Production, Reproduction, and the Problem of Home for Work


“Rur­al women are often the most for­got­ten par­tic­i­pants in the econ­o­my,” respond­ed econ­o­mist Lour­des Ben­ería to a 1977 inter­nal report on efforts by the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion (ILO) to imple­ment U.N. dec­la­ra­tions on women’s equal­i­ty.1 “Rather than being ‘mar­gin­al’ par­tic­i­pants in the stream of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties,” she assert­ed, “they are an ‘inte­gral’ part of it.” After all, “they work long hours in domes­tic and agri­cul­tur­al jobs, and… per­form essen­tial activ­i­ties to the eco­nom­ic sys­tem, name­ly those relat­ed to pro­duc­tion of foods and ser­vices, either in the fields or at home, and those relat­ed to the repro­duc­tion of the labour force.“2 In rec­og­niz­ing the role of women from the “Third World” in eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment as span­ning pro­duc­tion and repro­duc­tion, Ben­ería under­scored a cen­tral prob­lem­at­ic that is with us yet: the rela­tion of home to work, the mean­ing of such terms, and their impli­ca­tions for the prac­tice of care.

The ide­o­log­i­cal split between home and work in the indus­tri­al­ized West has obscured the ways that each realm shapes the oth­er. It also shaped social pol­i­cy toward “women in devel­op­ing coun­tries.” Con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal debate main­tains an oppo­si­tion between “moth­er” and “work­er” as well as “work” and “care.” This divi­sion reflects a per­va­sive intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal impasse per­vad­ing the orga­ni­za­tion of knowl­edge – our schol­ar­ship – as well as legal rules, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions, and union orga­niz­ing. “Sep­a­rate spheres” or “the cult of domes­tic­i­ty” long dom­i­nat­ed his­to­ries of U.S. and Euro­pean women, espe­cial­ly for the 19th cen­tu­ry, even though most women had to labor hard, some­times in the home, often out­side of it, to main­tain them­selves and their house­holds. They were sub­sis­tence farm­ers, wage earn­ers, and house­wives; some were domes­tic ser­vants and slaves. Even when buy­ing and trad­ing through mar­kets, they had to trans­form pur­chased mate­ri­als into con­sum­able goods. They aid­ed in child­birth, nursed the ill, looked after chil­dren, soothed the afflict­ed, and watched over the dead. Care was inter­wo­ven into the fab­ric of dai­ly life, whether or not they went out to work.3

But indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism and, in the case of the Unit­ed States, its racial­iza­tion, obscured inter­de­pen­den­cies in cel­e­brat­ing indi­vid­u­al­ism, pro­mot­ing male bread­win­ners, and struc­tur­ing inequal­i­ty through gen­der, race/ethnicity, and class hier­ar­chies. How­ev­er, trans­for­ma­tions in the larg­er polit­i­cal econ­o­my made the male bread­win­ner inad­e­quate even for those class­es, which includ­ed fam­i­lies with union­ized men, that in the post-WWII years seemed to obtain this ide­al. By the 1970s, the begin­nings of neolib­er­al reorder­ing, the dual breadwinner/female care­giv­er mod­el came to the fore, which left poor sin­gle moth­ers with hav­ing to make due on their own with increas­ing­ly mea­ger social assis­tance. Wage earn­ing women began to employ migrant moth­ers to take up their slack in a new inter­na­tion­al divi­sion of (re)productive labor.4

In this con­text, by the 1980s, the decon­struc­tion of women’s labors became cen­tral to a larg­er fem­i­nist project of dis­solv­ing these social con­struc­tions, espe­cial­ly the dichoto­my of pub­lic (work) and pri­vate (home). Fem­i­nist schol­ars, espe­cial­ly those writ­ing out of a left tra­di­tion, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly set about to reval­ue work that appeared to be done out of love or oblig­a­tion (and racial­ized when coerced out of slaves or eth­nic minori­ties), and thus became under­paid when per­formed for a wage and deval­ued in the mar­ket econ­o­my.5 But whether care is real­ly work con­tin­ues to con­found, shap­ing social pol­i­cy and dri­ving polit­i­cal move­ments.

Care cer­tain­ly is a nar­row­er con­cept than repro­duc­tive labor. As we learned from the Marx­ist domes­tic labor debates of the 1970s and 1980s, repro­duc­tive labor con­sists of activ­i­ties that pro­duce labor pow­er – activ­i­ties that trans­form raw mate­ri­als and com­modi­ties bought with a wage to main­tain the work­er dai­ly and gen­er­ate future work­forces through the feed­ing, cloth­ing, car­ing, edu­cat­ing, and social­iz­ing of chil­dren. It is per­formed usu­al­ly not for a wage and by a woman (as a house­wife, though she might also be a wage work­er at the same time).6 Care, thus, is one com­po­nent of repro­duc­tive labor, not the same as house­work but often per­formed with oth­er domes­tic activ­i­ties – and where the line is between care and house­work isn’t so clear. Care­work involves per­son­al ser­vices for oth­er peo­ple: activ­i­ties that tend to the phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, affec­tive, and oth­er emo­tion­al needs of part­ners, chil­dren, and elder­ly, ill, or dis­abled peo­ple. It includes tasks for dai­ly life, includ­ing house­hold main­te­nance (cook­ing, clean­ing, wash­ing, even shop­ping) and per­son­al exis­tence (bathing, feed­ing, turn­ing over, ambu­la­tion). Sex-affec­tive pro­duc­tion can be part of care. It need not be het­ero­sex­u­al or homo­nor­ma­tive. Such labor requires, fem­i­nist the­o­rists across dis­ci­plines argue, “‘car­ing for’ while ‘car­ing about.’” To tend the envi­ron­ment of the abode or the body is to care for but per­haps also to care about.7

Who cares varies, and we might even imag­ine care as dis­rup­tive to a hege­mon­ic order rather than cen­tral to its func­tion­ing. After all, care sug­gests inter­de­pen­den­cy, inti­ma­cy, and species worth. Nev­er­the­less, the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary lit­er­a­ture on care still reflects the equa­tion of domes­tic labor with oppres­sion. It explains women’s respon­si­bil­i­ty for unpaid fam­i­ly care in terms of labor mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion (sex­u­al divi­sion of labor), psy­cho­dy­nam­ics (women moth­er­ing repro­duces women who give care), and social sta­tus (men don’t want to do it.). Some have addressed the move­ment of care from the home to oth­er work­places (schools, hos­pi­tals, nurs­ing homes, and fac­to­ries), espe­cial­ly in terms of the struc­ture of wel­fare states and racial divi­sion of labor, while oth­ers con­sid­er care in terms of the work and fam­i­ly dilem­ma asso­ci­at­ed with “the dou­ble day.” These schol­ars ask how we as a soci­ety should orga­nize care – who should care and who should pay for care, does care remain in the fam­i­ly or move out­side of fam­i­lies, is it an indi­vid­ual, fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty, state, or nation­al oblig­a­tion? A few empha­size the rela­tion­ship between employ­ers of care and their employ­ees, dis­tin­guish­ing between spir­i­tu­al and menial house­work in terms of moth­ers, ser­vants, slaves, and low-paid labor­ers, high­light­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of immi­grant women clean­ing and car­ing for the afflu­ent.8

The skills nec­es­sary for clean­ing, cook­ing, laun­dry, child­care, nurs­ing, and oth­er tasks appear to be nat­ur­al, their eco­nom­ic val­ue obscured. Some would claim that such labor has use val­ue, but not exchange val­ue, and thus is val­ue­less in a Marx­ist mean­ing of val­ue. Oth­ers, notably Leopold­ina For­tu­nati, would argue that care already is part of exchange, that the house­wife (and the pros­ti­tute) both work for cap­i­tal in repro­duc­ing the labor pow­er of the male work­er.9 But because of the way we in the West, notably the Unit­ed States, gen­er­al­ly regard such labor, when it moves out of the home into the mar­ket­place, it los­es sta­tus as a labor of love and becomes clas­si­fied as unskilled work that any­one can per­form, because women have under­tak­en such activ­i­ties with­out pay­ment. It becomes stig­ma­tized for two rea­sons: first, it involves dirt, bod­ies, and inti­ma­cy; sec­ond, those who have per­formed such paid jobs are of low­er sta­tus, often men and women of col­or and/or recent immi­grants. Though such jobs need not be women’s, or immi­grant women’s work, they have been his­tor­i­cal­ly. Char­ac­ter­is­tics of the work­er still define the skill and val­ue of the work.

This essay will pro­ceed in three parts. First, I dis­cuss the dis­missal of domes­tic labor by lib­er­al fem­i­nist Bet­ty Friedan in her influ­en­tial 1963 The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique as an iron­ic con­tin­u­a­tion of a Marx­ist project that equat­ed women’s eman­ci­pa­tion with leav­ing the home for employ­ment out­side of it. Sec­ond, I ana­lyze a fem­i­nist blog dis­cus­sion over the mean­ing of care in the Unit­ed States as indica­tive of a con­tin­u­ing den­i­gra­tion of domes­tic labor. Third, I turn to strug­gles of home care and oth­er domes­tic work­ers, whose invis­i­bil­i­ty hege­mon­ic under­stand­ings of home and work have fed into. In their orga­niz­ing cam­paigns for recog­ni­tion as work­ers under the labor law, we find the equa­tion of repro­duc­tion with pro­duc­tion. Thus, final­ly, I end with thoughts on the pri­ma­cy of pro­duc­tion as our par­a­digm for progress, which leads me back to the pre­scrip­tions of Lour­des Ben­ería and the ILO through the lens of Kathi Weeks’ cri­tique of “the work eth­ic.”

“The Problem that Has No Name” Was a Problem

The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique rein­forced, even as it reflect­ed, the deval­u­a­tion of repro­duc­tive labor. Its influ­ence had a per­ni­cious impact for those women who went out to work to per­form care and oth­er domes­tic occu­pa­tions because it dis­missed the worth of the housewife’s labors at pre­cise­ly the moment when ser­vice indus­tries began their eco­nom­ic ascent and so fed into the under­valu­ing of the women who dared to call them­selves “House­hold Tech­ni­cians” rather than domes­tic ser­vants, who reject­ed the des­ig­na­tion, “the help.” Friedan’s under­stand­ing of women’s eman­ci­pa­tion – employ­ment out­side of the home – and silence on care – indica­tive of her lim­it­ed con­cept of work – became preva­lent by the late 1960s, just in time to main­tain mid­dle class con­sump­tion in the U.S. In the after­math of glob­al eco­nom­ic reor­ga­ni­za­tion and the decline of the (white) male fam­i­ly wage in the sub­se­quent decades, women need­ed to become bread­win­ners. Friedan offered a vision fit­ting for the times, even if that was hard­ly her intent.10

Lib­er­al fem­i­nists like Friedan recast work as lib­er­a­tion in offer­ing employ­ment as the solu­tion to “the prob­lem that has no name.” Women had to become more than “just a house­wife.” For house­work, which Friedan equat­ed with fit work for “fee­ble-mind­ed” girls, was unwor­thy of adult women with “aver­age or nor­mal human intel­li­gence.” While she does not speak of “care,” Friedan equal­ly den­i­grates such activ­i­ties through asso­ci­a­tion: “wife, mis­tress, moth­er, nurse, con­sumer, cook, chauf­feur; expert on inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion, child care, appli­ance repair, fur­ni­ture refin­ish­ing, nutri­tion, and edu­ca­tion” defines the “mod­ern house­wife” who is exhaust­ed so she can’t “read books, only mag­a­zines” (25). Car­ing gets fold­ed into “a world of bed­room and kitchen, sex, babies, and home,” all of which sig­ni­fy lim­its to women’s hori­zons (30). “Hav­ing babies,” phys­i­cal repro­duc­tion, appears as the anti­dote to the housewife’s empti­ness – noth­ing more, not the pro­duc­tion of future labor pow­er or a prod­uct of moth­er love.

Such a por­trait cap­tured the posi­tion of the white mid­dle class who, more than oth­er women, were at mid-20th cen­tu­ry able to remain out­side of the labor force and found paid work away from the home an attrac­tive alter­na­tive to bore­dom with­in. These were the women whose access to edu­ca­tion and oth­er resources (includ­ing a white male wage) made it more like­ly that their work could be inter­est­ing and cre­ative. But Friedan neglect­ed the lives of most women who even in the 1950s and 1960s found that they had to work (often part-time) at a job, not a pro­fes­sion, not for joy but to make ends meet or to cement that mid­dle-class life style.

Here lies the irony. Friedan was a woman of the left, a reporter for the pro­gres­sive Unit­ed Elec­tri­cal Work­ers and the Fed­er­at­ed News Ser­vice.11 But she learned the wrong les­son from the Com­mu­nist and labor milieu she lived in dur­ing the 1940s and ear­ly 1950s. She embraced the dic­tum of Friedrich Engels in The Ori­gins of the Fam­i­ly, Pri­vate Prop­er­ty and the State (1884) that “the mod­ern indi­vid­ual fam­i­ly is found­ed on the open or con­cealed domes­tic slav­ery of the wife” and sec­ond, that “if she car­ries out her duties in the pri­vate ser­vice of her fam­i­ly, she remains exclud­ed from pub­lic pro­duc­tion and unable to earn”; and third, “the first con­di­tion for the lib­er­a­tion of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into pub­lic indus­try,” that is, women had to go out to work in order to join togeth­er in social strug­gle and work for the com­mon good.12

Anoth­er Com­mu­nist analy­sis exist­ed, one even­tu­al­ly embraced by women’s lib­er­a­tion, but dis­cred­it­ed pub­li­cal­ly and loud­ly dur­ing the time when Friedan was involved with left pol­i­tics. In the 1940 In Women’s Defense, Cal­i­for­nia activist Mary Inman assert­ed that house­work, like fac­to­ry work, was pro­duc­tive labor. Inman pre­fig­ured much of the lat­er domes­tic labor debate by claim­ing that “wide­spread den­i­gra­tion of house­work and child rear­ing” was what led to women’s sub­or­di­na­tion, not the eco­nom­ic func­tion of the work itself that pro­duced future and present labor pow­er. Indeed, Inman con­tend­ed that pro­fes­sion­al and busi­ness women – those who held the kinds of jobs that Friedan would tout as lib­er­at­ing – faced dis­crim­i­na­tion as women pre­cise­ly because of the way that house­wives were incor­po­rat­ed into cap­i­tal­ism, that the “sub­ju­ga­tion” of the lat­ter shaped the dis­crim­i­na­tion towards the for­mer. House­wives engaged in “nec­es­sary social labor,” but they were indi­rect­ly relat­ed to pro­duc­tion, with “no direct con­tact with their exploiters” because they “work only at home, and the means of exploit­ing them is clear only when we take into account the entire sys­tem of pro­duc­tion.” As “a bear­er and train­er of chil­dren,” that is, as a care­giv­er, she cre­ates prof­its by pro­duc­ing future labor. It wasn’t a ques­tion of biol­o­gy but one of econ­o­my. The work of all the sep­a­rate house­holds was “the piv­ot of the sys­tem.“13

Friedan offered a con­trast­ing view that, in devalu­ing the labors of the house­wife, denied the worth of the domes­tic ser­vant. The log­ic becomes, if this labor is so worth­less, so rou­tine, why pay decent­ly to not have to do it? The “Help” in The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique are in the back­ground to the main action, the woman who employs them. Paid house­hold work­ers are referred to as “clean­ing help” (227, 234). Friedan sees that women can get along with­out such help, not­ing that “in the absence of ser­vants,” when they were in short sup­ply, dur­ing WWII, women fig­ured out how to rearrange domes­tic labor to enter the labor force; they “pooled” resources, orga­niz­ing work shifts so some­one was around to watch the chil­dren, or they relied on nurs­ery schools. But child care cen­ters with­ered away and even those who could afford a “full-time house­keep­er,” whose sup­plies were up, took on all the home labors them­selves (176-177). So, while Friedan under­stood the sig­nif­i­cance of social sup­ports for labor force par­tic­i­pa­tion, her solu­tion was “a new life plan for women” (326), the (re)production of women through edu­ca­tion, and not bring­ing care­work and oth­er forms of domes­tic labor into social pro­duc­tion, away from their pri­va­tized posi­tion. Instead she pushed for some women hir­ing oth­er women to ful­fill home labors while leav­ing home for jobs.

Giv­en these assump­tions – that domes­tic labors aren’t real­ly work and that women should go out to work – it isn’t sur­pris­ing that even in the 1990s, Friedan insist­ed that the Nation­al Wel­fare Rights Move­ment was not fem­i­nist because it sought ade­quate income for poor sin­gle moth­ers, dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly black, to enable its mem­bers to reject the coer­cion of low waged work and gov­ern­ment work pro­grams (work­fare) to stay home and engage in moth­er­work.14 For his­tor­i­cal­ly, black women were to be work­ers, not moth­ers, or the care­givers of oth­er women’s chil­dren and homes, under­tak­ing the work that no one else want­ed to do, which by the 1970s increas­ing­ly took place in the ser­vice sec­tor with the move­ment of repro­duc­tive labors to oth­er work­places. Black women’s refusal of such work opened up the use of immi­grant women for home labors when more priv­i­leged women went out to work.15


How does the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of fem­i­nist com­men­ta­tors regard domes­tic and care labor? Blog­ging on The Fem­i­nist Wire in March 2012, Eng­lish and Women’s Stud­ies pro­fes­sor Sara Hosey chal­lenged the fem­i­nist fram­ing of care as work by “Reject­ing the Rhetoric of the ‘Sec­ond Shift’” as a move toward “Insist­ing on Equi­ty.“16 Soci­ol­o­gist Arlie Hochschild famous­ly referred to dai­ly tasks under­tak­en for fam­i­ly – such as drop­ping off and pick­ing up from day­care, clean­ing the house, shop­ping for and prepar­ing food, get­ting chil­dren to bed, wash­ing clothes, pack­ing lunch­es, and mak­ing ready for going off in the morn­ing – as the “sec­ond shift,” hours of labor after (or before and some­times as snatch­es of time dur­ing) employ­ment.17 Much social sci­ence lit­er­a­ture shows that, decades into the new fem­i­nism, women still put many more hours than men into these activ­i­ties of self-care and social repro­duc­tion, so that in all kinds of het­ero­sex­u­al house­holds they work the equiv­a­lent of an addi­tion­al part-time job.18 On the basis of her own expe­ri­ence with a male part­ner who does half the tasks, Hosey reject­ed the term “sec­ond shift” as an inap­pro­pri­ate, indeed, degrad­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tion of care activ­i­ties.

Hosey, of course, is not alone in wish­ing for an are­na out­side of cap­i­tal­ism, free from the mar­ket, where we can be who we wish to be and where “inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships, care­giv­ing, and coop­er­a­tion” reign supreme. Notable fem­i­nist the­o­rists of the wel­fare state, such as Nan­cy Fras­er and Ann Orloff, have approached the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of care as part of a larg­er cri­tique of neo-lib­er­al pri­va­ti­za­tion and its dis­place­ment of social respon­si­bil­i­ty to fam­i­lies and the mar­ket.19 Addi­tion­al­ly, for many care the­o­rists, the very term “care­work econ­o­my” rep­re­sents an oxy­moron. For these philoso­phers and pol­i­cy ana­lysts, care and econ­o­my stand in for the “hos­tile words” of love and mon­ey, as soci­ol­o­gist Viviana Zeliz­er has cri­tiqued this strand of thought, an inscrip­tion of sep­a­rate sphere ide­ol­o­gy with gen­dered attrib­ut­es repack­aged: women give care, men earn mon­ey.20

These fem­i­nist the­o­rists bemoan an increas­ing com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of aspects of life that they find should be pri­vate, inti­mate, and per­son­al, such as tend­ing to depen­dents, usu­al­ly defined as the frail, ill, and young.21 Philoso­pher Vir­ginia Held typ­i­fies such argu­ments in regard­ing “car­ing work as enabling those cared for to know that some­one val­ues them” and for “express­ing social con­nect­ed­ness… con­tribut­ing to children’s devel­op­ment and fam­i­ly sat­is­fac­tion, and… enabling social cohe­sion and well-being,” all out­side of mar­ket norms. Like­wise econ­o­mist Susan Him­mel­weit defends car­ing labor as a spe­cial kind of work involv­ing rela­tion­ship and emo­tion­al attach­ment so that “much of the qual­i­ty of our lives would be lost if the impo­si­tion of inap­pro­pri­ate forms of mar­ket ratio­nal­i­ty turned such work into mere labor.“22 Pol­i­cy ana­lyst Deb­o­rah Stone notes that the rules and reg­u­la­tions of car­ing in the pub­lic sphere “pro­mote dis­en­gage­ment, dis­tance, and impar­tial­i­ty,” while dis­count­ing the love, par­tial­i­ty, and attach­ment that many devel­op toward those cared for. Most care­givers, she con­cludes, feel demeaned by the label “‘work­er,” for that implies man­aged, bureau­crat­ic con­cepts in con­trast to their own “rela­tion­al and per­son­al con­cepts of care.“23 In short, as his­to­ri­an Alice Kessler-Har­ris has charged, these com­plaints assume “that incor­po­rat­ing women into its [the eco­nom­ic mar­ket] com­pet­i­tive val­ue sys­tem would negate female nur­tur­ing val­ues,” thus, negat­ing “the affec­tive com­po­nents of life.“24

Hosey joins those who ignore both the his­to­ry of inti­mate car­ing labors and the con­se­quence of state incor­po­ra­tion of care as cen­tral to the orga­ni­za­tion of pro­duc­tion, repro­duc­tion, and inequal­i­ty. Her con­cern is not with the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of inti­ma­cy, as doc­u­ment­ed by the­o­rists of sex work, but rather with the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of care as work. As a con­se­quence, by omis­sion, she, like Friedan, belit­tles the strug­gles of care work­ers for respect and dig­ni­ty. Hosey thus rein­scribes class and race hier­ar­chies even as she argues for gen­der equi­ty.

This recoil­ing from the lan­guage of exchange and invest­ment, which Hosey con­nects to the eco­nom­ic, occurs just as she links work with the eco­nom­ic (though these asso­ci­a­tions are not the only ones that work evokes). This move to the eco­nom­ic eras­es pos­i­tive mean­ings of work. We don’t embrace eco­nom­ic man or woman; instead we think of the eco­nom­ic as cold, cal­cu­lat­ing, or unfeel­ing. Hosey couch­es the act of under­stand­ing “par­ent­ing as ‘work’” with the verbs “mis­con­strues” and “demeans.” Label­ing care as work, she con­tends, will­fu­ly mis­reads “an oth­er­wise com­plex rela­tion­ship that is, at its best, defin­i­tive­ly lov­ing and mutu­al­ly-reward­ing.” She refers to “larg­er rewards” than the mon­e­tary to explain time spent with fam­i­ly.

Hosey dis­cuss­es par­ent­ing and house­keep­ing togeth­er as two aspects of the sec­ond shift. She demotes the sig­nif­i­cance of house­keep­ing by rel­e­gat­ing it to “a quo­tid­i­an part of life” and tak­ing it away “from the realm of the seri­ous.” She asserts, “there are bet­ter, more empow­ered ways to spend one’s time and mon­ey than scrub­bing and pol­ish­ing.” Here she repli­cates the divi­sion between spir­i­tu­al and menial house­work that black fem­i­nist the­o­rist Dorothy Roberts found in the dis­tinc­tion between par­ent­ing and clean­ing, the first per­formed by the white mis­tress and the sec­ond giv­en to the black or brown maid, the first jus­ti­fied as moth­er­ing and the sec­ond deval­ued as toil. This sep­a­ra­tion reserves care for only some forms of inti­mate labor and jus­ti­fies low pay for those aspects that remain as work – and the fur­ther stigma­ti­za­tion of racial/ethnic women that per­form the less priv­i­leged tasks.25

It isn’t that Hosey has a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of work, though. She goes on to con­trast house­work with real forms of work out­side of employ­ment: “con­scious­ness-rais­ing and polit­i­cal lob­by­ing, the think­ing and writ­ing and orga­niz­ing that many of us have done and con­tin­ue to do, often in addi­tion to hold­ing down pay­ing jobs, pick­ing up after our­selves, and spend­ing time with our fam­i­lies.” These are activ­i­ties that fem­i­nist the­o­rist Kathi Weeks might lump under “Hours for What We Will,” but oth­ers might name com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ative labors.26

There are con­se­quences to such think­ing, the equa­tion Care≠Work. Mid­way in her essay, Hosey admits that she is talk­ing about “clean­ing one’s own home” and doing oth­er house­hold tasks “not for pay.” Focus­ing on unpaid forms of care and house­work, nonethe­less, obscures the rela­tion­ship between unpaid and paid forms of care. The first informs the sec­ond and its deval­u­a­tion. As soci­ol­o­gists Cameron Lynne Mac­Don­ald and David A. Mer­rill explain, care­work­ers suf­fer from “insti­tu­tion­al mis­recog­ni­tion that defines care work as non­work, as unskilled work, or female work­ers as non­work­ers; as well as inter­sub­jec­tive mis­recog­ni­tion that bars them from equal access to social esteem by the accu­mu­lat­ed psy­chic harms inflict­ed on them in inter­ac­tions with oth­ers.“27

The Rising of the Domestic Workers

Such obscur­ing of the car­er as a work­er is par­tic­u­lar­ly detri­men­tal, then, not only because it offers a ratio­nal­iza­tion for poor com­pen­sa­tion but also because it throws road­blocks against work­er rights and union­iza­tion. As one domes­tic work­er orga­niz­er explained dur­ing the 1970s bat­tle in the Unit­ed States for legal inclu­sion, “This is a gut woman’s issue. The rea­son we haven’t got­ten our rights as a paid per­son in the labor force is because men think they can get their wives or girl­friends to do the job with­out pay.“28 This con­fla­tion has jus­ti­fied dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The law in the Unit­ed States is par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing in this regard. Unpaid care­work gar­ners no social secu­ri­ty because there are no wages or rec­og­nized income taxed sep­a­rate­ly. Depen­dent house­wives can gain husband’s pen­sion ben­e­fits; after 1970s reforms and court cas­es, divorce trans­fers some social secu­ri­ty funds to them if the mar­riage last­ed long enough, but divorce no longer comes auto­mat­i­cal­ly with any com­pen­sa­tion for inti­mate labors, includ­ing house­work and child­care. The call for wages for house­work nev­er rever­ber­at­ed polit­i­cal­ly in the U.S., even though it exposed the eco­nom­ic rela­tion involved. But an unin­tend­ed con­se­quence of the end of cover­ture, a demand of legal fem­i­nism that came to fruition in the late 1960s, was the end of alimo­ny because men’s rights groups sup­port­ed such and the mon­e­tary valu­ing of house­work failed.29

Paid domes­tic work also stood out­side of the labor law. In 1940, the law clas­si­fied nurse-com­pan­ions and oth­er in-home care work­ers hired direct­ly by clients as domes­tic ser­vants and thus made them inel­i­gi­ble for old age insur­ance, unem­ploy­ment, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, min­i­mum wages, max­i­mum hours, or oth­er labor laws.30 The exten­sion of women’s work for the fam­i­ly into the mar­ket cre­at­ed an are­na eas­i­ly cor­doned off as impos­si­ble to reg­u­late.31 More impor­tant was the lack of pow­er­ful advo­cates for domes­tic work­ers and the racial­ism of New Deal­ers and their depen­dence on South­ern votes. Pro­fes­sion­al women had a vest­ed inter­est in a cheap sup­ply of ser­vants and most house­wives did not view them­selves as employ­ers.32 Not until the 1950s would some domes­tic work­ers gain cov­er­age under Social Secu­ri­ty.33

Inclu­sion under the fed­er­al Fair Labor Stan­dards Act proved more dif­fi­cult. This was, in part, because, as one “man­pow­er” expert explained in 1971, “the min­i­mum wage is… need­ed as a floor to express the social­ly rec­og­nized ‘val­ue’ of the labor rather than to meet the income needs of all fam­i­ly heads,” but home labor lacked val­ue.34 Con­gres­sion­al myopia over the worth of such labor – along with the polit­i­cal econ­o­my of the South that ben­e­fit­ed from depress­ing African Amer­i­can wages – pro­longed the polit­i­cal work of inclu­sion. In both claim­ing house­work as work and strug­gling against dis­crim­i­na­tion in the employ­ment of women, orga­nized fem­i­nism allied with domes­tic work­ers cleared the way for final­ly plac­ing domes­tic work into labor law.35 In 1974, two years after pro­fes­sion­al women gained access, Con­gress includ­ed domes­tic ser­vants in the wage and hour law.

These same amend­ments to the labor law end­ed up remov­ing home health aides and atten­dants from cov­er­age if hired by a third par­ty, like a for-prof­it home health care agency. A def­i­n­i­tion­al ruse, a des­ig­na­tion as “elder com­pan­ions” who were like casu­al babysit­ters, reduced the home aide to a friend­ly vis­i­tor, an inter­pre­ta­tion of Con­gres­sion­al action by the Depart­ment of Labor at the time. The Supreme Court rat­i­fied what amount­ed to wage theft over thir­ty years lat­er in 2007. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion in late 2011 pro­posed new rules to sup­plant this def­i­n­i­tion of home care as not work.36

It took twen­ty-one months, but final­ly on Sep­tem­ber 17, 2013, the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor announced final rules that end­ed the exclu­sion of home care work­ers from over­time and marked their recog­ni­tion as work­ers.37 Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, this change con­sid­ered care as work. It embed­ded def­i­n­i­tions of care as assis­tance of indi­vid­u­als with “Activ­i­ties of Dai­ly Liv­ing” (i.e., “dress­ing, groom­ing, feed­ing, bathing, toi­let­ing, and trans­fer­ring”) and “Instru­men­tal Activ­i­ties of Dai­ly Liv­ing” (i.e., “tasks that enable a per­son to live inde­pen­dent­ly at home, such as meal prepa­ra­tion, dri­ving, light house­work, man­ag­ing finances, assis­tance with the phys­i­cal tak­ing of med­ica­tions and arrang­ing med­ical care”). Where­as the 1970s reg­u­la­tions exempt­ed from the cat­e­go­ry of “elder com­pan­ions” those who spent over 20% of their hours in house­keep­ing and oth­er domes­tic tasks, the Oba­ma-era ones man­dat­ed FLSA inclu­sion of those who per­form care for more than 20% of their time. Com­pan­ion­ship ser­vices then became restrict­ed to “pro­vi­sion of fel­low­ship and pro­tec­tion.” These could include “engag[ing] the per­son in social, phys­i­cal, and men­tal activ­i­ties, such as con­ver­sa­tion, read­ing, games, crafts, accom­pa­ny­ing…” and being there with some­one in their home “to mon­i­tor the person’s safe­ty and well-being.“38

In attempt­ing to dis­tin­guish care from com­pan­ion­ship, the rules repli­cat­ed the strand of fem­i­nist thought that sep­a­rates phys­i­cal labors from rela­tion­al ones, rein­forc­ing the divi­sion between spir­i­tu­al and menial house­work. But as any care provider knows, the two can’t be so eas­i­ly parsed. The per­cent­age of hours rep­re­sents an attempt to quan­ti­fy that which over­flows such frame­works. The com­plex­i­ty of the rules, and their care­ful des­ig­na­tion, reflect­ed the attempt by admin­is­tra­tions to come to grips with the dual nature of care as rela­tion and labor.

As of the writ­ing of this essay in June 2015, it is not clear whether the Oba­ma change in def­i­n­i­tion would ever come into effect. Just in time for Christ­mas 2014, at the behest of the Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca, the Inter­na­tion­al Fran­chise Asso­ci­a­tion, and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Home Care & Hos­pice, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard J. Leon (a George W. bush appointee) struck down the exten­sion of FLSA to these employ­ers of live-in home care work­ers. Imme­di­ate­ly, Cal­i­for­nia delayed its state-lev­el exten­sion of over­time to its Med­iCal fund­ed work­ers and a sec­ond employ­er suit right after the New Year led the same judge to vacate the entire new rule. Home care work­ers face per­pet­u­al low-wages, enhanced by the prospect of con­tin­u­ous lit­i­ga­tion delay­ing their inclu­sion in the labor law, as the Depart­ment of Labor appealed. What­ev­er side pre­vails, the oth­er prob­a­bly will take the case to the Supreme Court.39

Like oth­er dis­cours­es, legal con­struc­tions mat­ter. Home care work­ers had inter­nal­ized their non-work­er sta­tus. Sur­veys con­clud­ed that many saw “their work more as ser­vice than as employ­ment.” Rather than work­ers, they were care­givers, a role “root­ed in deep feel­ings about their reli­gious or cul­tur­al tra­di­tions.“40 Union­iza­tion would come to offer “an iden­ti­ty as a worker’s part of a giant work-force, doing impor­tant work that mer­its recog­ni­tion, respect, and decent stan­dards.“41 One of the biggest chal­lenges was to make vis­i­ble an occu­pa­tion hid­den in the home and ren­dered illeg­i­ble by the law, but dur­ing the last third of the 20th cen­tu­ry, that is pre­cise­ly what the Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union (SEIU) and oth­er unions man­aged to accom­plish by win­ning enabling leg­is­la­tion and guber­na­to­r­i­al orders in var­i­ous states that cre­at­ed mech­a­nisms for col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing with gov­ern­ment agen­cies and put pres­sure on pri­vate employ­ers who were reim­bursed through pub­lic monies.

Today’s domes­tic work­er move­ment – inter­na­tion­al­ly as well as in the Unit­ed States – sim­i­lar­ly has sought recog­ni­tion as work­ers. With pas­sage of ILO Con­ven­tion #189, “Decent Work for Domes­tic Work­ers,” in 2011, South African Myr­tle Wit­booi, Chair of the Inter­na­tion­al Domes­tic Work­ers Net­work (IDWN), declared, “we are free – slaves no more, but work­ers.“42 Activists under­stood the role of domes­tic work in social repro­duc­tion. As Tan­zan­ian trade union­ist Vicky Kanyoka has explained, “It is our work in house­holds that enables oth­ers to go out and be eco­nom­i­cal­ly active… it is us who take care of your pre­cious chil­dren and your sick and elder­ly; we cook your food to keep you healthy and we look after your prop­er­ty when you are away.“43 This sen­ti­ment par­al­lels the one expressed by Sari­ta Gup­ta, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jobs with Jus­tice, who has insist­ed that home care “work­ers are an invalu­able part of our econ­o­my – they make all oth­er work pos­si­ble.“44

Union­iza­tion of home care work­ers has hit an impasse with shift­ing polit­i­cal winds in the Unit­ed States, as I have explained else­where. The momen­tum today is with the Nation­al Domes­tic Work­er Alliance and its affil­i­ates, who have pushed for bills of rights. Passed in New York, Hawaii, Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Ore­gon, and Con­necti­cut, these bills vary in scope, but all seek to extend labor pro­tec­tions, espe­cial­ly over­time, to pri­vate house­hold work­ers. They seek to rec­og­nize care as work and pro­pel immi­grant women of col­or, the major­i­ty of those involved in domes­tic work­er asso­ci­a­tions, into eco­nom­ic cit­i­zen­ship.45

Domes­tic work­ers are cre­at­ing a new care move­ment to bring the needs of care receivers and providers togeth­er, those who do house­hold labor and those who use such labor. The Car­ing Across the Gen­er­a­tions ini­tia­tive, begun in 2011, joins rights and respect with love, “to build a more car­ing econ­o­my for all of us.“46 It calls for decent work and a sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy, social­ized ser­vices and atten­tion to human depen­den­cies, with train­ing, labor stan­dards, and par­tic­i­pa­tion by fam­i­lies and paid work­ers alike. This coali­tion calls for estab­lish­ing a path­way to stay­ing for immi­grant care work­ers, that is, ade­quate visas for care­work­ers.

The Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Alliance with its coali­tion part­ners offers hope. This move­ment is try­ing to re-sig­ni­fy the mean­ing of love away from mammy’s nat­ur­al feel­ings to a social jus­tice goal. The affect evoked is pow­er­ful. For suc­cess, the move­ment is tak­ing advan­tage of our valu­ing of pro­duc­tion by claim­ing that house­hold labor, that is social repro­duc­tion, is cen­tral to the orga­ni­za­tion of home and work.


That domes­tic and care work­ers par­take in the lan­guage of pro­duc­tion makes them leg­i­ble. They do so try­ing to shift the dis­cus­sion by re-con­nect­ing pro­duc­tion and repro­duc­tion. In some sense, over thir­ty years ago, Ben­ería was push­ing the world of devel­op­ment experts to under­stand this inter­re­la­tion. She came to root women’s sub­or­di­na­tion in var­i­ous modes of repro­duc­tive labor. But on the ground, the ILO tech­ni­cal assis­tance pro­grams sought to rede­ploy fam­i­ly labor into income gen­er­at­ing activ­i­ties, as with milk and hand­i­craft coop­er­a­tives. Care became work.47

Are there oth­er ways to con­sid­er care? Fem­i­nist the­o­rist Kathi Weeks cri­tiques the ten­den­cy to regard “the eth­ic of care… as an eth­ic of work.” Demands for inclu­sion – into employ­ment and wage labor, like Friedan, or by renam­ing care as work, as by unions and domes­tic work­er asso­ci­a­tions – “risks con­test­ing the gen­dered orga­ni­za­tion of a cap­i­tal­ist work soci­ety by repro­duc­ing its fun­da­men­tal val­ues.” The refusal to work need not be a refusal to care but rather to be caught in fam­i­ly val­ues, queer or not, rather than in the activ­i­ties that enhance “as the auton­o­mist Marx­ist tra­di­tion might have it – of mak­ing some space for the col­lec­tive auton­o­my that might alter some of the terms of such choic­es.” Such a recon­cep­tu­al­iza­tion might move us from care as a rela­tion of depen­den­cy to care as a strug­gle for social inter­de­pen­dence. End­ing nat­u­ral­ized notions of repro­duc­tive labor, Weeks sug­gests, is a first step.48

Per­haps con­sid­er­ing care as work isn’t “capit­u­la­tion to cap­i­tal­ism” – or its mys­ti­cal think­ing. A respon­dent to Hoey on the blo­gos­phere offered an alter­na­tive rea­son­ing by insist­ing that “unpaid care lets the rest of soci­ety, espe­cial­ly cap­i­tal, off the hook.” To be utopi­an about care would then mean rec­og­niz­ing that the exis­tence of care work “declares that paid work is pos­si­ble with­out a cap­i­tal­ist, with­out exploita­tion, with­out wages, and with­out com­modi­ties.” This posi­tion refus­es to see the mak­ing of peo­ple – “our bod­ies, our rea­son, and the gifts of lan­guage, cul­ture, and the social orga­ni­za­tion of the world they give rise to” – as reducible to com­modi­ties. That is, “to name care as work that must be remu­ner­at­ed cries out for an alter­na­tive eco­nom­ic the­o­ry that rec­og­nizes the eco­nom­ic val­ue of the human con­nec­tions and prac­tices about which we care most deeply.“49

We all may desire a realm of free­dom, but care work by its very nature responds to a world of con­straint. It exists because of inabil­i­ties, oth­er­wise known as the lim­its of the human con­di­tion. To speak of inde­pen­dence and care is to obfus­cate the rela­tion­ship between care provider and receiv­er. The goal of social pro­grams to free frail elder­ly or dis­abled peo­ple from depen­den­cy too often have val­ued the needs of the receiv­er by ignor­ing the provider or turn­ing the per­former of care into a tool, an appendage, a means of the inde­pen­dence and free­dom of the oth­er, whose sta­tus is of utmost con­cern and so the work of care becomes obscured with a focus on the results of such labor. The con­di­tions of the care work­er can be right­ly ignored because the focus is on the tak­er, receiv­er, client, cus­tomer, all names for the one who is cared for. But to embrace depen­den­cy and the need for com­mu­ni­ty, to cel­e­brate inter­de­pen­den­cy, now that might just form the basis for a utopia that works – embrac­ing pro­duc­tion, repro­duc­tion, home, and work or dis­solv­ing the dis­tinc­tion as we reveal in our per­son­hoods togeth­er.

  1. This is a revised ver­sion of a paper pre­sent­ed at “Tra­bal­ho E Gênero,” Uni­ver­si­ty of São Paulo in Octo­ber 2013 and sub­se­quent­ly pub­lished as Pro­dução e repro­dução, casa e tra­bal­ho. Tem­po soc. [online]. 2014, vol.26, n.1:101-121 at I thank Hele­na Hira­ta and Nadya Arau­jo Guimarães for invit­ing me to par­tic­i­pate in their sem­i­nar series. 

  2. Lour­des Ben­ería to Mrs. Ahmad, Mrs. Kor­chouno­va (Femmes), “Com­ments des Pro­gres Inter­venus dans l’Application du Principe de l’Egalite de Chances et de Traite­ment pour les Tra­vailleuses Inven­taire des Don­nees a Rassembler,’”Minute Sheet, 6.6.77, WN-1-1-02-1000, ILO Archives, Gene­va. 

  3. This para­graph and the next draws upon Eileen Boris, “The Home as a Work­place: Decon­struct­ing Dichoto­my,” Inter­na­tion­al Review of Social His­to­ry, 39 (Decem­ber, 1994), 415-28; Eileen Boris and Car­olyn Lewis, “Care­giv­ing and Wage-Earn­ing: A His­tor­i­cal Per­spec­tive On Work and Fam­i­ly,” The Hand­book of Work and Fam­i­ly: Mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary Per­spec­tives and Approach­es, edit­ed by Pitt-Cat­souphes, Kossek, and Sweet (Mah­wah, New Jer­sey: Lawrence Erl­baum, 2006), 73-97 

  4. Sil­va Fed­eri­ci, Rev­o­lu­tion at Point Zero: House­work, Repro­duc­tion, and Fem­i­nist Strug­gle (Oak­land, Ca: PM Press, 2012). 

  5. My book with Jen­nifer Klein, Car­ing for Amer­i­ca: Home Health Work­ers in the Shad­ow of the Wel­fare State (New York: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012), may be said to belong to this effort. 

  6. Ellen Mal­os, ed. The Pol­i­tics of House­work (Lon­don: New Clar­i­on Press, 1995); Joce­lyn Olcott, “Intro­duc­tion: Research­ing and Rethink­ing the Labors of Love,” His­pan­ic Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Review, 91 (Feb­ru­ary 2011), 1-27. 

  7. Eve­lyn Nakano Glenn, “Cre­at­ing a Car­ing Soci­ety,” Con­tem­po­rary Soci­ol­o­gy 29 (Jan­u­ary 2000), 84-94; Viviana A. Zeliz­er, The Pur­chase of Inti­ma­cy (Prince­ton: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2005).  

  8. Paula Eng­land, “Emerg­ing The­o­ries of Care Work,” Annu­al Review of Soci­ol­o­gy 31 (2005), 381-99; Nell Nod­dings, Start­ing at Home: Car­ing and Social Pol­i­cy (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2002); Nan­cy Fol­bre, The Invis­i­ble Heart: Eco­nom­ics and Fam­i­ly Val­ues (New York: New Press, 2001); Rha­cel Salazar Par­renas, Ser­vants of Glob­al­iza­tion (Stan­ford: Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001); Dorothy E. Roberts, “Spir­i­tu­al and Menial House­work,” Yale Jour­nal of Law and Fem­i­nism 9 (1997) 51-80. 

  9. Leopold­ina For­tu­nati, The Arcane of Repro­duc­tion (New York: Autono­me­dia, 1989). 

  10. Bet­ty Friedan, The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique (New York: Dell, 1963). All sub­se­quent quo­ta­tions (embed­ded in the text) are from the Sixth print­ing, Octo­ber 1972, paper­back edi­tion. 

  11. Daniel Horowitz, Bet­ty Friedan and the Mak­ing of The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique: The Amer­i­can Left, The Cold War, and Mod­ern Fem­i­nism (Amherst: Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts Press, 1998).  

  12. Fred­er­ick Engels, The Ori­gin of the Fam­i­ly, Pri­vate Prop­er­ty and the State (New York: Pen­guin Clas­sics, 2010), 104-6.  

  13. Mary Inman, In Women’s Defense (Los Ange­les: The Com­mit­tee to Defend Women’s Advance­ment, 1940), 137, 145. 

  14. Friedan com­ment at the Woodrow Wil­son Cen­ter when I was in the audi­ence, c. 1994. 

  15. Eve­lyn Nakano Glenn, ” From Servi­tude to Ser­vice Work: His­tor­i­cal Con­ti­nu­ities in the Racial Divi­sion of Paid Repro­duc­tive Labor,” Signs, (Autumn, 1992), 1-43; Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich and Arlie Rus­sell Hochschild, Glob­al Woman: Nan­nies, Maids, and Sex Work­ers in the New Econ­o­my (New York: Met­ro­pol­i­tan Books, 2002). 

  16. Sara Hosey, “Reject­ing the Rhetoric of the ‘Sec­ond Shift’ and Insist­ing on Equi­ty,” The Fem­i­nist Wire, March 26, 2012, at http://the­fem­i­nist­­ing-the-rhetoric-of-the-sec­ond-shift-and-insist­ing-on-equi­ty/, last accessed May 10, 2012. 

  17. Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung, The Sec­ond Shift (New York: Pen­guin, 2003 edi­tion). 

  18. “Men vs. Women: How much time spent on kids, job, chores?” USA Today, March 14, 2013 at http://www.usato­­ry/news/nation/2013/03/14/men-women-work-time/1983271; Suzanne Bianchi, “Fam­i­ly Change and Time Allo­ca­tion in Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies,” Focus on Work­place Flex­i­bil­i­ty, Work­ing Paper, 2010, at 

  19. Nan­cy Fras­er, “The Strug­gle Over Needs: Out­line of a Social­ist Fem­i­nist Crit­i­cal The­o­ry of Late Cap­i­tal­ist Polit­i­cal Cul­ture,” in Women, the State, and Wel­fare, 199-225; Ann Orloff, “Gen­der in the Wel­fare State,” Annu­al Review of Soci­ol­o­gy 22 (1996), 51-78. 

  20. Zeliz­er, The Pur­chase of Inti­ma­cy, 20-6. 

  21. Arlie Rus­sell Hochschild, The Com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Inti­mate Life: Notes from Home and Work (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2003); Joan C. Williams and Viviana A. Zeliz­er, “To Com­mod­i­fy or Not to Com­mod­i­fy: That Is Not the Ques­tion,” in Martha M. Ert­man and Joan C. Williams, Rethink­ing Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion: Cas­es and Read­ings in Law and Cul­ture (New York: NYU Press, 2005), 362-3. 

  22. Vir­ginia Held, “Care and the Exten­sion of Mar­kets,” Hypa­tia, 17 (Spring 2002), 21-2; Susan Him­mel­weit, “Car­ing Labor,” ANNALS, AAPSS, 561 (Jan­u­ary 1999), 37.  

  23. Deb­o­rah Stone, “Car­ing by the Book,” in Care Work: Gen­der, Labor, and the Wel­fare State, ed. Madon­na Har­ring­ton Mey­er (New York: Rout­ledge, 2000), 110. 

  24. Alice Kessler-Har­ris, “In Pur­suit of Eco­nom­ic Cit­i­zen­ship,” Social Pol­i­tics: Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies in Gen­der, State, and Soci­ety 10 (Sum­mer 2003), 171.  

  25. Roberts, “Spir­i­tu­al and Menial House­work.” 

  26. Kathi Weeks, “‘Hours for What We Will’: Work, Fam­i­ly, and the Move­ment for Short­er Hours,” Fem­i­nist Stud­ies 35 (Spring 2009). 

  27. Cameron Lynne Mac­Don­ald and David A. Mer­rill, “‘It Shouldn’t Have to Be a Trade’: Recog­ni­tion and Redis­tri­b­u­tion in Care Work Advo­ca­cy,” Hypa­tia 17 (Spring 2002), 75. 

  28. Quot­ed in Pre­mil­la Nadasen, “Cit­i­zen­ship Rights, Domes­tic Work, and the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” Jour­nal of Pol­i­cy His­to­ry 24, no.1 (2012), 85. 

  29. Lisa Lev­en­stein, “‘Don’t Ago­nize, Orga­nize!’ The Dis­placed Home­mak­ers Cam­paign and the Con­test­ed Goals of Post­war Fem­i­nism,” The Jour­nal of Amer­i­can His­to­ry, 100 (Decem­ber 2014): 144-1680. 

  30. Mary Poole, The Seg­re­gat­ed Ori­gins of Social Secu­ri­ty: African Amer­i­cans and the Wel­fare State (Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 2006). 

  31. “Exten­sion of Old-Age and Sur­vivors Insur­ance to Addi­tion­al Groups of Cur­rent Work­ers,” Report of the Con­sul­tant Group, in U.S. Con­gress, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means, Hear­ings Before the Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means on H.R. 7199, Social Secu­ri­ty Amend­ments of 1954, 83 rd Con­gress, 2nd Sess. (Wash­ing­ton DC: GPO, 1954), 875. 

  32. Phyl­lis Palmer, Domes­tic­i­ty and Dirt: House­wives and Domes­tic Ser­vants in the Unit­ed States, 1920-1945 (Philadel­phia: Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1989), 118-35; Vanes­sa May, Unpro­tect­ed Labor: House­hold Work­ers, Pol­i­tics, and Mid­dle-Class Reform in New York, 1870-1940 (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 2011). 

  33. “Exten­sion of Old-Age and Sur­vivors Insur­ance to Addi­tion­al Groups of Cur­rent Work­ers,” 865. 

  34. Sar A. Lev­i­tan, “State­ment Pre­pared for the Sub­com­mit­tee on Labor, Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Labor and Pub­lic Wel­fare,” U.S. Con­gress, Sen­ate, Com­mit­tee on Labor and the Pub­lic Wel­fare, Fair Labor Stan­dards Amend­ments of 1971, Hear­ings Before the Sub­com­mit­tee on Labor of the Com­mit­tee on Labor and Pub­lic Wel­fare on S. 1861 and S.2259, 92nd Con­gress, 1st sess. (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: GPO, 1972), Part 5, 1788. 

  35. Phyl­lis Palmer, “Out­side of the Law: Domes­tic and Agri­cul­tur­al Work­ers under the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” Jour­nal of Pol­i­cy His­to­ry, 7, no.4 (1995), 416-40; Nadasen, “Cit­i­zen­ship Rights, Domes­tic Work, and the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” 74-94. 

  36. For this sto­ry, see Boris and Klein, Car­ing for Amer­i­ca

  37. Steven Green­house, “U.S. to Include Home Care Aides in Wage and Over­time Law,” New York Times, Sep­tem­ber 17, 2013. 

  38. Wage and Hour Divi­sion, Fact Sheet #79A, Sep­tem­ber 2013, at 

  39. Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca, et al. v. David Weil, et al, Case No. 14-cv-967, Decem­ber 22, 2014; Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca, et al. v. David Weil, et al, Case No. 14-cv-967, Jan­u­ary 14, 2015. 

  40. The Feld­man Group, Inc., “Focus Group Memo Home­care Work­ers,” Pre­pared for the Home­care Work­ers Union, April, 1998, 2, 7, 8, Janet Hein­ritz-Can­ter­bury Papers, in author’s pos­ses­sion. 

  41. “Orga­niz­ing Home­care,” 3, SEIU Orga­niz­ing Gen­er­al 1984-92, box 42, fold­er, “Health Care Orga­niz­ing, 1992,” SEIU Papers, Reuther Library, Wayne State. 

  42. Inter­na­tion­al Domes­tic Work­ers Net­work. “A Mes­sage from Myr­tle Wit­booi, IDWN Chair,” IDWN News, Octo­ber 2011.­li­ca­tions/IDWN_Newslet­ter_2011.pdf  

  43. State­ment of Ms. Vicky Kanyoka, Inter­na­tion­al Labour Con­fer­ence Pro­ceed­ings, 99th Ses­sion, 2010, 8/41.  

  44. State­ment in Press Release, PHI, “In Response to Fed­er­al Law­suit, Work­ers, Con­sumers and Advo­cates Call for Fed­er­al Min­i­mum Wage and Over­time Pro­tec­tions for Nation’s Two Mil­lion Home Care Work­ers,” May7, 2015, http://phi­na­tion­­na­tion­­is­la­tion-reg­u­la­tions/05072015-flsagroup­press­re­lease, last assessed June 22, 2015. 

  45. On this move­ment, see http://www.domes­tic­work­; 

  46. Talk by Ai-Jen Poo, March 11, 2015, San­ta Bar­bara, CA. 

  47. Lour­des Ben­ería, “Repro­duc­tion, Pro­duc­tion and the Sex­u­al Divi­sion of Labour,” Cam­bridge Jour­nal of Eco­nom­ics (1979), 203-225; Eileen Boris, “Difference’s Oth­er: The ILO and ‘Women in Devel­op­ing Coun­tries,’” in West Meets East: The ILO from Gene­va to the Pacif­ic Rim, Nel­son Licht­en­stein and Jill Jensen, eds. (Pal­grave, ILO Cen­tu­ry Project Series), in press. 

  48. Kathi Weeks, The Prob­lem with Work (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2011), 67-8, 168. 

  49. Joseph de la Torre Dwyer, “Gen­der Equi­ty Still Requires a Focus on the ‘Sec­ond Shift,’” the­fem­i­nist­wire, April 4, 2012, at http://the­fem­i­nist­­der-equi­ty-still-requires-a-focus-on-the-sec­ond-shift/, last accessed May 13, 2012. 

Author of the article

is the Hull Professor of Feminist Studies and Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She teaches on Marxism and Feminism, writes on home labors and is an active supporter of the self-organizing of domestic workers.