Reconciling family and work: the West German gendered division of labor and women's emancipation, 1960s to 1980s Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Summers, Sarah
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • While most Western European countries moved towards family policies that supported a dual earner family model in the 1970s, the policies of the Federal Republic of Germany clung much longer to a male breadwinner/female homemaker family model in a modernized version that allowed mothers to earn a supplementary income through part-time work. This model continued to inform family policies despite an intense public debate that began in the 1960s over the women's question and a more equal division of labor in the family, economy, and society. The main aim of this project is thus to explore the factors that contributed to the continuing importance of the male breadwinner/female homemaker-supplementary earner family model. This project comes to two conclusions regarding the persistence of this model. First, through case studies on The Nanny Project (Tagesmuetter Projekt), Maternal Leave Policy (Mutterschaftsurlaub), and Childrearing Money (Erziehungsgeld), I conclude none of these three laws seriously questioned the male-breadwinner family model that had informed family policy since the 1950s. Rather, policy makers supported the stay at home care of mothers, except in cases of economic necessity, on the assumption that the best possible care for a small child was by its mother at home. Second, this dissertation challenges the autonomous definition of the New Women's Movement in West Germany by exploring the role of West German feminists, women's trade union activists, and female politicians throughout the drafting process of each law. I posit that rifts among women were created by fears of association with East German family politics and communism in the major parties and the trade unions, an anti-institutional autonomous women's movement fueled by critiques of the Federal Republic's Nazi past, and a hyper-politicization of family politics around democratic and Christian principles by the CDU/CSU beginning in the 1950s. These ideological divisions among female activists hindered the creation of a unified front that would compel the government to question the male-breadwinner family model. Ultimately, the efforts of these women reinforced, rather than changed, inherent conceptualizations of the family.
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  • ... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History (European and Gender).
  • Hagemann, Karen
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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