German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

Social Insurance and the Family Work of Oberlausitz Home Weavers in the Late Nineteenth Century*

JEAN H. QUATAERT

In 1894, the German Bundesrat ( Federal Council) extended disability and old age insurance to the self-employed in home weaving. Germany was the first industrializing country to adopt national pension plans for wage earners. Factory workers obtained health insurance in 1883 and accident insurance in 1884; five years later, the old-age pension scheme was passed. The specific political motive for this initial step to welfare capitalism is clear. Bismarck sought to wean workers from socialism through state welfare. 1 But the legislation reflected broader social concerns. Imperial officials also were seeking to influence labor conditions in the factories and workshops of the newly emerging industrial world. The ruling classes of agrarians and industrialists which Bismarck had forged by his tariff policy rejected laissez-faire capitalism and substituted a policy of state paternalism through industrial codes and detailed protective laws. In 1878, they even refashioned a Factory Inspectorate with powers to watch over and enforce the new labor legislation. Germany's rulers expected

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*
Research for this chapter was made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship ( 1980-81), an American Council of Learned Societies Grant-in-Aid, and a German Academic Exchange Service "Study Visit" Grant (DAAD) (summer 1982). I gratefully acknowledge the support of these foundations.

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