The Campaign for Women's
Many of the plans that the revolution is today . . . carrying out could not have been conceived until the great reservoir of human resources that our society possesses in its women was clearly recognized. These plans . . . could not have been conceived without the mass incorporation of women into the workforce.
Fidel Castro ( 1966)1
One of the central notions of Cuban socialism was that to achieve full equality, women must become engaged in paid labor outside the home. Through a variety of policies and specific employment campaigns, the Cuban revolution encouraged women to seek employment. By the early 1990s there were 1.2 million women workers in Cuba, nearly 40 percent of the total labor force.
The campaign to employ women would be affected by the dissonance between Marxism, the official ideology of the revolution, and Cuban culture. Marxist ideology maintains a clear dichotomy between the public realm of production and the private realm of the household. Public "production" is valued as socially useful and personally transforming, while domestic tasks are denigrated--when even acknowledged--as useless, wasteful, and numbing. Thus the home, the traditional source of women's public power, respect, and legitimacy in Cuban society, was dismissed in one bold stroke. Reproduction and child rearing were merely "burdens" that hindered women's participation in the redeeming male province of public production. This ideological view of domestic tasks shaped the revolution's efforts to resolve the dilemmas of women workers.
The campaign to put women to work, being but one component in the revolution's overall drive for economic and social development, had to deal with a number of dilemmas. Were the specific policies to promote