of these perspectives and explore the possible points of intersection and overall
complementarity between these diverging explanatory models. On the other
hand, the debate needs to be sharpened to clarify the implications of the different
persectives for understanding and guiding women's political action.
We see this book as a contribution to the development of the historicalsocial constructionist perspective. Taking the significance of race, class and cultural differences among women seriously, we have articulated analytical frameworks that attempt to encompass and understand both the "lines that divide [and]
the ties that bind"
47 women in their struggle for empowerment. Ultimately, we
believe the value of different approaches to the analysis of gender depends on the
extent to which they help women meet the very real political challenges they face
in their communities, their workplaces, and their families.
Although there has been, within the last decade, increasing scholarship on women's political experience, much of it has focused on women and electoral politics or on
middle-class women's political involvements. For general discussions of women and politics, particularly electoral politics in the contemporary United States, see Sandra Baxter
Marjorie Lansing, Women and Politics: The Invisible Majority ( Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1980); Janet A. Flammang, ed., Political Women: Current Roles
in State and Local Government ( Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1984); Marianne Githens and Jewel L. Prestage, eds., A Portrait of Marginality: The Political Behavior of the American Woman ( New York: Longman, 1977); Ethel Klein, Gender Politics: From Consciousness to Mass Politics ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984); Ruth Mandel, In the Running: The New Woman Candidate ( New Haven: Tichnor and Fields, 1981); Virginia Sapiro, The Political Integration of Women: Roles, Socialization and Politics
( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Frances Fox Piven and
Richard A. Cloward, Poor People's Movements: Why
They Succeed, How They Fail ( New York: Vintage, 1979).
For an expanded discussion of power as social relations, see, for example, Michel Foucault, "Two Features", in
Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1980); or Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks ( New
York: International Publishers, 1971). For a theoretical discussion of women and social
relations of power in contemporary capitalist society, see Zillah Eisenstein, Feminism and
Sexual Equality ( New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984), esp. 87-110.
Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class ( New York: Random House, 1981); Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex
in America ( New York: Morrow, 1984); Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow ( New York: Basic Books, 1985); Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century ( New York: Norton, 1984).
Giddings, When and Where I Enter; Suzanne Lebsock, The Free Women of
Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784- 1860 ( New York: Norton, 1984); Sterling, We Are Your Sisters.
Of all the categories of working-class women's political action, this is probably
the best studied. Here we note only some of the best-known book-length studies. Other