Although it is generally believed in China that socialism raised women’s status and paid work liberated them from the shackles of patriarchy, the economic reforms of the last two decades of the twentieth century meant women workers were more vulnerable to losing their jobs than men. Unlike previous studies, which have focused on the macro-structural features of this process, this book makes the voices of ordinary women workers heard and applies feminist perspectives on women and work to the Chinese situation.

Drawing upon extensive life history interviews, this book contests the view that mobilizing women into the workplace brought about their liberation. Instead, the gendered redundancy they experienced was the culmination of a lifetime’s experiences of gender inequalities. Setting their life stories against a backdrop of great social-political upheaval in China, the book suggests that the women of this ‘unlucky generation’ have borne the brunt of sufferings caused by sacrifices they made for the development of socialist China.

chapter 1|12 pages


chapter 2|12 pages

Researching Chinese women’s lives

chapter 3|16 pages

Growing up in the Mao era

chapter 4|24 pages

The danwei: Gender at work

chapter 6|20 pages

Returning home

chapter 7|18 pages

Life has to go on

chapter 9|8 pages