Domestic Workers’ Rights, the Politics of Social Reproduction, and New Models of Labor Organizing

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“Labor has to rec­og­nize us as a force. And how do you do that? May­be it’s devel­op­ing a union of our own.”
– Car­olyn Reed

In the 1970s, a pow­er­ful move­ment for domes­tic work­ers’ rights emerged on the nation­al polit­i­cal stage. Through their orga­niz­ing, African Amer­i­can house­hold work­ers argued for the inclu­sion of house­work and social repro­duc­tion in the larg­er pol­i­tics of wage labor and made a case for the cen­tral­i­ty of this occu­pa­tion to cap­i­tal­ism. The­se black work­ing-class fem­i­nists claimed that house­hold labor was essen­tial for the main­te­nance of human life, and pushed for expand­ed mon­e­tary ben­e­fits and fed­er­al labor pro­tec­tions. The movement’s broad­er def­i­n­i­tion of labor, as well as its dis­tinc­tive approach­es to mobi­liz­ing a pre­car­i­ous labor force, offers new mod­els of work­er orga­niz­ing that speak to some of the chal­lenges fac­ing the con­tem­po­rary labor move­ment.

The orga­niz­ing efforts under­tak­en by house­hold work­ers have crit­i­cal impli­ca­tions for our engage­ment with the his­to­ry of the labor move­ment. Labor unions rarely reached out to domes­tic work­ers, in part because they believed that domes­tics were unor­ga­ni­z­able, but also because the unions’ very def­i­n­i­tion of labor sim­ply did not include house­hold employ­ment. The approach adopt­ed by many indus­tri­al unions in the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry was premised on a man­u­fac­tur­ing mod­el. Work­ers were orga­nized in large-scale col­lec­tive spaces—usually a fac­to­ry floor—and went on strike to wield lever­age again­st their employ­er. Through such actions, some work­ers won bet­ter wages, pen­sions, and health and vaca­tion ben­e­fits from employ­ers.

While effec­tive in large fac­to­ry set­tings, this mod­el is less applic­a­ble in the con­tem­po­rary moment. Over the past few decades, there has been a rise in pre­car­i­ous labor in the Unit­ed States, with a greater pro­por­tion of work­ers employed on a part-time, sub­con­tract­ed, or tem­po­rary basis and with more work­ers who change employ­ers or occu­pa­tions fre­quent­ly. Cou­pled with this is a decline in man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs and an expan­sion of the ser­vice sec­tor, which has mush­roomed in part because fam­i­lies and house­holds are increas­ing­ly out­sourcing the labor of social repro­duc­tion to wage-labor­ers. Fam­i­lies buy pre­pared food, hire land­scap­ers, or pur­chase the ser­vices of care work­ers instead of doing this work them­selves. A grow­ing num­ber of work­ers are in the food indus­try, health care, and per­son­al or home care—occupations that are more like­ly to be pop­u­lat­ed by wom­en and peo­ple of col­or. Employ­ment inse­cu­ri­ty has been com­pound­ed by attacks on unions, few­er pen­sion and retire­ment ben­e­fits, and a shred­ding of the social safe­ty net.

Amer­i­can work­ers today are in a more unpre­dictable sit­u­a­tion than 50 years ago. They are not guar­an­teed unem­ploy­ment and work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion, paid vaca­tions, and sick leave. Work­ers tend to be more dis­persed and employed in iso­lat­ed set­tings, where it is hard­er to orga­nize. They are more like­ly to be clas­si­fied as inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors or tem­po­rary work­ers. And they are more like­ly to work for mul­ti­ple employ­ers over the course of their work­ing lives, rather than for a sin­gle employ­er.

While the­se eco­nom­ic changes may seem indica­tive of the neolib­er­al shift, cer­tain cat­e­gories of employ­ment in the Unit­ed States have always expe­ri­enced this kind of inse­cu­ri­ty. House­hold labor has his­tor­i­cal­ly been pre­car­i­ous, char­ac­ter­ized by part-time, inter­mit­tent work with few ben­e­fits. House­hold work­ers oper­at­ed essen­tial­ly as inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors, changed employ­ers fre­quent­ly, and had lit­tle job or income secu­ri­ty. They were exclud­ed from labor pro­tec­tions in the 1930s and mar­gin­al­ized by orga­nized labor. The domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ment of the 1960s and 1970s rec­ti­fied some of the­se exclu­sions, and offered a prece­dent and pos­si­ble mod­el for mobi­liz­ing an inse­cure labor force.

While there have been some advances, the occu­pa­tion of house­hold work is still pre­car­i­ous. Over time, house­hold work­ers have won access to social secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits and the fed­er­al min­i­mum wage, but they are still exclud­ed from the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act and Civil Rights laws. And even when work­ers are legal­ly cov­ered, those laws are not always enforced. Domes­tic work­ers today are over­whelm­ing­ly immi­grant wom­en who are often unaware of their rights, may not be flu­ent in Eng­lish, and may be undoc­u­ment­ed, and thus are more like­ly to be legal­ly exploit­ed. Fur­ther­more, paid pri­vate domes­tic work is still large­ly unreg­u­lat­ed. In the­se ways, this sec­tor of the Amer­i­can work­force has always expe­ri­enced con­di­tions akin to what oth­er wage work­ers have come to encoun­ter in recent decades under neolib­er­al­ism.

So as we pon­der how to orga­nize pre­car­i­ous work­ers, we may learn some­thing from those in the domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ment. House­hold labor has rarely been con­sid­ered a site of resis­tance and orga­niz­ing. The work of social repro­duc­tion that house­hold work­ers engage in—cooking, clean­ing and caring—is often not con­sid­ered eco­nom­i­cal­ly pro­duc­tive labor, because of its asso­ci­a­tion with women’s unpaid house­work. Because wom­en have done this work for cen­turies with­out pay, it tends to be viewed as a “labor of love” not mer­it­ing com­pet­i­tive com­pen­sa­tion. The loca­tion of the work in the home also makes it hard­er to rec­og­nize it nor­ma­tive­ly as work. Fur­ther­more, because the paid work­force has been made up of low-wage immi­grants and wom­en of col­or, the social val­ue attached to this labor is min­i­mized; and it is a dis­persed work­force, in which the num­ber of employ­ers may exceed the num­ber of employ­ees, mak­ing strikes an unlike­ly labor tac­tic. In the post­war peri­od, despite the­se dif­fi­cul­ties of orga­niz­ing, a nation­al move­ment for domes­tic work­ers’ rights emerged which won impor­tant pro­tec­tions for the occu­pa­tion and trans­formed the social stand­ing of African Amer­i­can house­hold work­ers.

Origins of Domestic Worker Organizing

African Amer­i­can wom­en have a long his­to­ry of being con­fined to the occu­pa­tion of paid house­hold labor. They were the pri­ma­ry domes­tic labor force dur­ing slav­ery and in the post-eman­ci­pa­tion South. After World War 1, with the Great Migra­tion and the cur­tail­ment of Euro­pean immi­gra­tion, they became the pre­dom­i­nant house­hold labor force in near­ly all regions of the coun­try. By World War 2, the asso­ci­a­tion of African Amer­i­can wom­en with house­hold labor was firm­ly solid­i­fied in the stereo­typ­i­cal “mam­my” figure—a con­tent and loy­al house­hold work­er who always chose her employer’s fam­i­ly over her own.

Bely­ing the stereo­type, of course, African Amer­i­can house­hold work­ers were not con­tent and loy­al, and resis­tance was com­mon. It often took the form of indi­vid­u­al­ized, day-to-day oppo­si­tion to work expec­ta­tions, such as refus­ing to do cer­tain kinds of tasks or refus­ing to live-in. But house­hold work­ers also orga­nized col­lec­tive­ly. As Tera Hunter has recount­ed, African Amer­i­can wash­er wom­en in Atlanta in 1881 formed a wash­ing soci­ety and went on strike to demand high­er rates for their labor.1 In the 1930s, a num­ber of domes­tic work­er orga­ni­za­tions were formed to coun­ter the rise of what jour­nal­ists Mar­vel Cooke and Ella Bak­er called “slave mar­kets,” where African Amer­i­can wom­en stood on street cor­ners to be hired as day labor­ers. Cooke and Bak­er described the expe­ri­ences of the­se domes­tic work­ers: “Under a rigid watch, she is per­mit­ted to scrub floors on her bend­ed knees, to hang pre­car­i­ous­ly from win­dow sills, clean­ing win­dow after win­dow, or to strain and sweat over steam­ing tubs of heavy blan­kets, spreads and fur­ni­ture cov­ers. For­tu­nate, indeed, is she who gets a full hourly rate promised. Often, her day’s slav­ery is reward­ed with a sin­gle dol­lar bill or what­ev­er her unscrupu­lous employ­er pleas­es to pay.”2 In the post­war peri­od, given the con­text of black free­dom orga­niz­ing, African Amer­i­can wom­en began to more sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly chal­lenge the racial­ized nature of the occu­pa­tion and the notions of servi­tude that char­ac­ter­ized domes­tic ser­vice. In the 1960s, house­hold work­ers estab­lished local orga­ni­za­tions to demand high­er wages, con­trac­tu­al­ly-based employ­ment, fed­er­al labor pro­tec­tions, and recog­ni­tion of the val­ue of their work.

Geraldine Roberts grew up in Arkansas and attend­ed seg­re­gat­ed schools. She left home at a young age, mar­ried, moved to Cleve­land, and divorced. As a sin­gle moth­er, she had lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­plete her edu­ca­tion and end­ed up doing domes­tic work. As a domes­tic, she was not treat­ed like a work­er with rights, but as a ser­vant whose body was the prop­er­ty of her employ­er. She described one job inter­view when an employ­er, after exam­in­ing Robert’s teeth, told her: “Any girl… with a mouth this clean and pret­ty clean teeth was a pret­ty clean gal ’cause I don’t like dirty help in the house.”3 The sto­ry con­jures up images of the slave auc­tion block where slaves’ phys­i­cal health, includ­ing their teeth, was close­ly exam­ined by poten­tial slave buy­ers. Roberts recount­ed the way employ­ers rou­tine­ly used phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion to main­tain a racial hier­ar­chy: “There was a back room that was the bath­room, that would be the bath­room for myself and… oth­er house­hold employ­ees… all black, and we were all told to use that bath­room, and to nev­er use the fam­i­ly bath­room.”4 Roberts became involved in the civil rights and black pow­er move­ments and drew par­al­lels between Jim Crow seg­re­ga­tion and the racial­ized nature of house­hold labor. In 1965, she start­ed the Domes­tic Work­ers of Amer­i­ca to mobi­lize oth­er house­hold work­ers in Cleve­land.

In Atlanta, Dorothy Bold­en rode the city bus lines to recruit work­ers for her new orga­ni­za­tion, the Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Union of Amer­i­ca (NDWUA). Bold­en began domes­tic work at the age of nine. When the civil rights move­ment emerged, she worked close­ly with Mar­t­in Luther King and mem­bers of the Stu­dent Non­vi­o­lent Coor­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee to ensure equal access to edu­ca­tion in Atlanta. But it was her orga­niz­ing of house­hold work­ers where she made a name for her­self. In 1968, she estab­lished a city-wide orga­ni­za­tion that insist­ed on a min­i­mum wage of $15 a day plus car fare, and devel­oped stan­dards for the occu­pa­tion.

In 1971 Roberts, Bold­en, and oth­er house­hold work­ers formed the House­hold Tech­ni­cians of Amer­i­ca (HTA), the first nation­al orga­ni­za­tion of house­hold work­ers. The name of the orga­ni­za­tion indi­cat­ed their com­mit­ment to reframe domes­tic work as a pro­fes­sion­al occu­pa­tion that requires skill and should be treat­ed the same as all oth­er forms of work. With the help of mid­dle-class wom­en in the Nation­al Com­mit­tee on House­hold Employ­ment (NCHE), an orga­ni­za­tion of employ­ers ded­i­cat­ed to reform­ing the occu­pa­tion, six hun­dred most­ly mid­dle-aged African Amer­i­can wom­en met in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to ham­mer out the details of their new orga­ni­za­tion. The HTA con­nect­ed work­ers’ groups from around the coun­try, served as a nation­al voice for this labor con­stituen­cy, and fought for pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion, a fed­er­al min­i­mum wage, and respect for the work they did.

Revaluing Household Labor

The core of the domes­tic work­ers rights’ move­ment was fun­da­men­tal­ly defined by a demand for greater respect and recog­ni­tion for house­hold labor. Most house­hold work­ers believed that their mis­treat­ment, low wages, and lack of labor rights were root­ed in the nor­ma­tive deval­u­a­tion of house­hold labor. Con­se­quent­ly, they made claims for the impor­tance of this work. Dorothy Bold­en, for exam­ple, worked in oth­er occu­pa­tions, but she loved domes­tic work and want­ed to bring to it the recog­ni­tion that she believed it deserved. She ini­ti­at­ed an annu­al “Maids Hon­or Day,” in which employ­ers wrote nom­i­na­tion let­ters explain­ing why their maid should be named Maid of the Year. “The pur­pose of this event,” the NDWUA announced, “is to rec­og­nize and hon­or out­stand­ing wom­en in the field of domes­tic labor, for their courage and sta­bil­i­ty, and the remark­able abil­i­ty of being able to take care of two house­holds at one time.”5

The movement’s cam­paign for fed­er­al min­i­mum wage pro­tec­tion also illus­trates the effort to reval­ue house­hold labor. Mem­bers of the HTA and their allies in the NCHE tes­ti­fied before Con­gress to extend the fed­er­al min­i­mum wage to house­hold work­ers and rec­ti­fy the inequal­i­ty built into labor law dur­ing the New Deal. Domes­tic work was one of the occu­pa­tions exclud­ed from fed­er­al labor pro­tec­tions in the 1930s. At a moment when labor lead­ers and gov­ern­ment offi­cials had come to an agree­ment that Amer­i­can work­ers should be assured min­i­mum wages, over­time pay, unem­ploy­ment and social secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits, cer­tain key occu­pa­tions were out­side the purview of labor laws. A race and gen­der hier­ar­chy already exist­ed among dif­fer­ent types of work, but New Deal labor leg­is­la­tion rein­forced and insti­tu­tion­al­ized it through the pas­sage of laws that pro­tect­ed cer­tain work­ers but not oth­ers. This, in com­bi­na­tion with a pow­er­ful labor move­ment lim­it­ed by a par­tic­u­lar con­cep­tion of work root­ed in the male-dom­i­nat­ed man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor that did lit­tle to orga­nize house­hold-based and oth­er mar­gin­al­ized work­ers, fur­ther height­ened divi­sions with­in the Amer­i­can work­ing class.

In their tes­ti­mony in the ear­ly 1970s, mem­bers of the HTA and their allies pre­sent­ed their vision of the impor­tance of house­hold labor and the need for this occu­pa­tion to be treat­ed the same as all oth­er work. Edith Barks­dale Sloan, an African Amer­i­can civil rights activist who head­ed the NCHE and facil­i­tat­ed the for­ma­tion of the HTA, said her in her tes­ti­mony that domes­tic work should be afford­ed the same rights of social cit­i­zen­ship and New Deal ben­e­fits as oth­er occu­pa­tions: “Pay must be increased to provide a liv­able wage… work­ers must receive the so-called ‘fringe ben­e­fits,’ which long ago stopped being ‘fringes’ in every oth­er major Amer­i­can indus­try. At this time, house­hold work­ers usu­al­ly do not receive paid sick leave, vaca­tions, or hol­i­days. Cov­er­age under unem­ploy­ment and workmen’s com­pen­sa­tion is extreme­ly lim­it­ed and varies wide­ly from state to state.”6 The­se views were echoed by Car­olyn Reed, a domes­tic work­er and orga­niz­er based in New York: “I feel very strong­ly that I con­tribute just as much as my doc­tor con­tributes, you know. And that because he is a doc­tor does not make him bet­ter than me, as a house­hold tech­ni­cian.”7 In 1974, Con­gress final­ly passed amend­ments to the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act (FLSA) that fed­er­al­ly guar­an­teed min­i­mum wage for domes­tic work­ers.

Feminist Alliances

The domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ments devel­oped alliances with some strands of the women’s move­ment that were also try­ing to bring recog­ni­tion to social repro­duc­tion. Their efforts to reval­ue house­hold labor par­al­leled sim­i­lar the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sions tak­ing place in some fem­i­nist com­mu­ni­ties. Fem­i­nists in the 1960s, how­ev­er, were a diverse group with dif­fer­ent and com­pet­ing posi­tions. Many mid­dle-class wom­en who had been con­fined to the domes­tic sphere and felt con­strained by their roles as moth­ers and house­wives began in the 1960s to seek more oppor­tu­ni­ties out­side the home. This sen­ti­ment was best expressed by Bet­ty Friedan in her sem­i­nal book The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique. Friedan wrote about “the prob­lem that has no name” and struck a chord for mil­lions of house­wives around the coun­try who had eschewed careers to make fam­i­ly and home the cen­ter of their lives, but felt deeply dis­sat­is­fied and unful­filled. In mak­ing her claim for more oppor­tu­ni­ties out­side the house­hold, how­ev­er, Friedan den­i­grat­ed house­hold labor. As she wrote: “Vac­u­um­ing the liv­ing room floor—with or with­out makeup—is not work that takes enough thought or ener­gy to chal­lenge any woman’s full capac­i­ty.”8

Oth­er fem­i­nists sought, like house­hold work­ers, to reval­ue house­hold labor. Wel­fare rights activist made a claim for gov­ern­ment assis­tance to sup­port them in their work as moth­ers and insist­ed on the right to stay home and care for their chil­dren at a moment when the state was becom­ing more demand­ing about requir­ing wom­en on wel­fare to take paid employ­ment out­side the home.9 The wages for house­work move­ment, which includ­ed wom­en like Sel­ma James, Mari­arosa Dal­la Costa, and Sil­via Fed­eri­ci, attempt­ed to reclaim house­work as legit­i­mate labor.10 Rather than see­ing women’s employ­ment out­side the home as the only path to lib­er­a­tion, they advo­cat­ed attach­ing a wage to it as a way to reval­ue the work and com­pen­sate wom­en. This argu­ment was root­ed in an under­stand­ing that wages were a mea­sure of labor’s worth in a cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my. Mov­ing domes­tic labor from the unpaid to the paid cat­e­go­ry, they believed, would bring social val­ue and recog­ni­tion to the work. Although this was a legit­i­mate argu­ment, the expe­ri­ences of paid domes­tic work­ers offer a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Some domes­tic labor had been com­mod­i­fied since the emer­gence of cap­i­tal­ism. As domes­tic work­ers repeat­ed­ly attest­ed, a wage, in and of itself, did not raise the sta­tus of the work.11

Nev­er­the­less, activists in both the wages for house­work move­ment and domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ment had a com­mon goal of draw­ing atten­tion to house­hold labor—both paid and unpaid. Reed sup­port­ed Social Secu­ri­ty for house­wives as a way to rec­og­nize that work, claim­ing, “they can all become house­hold tech­ni­cians.”12 At a moment when many African Amer­i­can wom­en as well as mid­dle class wom­en were flee­ing house­hold labor in search of oth­er job oppor­tu­ni­ties, wom­en in the HTA and the wages for house­work move­ment chose to stay and expressed love of the work they did. As Reed explained: “I real­ly love the work, and that’s why I chose to orga­nize the work—because I love what I chose to do as a pro­fes­sion.”13

Chal­leng­ing the long-stand­ing home/work dis­tinc­tion that emerged with the rise of wage labor, the cam­paigns that domes­tic work­er activists engaged in and the ideas they artic­u­lat­ed illu­mi­nate how the work that takes place in the home is not a labor of love, but a form of labor exploita­tion that both reflects and recre­ates struc­tures of pow­er. When black domes­tic work­ers were denied the right to use the fam­i­ly restroom or expect­ed to eat their food at a sep­a­rate table, racial dis­tinc­tions and racial hier­ar­chies were remade. Activists drew atten­tion to the work that took place in the home, a space that is often not con­sid­ered a site of work. They argued that the way this work was allo­cat­ed and val­ued was cen­tral­ly impor­tant. Unequal pow­er rela­tions in the home, whether between hus­band and wife or between employ­er and employ­ee, repro­duce inequal­i­ty along race, class and gen­der lines.

New Organizing Model

The domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ment of the 1960s and 1970s sug­gests ways that the con­tin­gent work­ers of today can begin to orga­nize. Because their place of employ­ment was not a viable loca­tion to recruit mem­bers, house­hold work­ers orga­nized in pub­lic spaces. Rather than the fac­to­ry floor, city bus lines, pub­lic parks, and neigh­bor­hoods became the sites of orga­niz­ing. Work­ers formed col­lec­tive com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions even though they worked for dif­fer­ent employ­ers. They did not estab­lish employ­er-ori­ent­ed labor for­ma­tions but direct­ed their demands at the state, insist­ing that leg­is­la­tion be passed that would pro­tect all work­ers in the indus­try. They also orga­nized work­ers regard­less of their immi­gra­tion sta­tus. They sought to pro­fes­sion­al­ize the occu­pa­tion and raise the over­all stan­dards of allow­able work—refusing, for exam­ple, to wash win­dows or scrub floors on their hands and knees. Ques­tions of race, gen­der, and cul­ture were cen­tral to the orga­niz­ing, as the above par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of African Amer­i­can women’s his­to­ry attest. The­se con­structs became a way to build sol­i­dar­i­ty among domes­tic work­ers.

The domes­tic work­ers’ rights move­ment also com­pli­cates assump­tions that employ­ers should be the pri­ma­ry tar­gets of labor orga­niz­ers. House­hold work­ers labored in the inti­mate space of the home. They were privy to a family’s per­son­al mat­ters and some­times devel­oped emo­tion­al bonds with their employer’s fam­i­ly. Although employ­ees orga­nized to wield more lever­age and pow­er, they did not nec­es­sar­i­ly want an antag­o­nis­tic rela­tion­ship with their boss­es, since they would con­tin­ue to work in close quar­ters with them. Many house­hold work­er activists devel­oped col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ships with employ­ers and encour­aged the cre­ation of employ­er orga­ni­za­tions to sup­port their move­ment.

The domes­tic work­ers’ movement’s empha­sis on revalu­ing forms of social repro­duc­tion res­onates espe­cial­ly at a moment when good-pro­duc­ing indus­tries account for less than 13% of U.S. employ­ment.14 Valu­ing the paid and unpaid work of social repro­duc­tion, whether it is that of fast food work­ers, land­scap­ers, home care work­ers, or house­clean­ers, is the first step to con­sid­er­ing them part of the labor move­ment and includ­ing them in our con­ver­sa­tion about how work­er pow­er can trans­form the eco­nom­ic cli­mate.

The dis­tinc­tive orga­niz­ing approach that domes­tic work­ers adopt­ed emerged from the par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter of the occu­pa­tion. Oth­er occu­pa­tions, includ­ing Uber dri­vers, nail salon work­ers and day labor­ers are sim­i­lar­ly self-employed, with few labor pro­tec­tions and less secure employ­ment. The growth of the­se occu­pa­tions is an exam­ple of how the work­force is increas­ing­ly com­ing to resem­ble domes­tic work. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the­se kinds of con­tin­gent work­ers are also orga­niz­ing and lead­ing the way to a rede­fined labor move­ment. The tac­tics and strate­gies uti­lized by house­hold work­ers might not be applic­a­ble to all indus­tries, but they sug­gest alter­na­tive mod­els of orga­niz­ing and new ways for work­ers to come togeth­er and wield pow­er.


  1. Tera Hunter, To ‘Joy My Free­dom: South­ern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War (Cam­bridge: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press 1997)  

  2. Ella Bak­er and Mar­vel Cooke, The Cri­sis, 42 (Novem­ber 1935). 

  3. Geraldine Roberts, inter­view by Don­na Van Raaphorst, March 30–June 29, 1977, Cleve­land, Ohio, Pro­gram on Wom­en and Work, Insti­tute of Labor and Indus­tri­al Rela­tions, Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Wal­ter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty, p. 46. 

  4. Roberts, inter­view by Van Raaphorst, p. 46. 

  5. Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Union of Amer­i­ca, brochure, p. 18, Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Union Records, South­ern Labor Archives, Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty. 

  6. State­ment of Mrs. Edith Barks­dale Sloan, exec­u­tive direc­tor, and Mrs. Josephine Hulett, field offi­cer, NCHE, Hear­ings Before the Gen­er­al Sub­com­mit­tee on Labor, Com­mit­tee on Edu­ca­tion and Labor, on HR 10948, August 13, 1970, p. 3, Nation­al Com­mit­tee on House­hold Employ­ment Records, Nation­al Archives for Black Women’s His­to­ry, Mary McLeod Bethune Coun­cil House, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Records, series 003, sub­series 01, box 11, fold­er 06. 

  7. Rem­i­nis­cences of Car­olyn Reed, Tran­script, Columbia Uni­ver­si­ty Oral His­to­ry Research Office, p. 24.  

  8. Bet­ty Friedan, The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique (New York: Nor­ton, 1963), 121. 

  9. Pre­mil­la Nadasen, Wel­fare War­riors: The Wel­fare Rights Move­ment in the Unit­ed States (New York: Rout­ledge 2005). 

  10. Sel­ma James, “A Woman’s Place,” in her Sex, Race, and Class, the Per­spec­tive of Win­ning: A Selec­tion of Writ­ings, 1952–2011 (Oak­land, CA: PM Press, 2012). 

  11. For a cri­tique of the Wages for House­work move­ment, see Ange­la Davis, Wom­en, Race, and Class (New York: Ran­dom House, 1981), chap­ter 7. 

  12. Rem­i­nis­cences of Car­olyn Reed, 28. 

  13. Rem­i­nis­cences of Car­olyn Reed, 2. 

  14. “Employ­ment Pro­jec­tions: Employ­ment by Major Indus­try,” U.S. Depart­ment of Labor, Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics, Dec. 2013 

Author of the article

is a Visiting Associate Professor of History and is affiliated with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Her research and teaching interests include women and gender, race, public policy, labor, poverty, and social movements. Prior to joining the faculty at Barnard she taught at Queens College, City University of New York.