Ikitchini : the hidden side of women's labour

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation seeks to examine an area of South African historiography which has largely been ignored, that is, domestic labour. It posits a relationship between working class women, domestic labour paid and unpaid. The material has been arranged around the primary objective of examining the silence around domestic labour and highlighting the gender content of domestic work. It is divided into two parts. The first part examines the conceptualization of class and gender struggles, while the second part examines aspects of working class women's experience of this. Chapter One deals with why women have been ignored in recorded history; Chapter Two examines Marxist approaches to the Woman Question. Chapter Three examines the silence arourid women's experience in South African historiography, while Chapter Four is a critical examination of the recorded history of domestic workers. Chapter Five examines aspects of black working class women's experience of domestic labour in their own families, while Chapter Six documents the experience of a group of organized workers in Cape Town. The study concludes that the way forward is to develop a gender sensitive class analysis as outlined in the work of Lise Vogel. This will open up new areas for research, for example, the rise of the public and private dichotomy, the separation of productive and reproductive labour, the ideology of motherhood and sexuality as well as the changing nature of the social construction of gender identity.

Bibliography: pages 233-248.