Labors Appropriate to Their Sex

Gender, Labor, and Politics in Urban Chile, 1900–1930

Labors Appropriate to Their Sex

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 20 photographs, 22 tables, 2 maps Published: November 2001

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

In Labors Appropriate to Their Sex Elizabeth Quay Hutchison addresses the plight of working women in early twentieth-century Chile, when the growth of urban manufacturing was transforming the contours of women’s wage work and stimulating significant public debate, new legislation, educational reform, and social movements directed at women workers. Challenging earlier interpretations of women’s economic role in Chile’s industrial growth, which took at face value census figures showing a dramatic decline in women’s industrial work after 1907, Hutchison shows how the spread of industrial sweatshops and changing definitions of employment in the census combined to make female labor disappear from census records at the same time that it was in fact burgeoning in urban areas.

In addition to population and industrial censuses, Hutchison culls published and archival sources to illuminate such misconceptions and to reveal how women’s paid labor became a locus of anxiety for a society confronting social problems—both real and imagined—that were linked to industrialization and modernization. The limited options of working women were viewed by politicians, elite women, industrialists, and labor organizers as indicative of a society in crisis, she claims, yet their struggles were also viewed as the potential springboard for reform. Labors Appropriate to Their Sex thus demonstrates how changing norms concerning gender and work were central factors in conditioning the behavior of both male and female workers, relations between capital and labor, and political change and reform in Chile.

This study will be rewarding for those whose interests lie in labor, gender, or Latin American studies; as well as for those concerned with the histories of early feminism, working-class women, and sexual discrimination in Latin America.


“In fruitful dialogue with work on other historical periods and regions, Hutchison's meticulously researched study of early twentieth-century Chile traces the deep roots and enduring themes of contemporary debates on women's labor, gender, the family, and social policy.” — Florencia Mallon, author of Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru

“This is a work of superior scholarship on an important but neglected subject. Hutchison has written from a new perspective that reflects considerable and original research in a wide variety of documents. Representing a new wave in feminist studies, this multifaceted book reveals the gendered character of Chilean discourse on work, poverty, activism, and reform.” — Peter Winn, author of Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth Quay Hutchison is Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Tables

List of Illustrations



I. Working-Class Life and Politics

1. Gender, Industrialization, and Urban Change in Santiago

2. Women at Work in Santiago

3. “To Work Like Men and Not Cry Like Women”: The Problem of Women in Male Workers’ Politics

4. Somos Todos Obreras! Socialists and Working-Class Feminism

II. Women Workers and the Social Question

5. Women’s Vocational Training: The Female Face of Industrialization

6. Senoras y Senoritas; Catholic Women Defend the Hijas de Familia

7. Women, Work, and Motherhood: Gender and Legislative Consensus
Conclusion: Women, Work, and Historical Change

Conclusion: Women, Work, and Historical Change





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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2742-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2732-5
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