Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service

Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service

Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service

Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service

Synopsis

Evelyn Nakano Glenn richly detailed and sophisticated examination of...how historical and economic forces restricted women's lives and how women devised strategies for dealing with their plight. --Canadian Woman Studies
In this unique study of Japanese American women employed as domestic workers, Evelyn Nakano Glenn reveals through historical research and in-depth interviews how the careers of these strong but oppressed women affected the history of Asian immigration in the San Francisco-Bay Area. Three generations of women speak in their own words about coping with degraded employment and how this work related to family and community life. The disproportionate concentration of Japanese American women in domestic service from the early part of this century to the present resulted from their status as immigrants and women of color in a race and gender stratified local labor market. The three generations covered by this study--pre-1924 immigrants (issei), first American born generation (nisei), and post-World War II immigrants (war brides)--were subjected to multiple forms of oppression but were not appendages of men nor passive victims. Dr. Glenn shows how their struggles to achieve autonomy, dignity, and a suitable livelihood were essential to the survival of the family and the community. Although unique in many ways, the situation of the Japanese American woman has important parallels with that of other women of color in the United States. Ironically her role as a domestic cast her in a menial, degraded job but often elevated her to the position of valued confidant to her employer. Issei, Nisei, War Bride is the first study to offer a sociological/historical perspective on these women. It addresses issues about the nature of labor systems in capitalist economies, the role of immigrant and racial ethnic women in those systems, and the consequences of participation in race and gender stratified systems for minority families and communities.

Excerpt

When I started gathering materials for what turned out to be this book, my goals were modest. My intention was to collect and assemble a set of oral interviews of Japanese American women employed as domestics. in teaching and writing about women and work, I had become acutely aware of the dearth of materials documenting the day-to-day struggles of Asian American, latina, and black women working in low-status occupations, such as domestic service, the most prototypical job for racial-ethnic women. Little was known about the conditions they confronted, what they felt about their situation, or how they responded to menial employment. Accounts in which women spoke in their own words about themselves and their work seemed the best vehicle for illustrating how gender, race, and class intersect to shape the lives of racial-ethnic women.

Once started, the project took momentum and drew me along. Questions raised by the initial interviews led to a broadening of the study both empirically and theoretically. My new aim was to uncover the relationship between Japanese American women's experience as domestic workers during the first seventy years of the twentieth century and larger historical forces: the transformation of the economy and labor market in Northern California and the process of labor migration and settlement in that locale. How did these forces affect women's work, both paid and unpaid, and what were their strategies for dealing with the conditions engendered by these forces?

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