chapter
20 Pages

Introduction

This volume seeks to explore comparatively and transnationally, across seven countries of western Europe, some aspects of the relationship between the parallel development of welfare states and of women's movements between the 1880s and 1950s and the visions of gender which both of these processes embodied and helped to construct. At the centre of this exploration is the issue of maternity in some of its crucial aspects: as a life experience of women, as it appeared in the views and policies of the women's movements of that time and as an object of the policies of the rising European welfare states. Much recent writing about the history of women, of the women's movement and about welfare states has stressed the degree to which modern welfare reforms are about women.! Social policies of official or unofficial agencies are often, though not invariably, shaped by assumptions about gender relations, in particular about the gender divisions of labour, of power and of social responsibility, with their primary assumption of each adult woman's dependency upon a male earner.