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Josef Ehmer: Frauenarbeit und Arbeiterfamilie in Wien. Vom Vormärz bis 1934 [1981]. [Abstract] [Article in German]

This chapter reconstructs the extent and the structure of women’s gainful employment in Vienna from the early nineteenth century to the 1930s. The very focus, however, is on the tension between work performed for wages and housework and how it was negotiated in working-class families. The basic assumption is that during the hundred years under investigation, the relationship between women’s housework and wage labour changed according to the different phases of the industrialisation process: centralised manufacture and domestic industry particularly in textile production; a specific form of the Industrial Revolution defined by the expansion of artisanal small-scale production; the breakthrough of capitalist labour relations in the era of “high industrialisation”; and, finally, advanced industrial capitalism from the turn of the twentieth century to the 1930s. Each of these phases was characterised by distinct labour markets for women, specific family patterns and housing conditions, and by specific ideas about gender roles and family life. An investigation into these various factors makes use of a range of different sources including population and occupational statistics, contemporary social surveys, and autobiographical writings. The combination of these sources reveals several ambivalent trends. Specifically, the last period of industrialisation is characterised by women’s increasing participation in modern factory work; the increased withdrawal of married women from gainful employment together with a growing appreciation for housewives in working-class families; a stricter assignation of household chores to women; but also a strong inclination towards vocational training and career in the future plans of girls.

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