Work and Family
The feature that distinguishes most women workers from other workers is the difficulty of resolving conflicts between the needs of their families and the demands of their work. Before industrialization brought workers off the farms and out of the home, there was little difference between men and women in reconciling the demands of work and family. Both parents worked all day, children could be integrated easily into the routine of the farm, and extended family members and neighbors were there to help out when a mother got sick or pregnant. In the nineteenth century, work moved out of the home, and the ideology of separate spheres became dominant. These developments separated men and women into two categories of workers. For most men, family responsibilities complemented their roles as workers. For many women, the roles were in dead contradiction. Protective laws encouraged women to resolve this contradiction in favor of the family. At the same time, women in poor communities had little choice because, to survive, everyone, even children, had to bring in money. Now that work has become a means of economic independence and fulfillment for both men and women, the conflict between work and family works to handicap women, prevent them from achieving their rights as workers, and stymie their desire to spend time educating and caring for their children.