their occupation, even for changing their job title to household technician to recognize that their work is skilled and worth of respect. Household Workers Unite is a book I would recommend highly to labor organizers and people who work to combat systemic racism, even if they do not work on labor issues. This book is a case study in intersectionality, highlighting how racism, sexism, and later, the vulnerability of immigrants, work together to devalue not only the work, but the people who do it.
It presents a more complex view of the civil rights movement and how respectability politics erased many of the contributions of African American women like Georgia Gilmore to the struggle. These are the stories of many women, women whose stories are too seldom heard, women who organized with the protection of the government, who supported families without fair labor standards and who worked to change it.
They have won victories, though the struggle is incomplete. As they asserted their rights and won changes in the law, employers turned to ever more vulnerable workers, immigrants who could be threatened with deportation or who could be kept ignorant of their rights. And so the work continues. But as our economy changes, as traditional forms of work are fractured, the lessons of how to organize workers who do not work in one place or with one employer become ever more valuable.
This is an important book for anti-racist organizers and labor organizers, people interested in the history of worker movements, the nexus of feminism and racism. It is, however, primarily a history of many different organizations, local, state and national organizations formed by these women.
It can feel a bit like alphabet soup at times. Occasionally it can be too granular, reporting that a meeting was called to order, for example. For me, Nadasen follows too closely that advice to tell us what she is going to write about, write it, and then tell us what she wrote. It becomes redundant because she does not only apply that advice to each chapter, but to the subsections of the chapters. The feeling of having already read something shortly before had the effect of dislocating me, making me think I had lost my place.At the crossroads of the emerging civil rights movement, a deindustrializing economy, a burgeoning women's movement, and increasing immigration, household worker activists, who were excluded from both labor rights and mainstream labor organizing, developed distinctive strategies for political mobilization and social change. She uses the stories of a handful of women to illuminate the broader politics of labor, organizing, race, and gender in late 20th-century America. We learn about their complicated relationship with their employers, who were a source of much of their anguish, but, also, potentially important allies. And equally important they articulated a profound challenge to unequal state policy. In this unique narrative the history of African-American women as household labor activists takes center stage, in the context of the political history of the era, to provide a holistic view of This is a meticulously researched scholarly work that recounts the history of domestic service in the US, especially how it was shaped by racial and gender discrimination. A fabulous book for anyone Premilla Nadasen.
So, it is not a perfect book, but it is an important book. I want more of it actually, more of the human side, the stories of the women, these courageous women who sought justice in the workplace, not just for themselves but for all domestic workers.
Sep 02, Judie rated it it was amazing. Using the services of household workers is a long tradition in America. In the early days, there were slaves in the South and servants in the North who cleaned, cooked, did laundry, shopped, took care of the babies, children, ill, and elderly, and prepared for guests.
After the slavery was ended, many families could not afford to hire all those people so the each of the remaining staff had to perform several duties. The situation changed greatly after Dr. Benjamin Spock published his best-sel Using the services of household workers is a long tradition in America.
Benjamin Spock published his best-selling book about baby and child care. In it, he stressed the need for mothers to be more involved with nurturing and bonding with their children. As more white women moved into the workforce, the need for household workers increased. The purpose of welfare changed, as well. Originally, in the s, it was an important source for single mothers. White society began see welfare as a social ill and decided that women of color should be working rather than staying home since more jobs were available.
More recently, the employers wanted less personal involvement. Training centers were established to help the workers learn new skills. One thing remained constant: The workers, usually black women, continued to be overworked, underpaid, and taken for granted.
They often put in long hours but were not paid for overtime. They had to leave their own children and household tasks to maintain their employment.
Often they had to enter through the back door, use a separate bathroom, could not eat what or where the family ate, and certainly were not among the people with whom the employers socialized. The household workers were often given leftover food and no longer wearable clothing. They rarely received raises and had little chance for advancement. Some of the major reasons this situation existed was that the women worked in isolated locations and were fearful of being fired since they needed the income to support themselves and their families.
But eventually some black women realized that there was a way to reach all these women: Public places like on the buses they rode to and from work. The one thing most of the women wanted most was respect.
Many workers preferred doing household work and thought it was better than working in factories. Since housework was not recognized as real work, the household workers were excluded from key labor laws. The bill passed in the House of Representatives but died in the Senate. When the activists worked to improve the conditions for household workers, they included women of all races and national origin. Soon, however, most of the non-black women dropped out. One major event that brought the situation of household workers to the forefront was the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
At the start, more than half the black women workers in Montgomery were employed in white homes and relied on public transportation. Their labor was indispensable to the white community, many of whose members blamed the boycott on outside agitators. But the boycott created an opening for workers to express their political views and question the terms of their employment.
Their employment in the homes of white people gave the black household workers intimate knowledge of what was being said and done in those houses as well as access to the people in power. Often the family members and their friends would discuss things without even realizing their conversations were being overheard: The household workers were indivisible to them.
At the same time, some of them, especially those more actively involve, were closely monitored.