Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Book Reviews -- Factory Daughters: Gender, Household Dynamics, and Rural Industrialization in Java by Diane Lauren Wolf

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Book Reviews -- Factory Daughters: Gender, Household Dynamics, and Rural Industrialization in Java by Diane Lauren Wolf

Article excerpt

WOLF, Diane Lauren, FACTORY DAUGHTERS: Gender, Household Dynamics, and Rural Industrialization in Java. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992, 323 pp., $38.00 hardcover.

KATHERINE JENSEN*

In a carefully argued and written ethnography of rural Javanese family village, and factory life, Diane Lauren Wolf makes an important contribution to the comparative analysis of women's work. By evaluating both quantitative and quantitative data, Wolf scrutinizes the interweave of wage work, family situation, and unpaid work in a rural industrializing society. And while she is Careful not to make universalistic statements about gender and wages, she nonetheless leaves us with some painfully familiar descriptions about the evaluation of women's work by the people who employ them, the families who need them and the young women themselves.

Wolfs study contains a valuable longitudinal perspective, as she did her initial dissertation research in 1982 and returned in 1986 for a follow-up of the "adolescents" who had entered wage work. The phenomenon is important, for she was seeing the first generation of young females who would postpone marriage for a period of relative Freedom and independence heretofore unknown in Java.

At the same time that Wolf follows a recent historical even, she places the wage work of young unmarried women within the broadest framework by comparing it to the findings of Joan Scott and Louise Tilly in early European industrialization, Tom Dublin in colonial New England, and Margery Wolf in rural Taiwan. The overarching theoretical question is whether "household strategies" provide the economic rationale for young women to forego unpaid household responsibilities to take wage jobs, for which they may have to live away from home or commute long hours at relatively high expense.

With an introductory vignette and the last half of the book, Wolf reopens the women's sense of agency in negotiating work opportunities with their parents, or simply running away to employment, when their parents might either fear their lack of control and protection or miss their household contributions in childcare and far work. Her complementary quantitative data shows how this happens despite the fact that overall, it costs parents money (in food and transportation costs at a minimum) to have their daughters take jobs. Daughters do have money to spend on themselves, for cosmetic soap and long pants, and they save some through the arisans or rotating saving associations. But these funds are in the short run actually transfers from parents.

From the larger perspective, industrialists use the parental support to justify incomparably low wages for females, claiming the men in similar positions justifiably earn more because they support families, even though none of the men in linejobs is married. …

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