3

Employment and
the Global Economy

Feminism has always been concerned in some way with women's participation or non-participation in paid employment. Sheila Rowbotham (1992) describes the activism of women in nineteenthcentury radical and socialist movements, women who campaigned not principally for suffrage but rather for women's right to work and to be treated fairly and paid equally to men. Already at this time, women's low wages and poor work conditions were seen as the result of male domination by Frances and James Morrison, the editors of an Owenite trade union paper, The Pioneer, who argued that: 'the low wages of woman [sic] are not so much the voluntary price she sets upon her labour as the price which is fixed by the tyrannical influence of male supremacy' (in Rowbotham 1992: 42). In France, too, women activists were calling for measures to reorganize both households and industry to liberate women. An issue of particular concern was that of home work - as employers sought to cut costs by contracting out work to individual home workers, some of the hardest hit were women, who worked enormously long hours for a pittance. But women's demands for reform went further than this, as Rowbotham (1992: 61) explains:

Women workers did not simply say homework should be banned. It
was a vital means by which women with children could support them-
selves. Instead, they proposed that homework be paid the same rate as
work in the workshops. They also demanded state child-care, laun-
dries, and restaurants, along with training for women workers. They
began to form their own cooperative associations to secure employ-
ment, improve conditions, and enable them to run their work places
democratically. These cooperative associations extended beyond the
workplace. They provided housing and welfare services and they

-45-

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