Gender, Utilitarianism & Poland: 100 Years of Women and Urban Agriculture

By Bellows, Anne Camilla | WE International, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Gender, Utilitarianism & Poland: 100 Years of Women and Urban Agriculture

Bellows, Anne Camilla, WE International

Gender, UTILITARIANISM & POLAND: 100 Years of Women and Urban Agriculture

by Anne Camilla Bellows

Metropolitan and state interests in Poland manipulate their public's food access and food labor in part through a calculated social marginalization of women's labour.

Through a study of the garden allotments program in Poland, we gain a brief introduction to the complex and formalized practice of Polish urban agriculture. Gendered assumptions about relations of urban food production assign the non-paid, subsistence, and economically invisible labour of "gardens" predominantly to women of all ages and sometimes also to marginalized retiree and unemployed males.

In the past, the low-profile accorded to small plot food production has furthered official disregard for regional protests over city-based pollution that severely contaminates crops from industrial and transportation sources. The capacity to depreciate urban food production labour and disparage the significance of its output lends in turn a very tangible service to metropolitan interests that have sought, for private and public development interests, to dissolve urban agricultural space. The losses of short and long term food sustenance security, green spaces or "urban lungs" to clean local air pollution, and urban recreational space is the cost to all city residents for marginalizing women's labour and agricultural production.

In 1997, Poland celebrated 100 years of urban allotment gardening. 100 years began with the age of partition in Poland when the country was divided between German, Austrian, and Russian powers, and a vacillation, from capitalist industrialism, through 40 years of centralized communism, and back to western capitalism since 1989, was begun. Within this 100 year tangle of reform, revolution, and attempted revitalization, urban agriculture has maintained a fixed presence: low-cost urban food production and supply has contributed to social stability and malleable labour. It has garnered from its origins -- in the industrial urbanization of rural indigenous Polishethnic peasants (eg: Schrebergartens, an urban garden allotment program) -- its original and continuous importance. It was a model of paid (visible) mining males attached to unpaid (invisible) gardening family women or sometimes retired men, and has been the seed from which all subsequent urban agriculture sprang. With a minimum of investment, the gardens served to pacify industrialists' paid and unpaid labour supply, to keep it from starvation, and even to keep it hostage.

Early industrialization exploited land as flagrantly as it did labour. The scientific management policies of mid-century bureaucratic government gave no thought to the pollution residues of industrial development. Autocratic governments suppressed environmentalists' early organizing to demonstrate the links between pollution and human health. In the most industrialized part of Poland exists also the highest pollution and human mortality rates. The local food production that provides subsistence security also lodges toxic levels of heavy metals and other contaminants (Sokolowska and Migurska, 1993).

The contradictions between political and economic promises of supply and social expectations of ersatz production (i.e. local food production) become more extreme in cases where urban pollution levels literally contaminate local food production. Forbidding local production exacerbates the inherent inability of the market and the state to guarantee secure food access over time. Women, with the social responsibility as family healers and food providers, are trapped between compromising family food provision and family health.

Under the post-World War II communist state in Poland, along with the industrial base, including re-acquired Silesian lands, the gardens too passed to state ownership, to be administered through factories and other sites of paid work (Lenkiewiez, 1971).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Gender, Utilitarianism & Poland: 100 Years of Women and Urban Agriculture


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?