Abstract/Details

From feudal serfs to independent contractors: Class and African American women's paid domestic labor, 1863–1980


2001 2001

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines how race and gender interacted with economic variables to shape a class transition involving African American domestic laborers from 1863 to 1980. African American women performed household labor traditionally assigned to their racial group during slavery under new economic conditions that developed after emancipation. After slavery, these women were forced to contract their labor to white households and produce feudal surplus. The analysis suggests that African American women radically transformed the feudal economic and social conditions of paid household labor well into the twentieth century. These women were agents of a class transition from feudalism to independent commodity production. African American women, gradually and through small-scale incremental changes, redefined and standardized their jobs as household workers so that they were increasingly able to exchange pre-specified services for a given amount of money. These workers also developed creative strategies to break the continued association of their race with servitude. Rather than being inherent attributes of paid domestic work, flexibility and autonomy were outcomes of strategic choices made by African American women establishing themselves as independent producers of a service.

This dissertation also examines how the material conditions and changing economic subjectivity associated with this class transition profoundly affected the construction of race and gender identities. By engaging in individual and collective actions that radically transformed the domestic labor process, African American women not only challenged and subverted the racialized and gendered associations of such work, but also produced new meanings of Blackness and womanhood. An understanding of the complex interactions of race, class, and gender in this historical example helps us make sense of contemporary inequalities as well as identify strategies for social change.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Economics;
Womens studies;
Black history;
Minority & ethnic groups;
Sociology;
Economic history;
Social classes
Classification
0501: Economics
0453: Womens studies
0328: Black history
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; African-American; Domestic labor; Feudal serfs; Independent contractors; Women workers
Title
From feudal serfs to independent contractors: Class and African American women's paid domestic labor, 1863–1980
Author
Rio, Cecilia M.
Number of pages
198
Publication year
2001
Degree date
2001
School code
0118
Source
DAI-A 62/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780493206974, 0493206973
Advisor
Wolff, Richard
University/institution
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3012175
ProQuest document ID
304699496
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/304699496
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