Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview
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support of the union and to resist male chauvinism and antiunionism in their families significantly aided the unionization of Digitex.

Second, there is great variability in the pattern of empowerment for different groups of workers. For some women, their resistance began on the job; sharing their individual grievances against the company with female coworkers enabled them to participate in a collective fight against the company. This collective political experience, in turn, enabled them to transform their relationships with -- and gain some autonomy from -- men and their families. For other women, their resistance began in the community and in their identification with a resistance movement in their homeland. This, in turn, enabled them to become active in a workplace-based movement. There is, in sum, no single model that can explain the complex interplay of family, community, and workplace in shaping the political consciousness and activity of women workers. But we can make a commitment to a method of analysis that recognizes women's multiple roles and the importance of cultural and racial difference, as our methods will greatly affect what we learn from the struggle of Digitex workers and in other workplaces across the United States.


This study was funded in part by a National Institute of Mental Health Predoctoral Research Grant. I would like to thank my mentors and advisers, Beatrice and John Whiting, for their support of this project in the dissertation phase. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Harvard Anthropology Department, Andrea Cousins, Sandy Davis, and Steve Fjellman, who listened and thoughtfully responded so many times during the conception and execution of my thesis.

The comments on and criticisms of my completed dissertation were very helpful in paving the way for this article, particularly those of Meredith Tax, Hal Benenson, and other members of the Sarah Eisenstein Series Editorial Board. I would also like to thank Paula Rayman and Roz Feldberg for their substantive comments on an early draft. Sandra Morgen, Martha A. Ackelsberg, and other contributors to this volume provided additional response and encouragement.

Bernard Karsh, Joel Seidman, and Daisy Lilienthal, "The Union Organizer and His Tactics", in Jack Barbash, ed., Unions and Union Leadership ( New York: Harper & Bros., 1959), 98.
Edwin Fenton, "Immigrants and Unions, A Case Study: Italians and American Labor, 1870-1920" (doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, 1957), 30.
Although it is certainly true that working-class women have been socialized traditionally to view their family roles and duties as primary, it does not follow that their experience at work and their receptivity to unionization are completely and adversely


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