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Every Woman Is a Working Woman

IN 1972 feminists from Italy, England, and the United States convened in Padova, Italy, for a two-day conference. Associated with the extra-parliamentary left, anti-colonial struggles, and alternatives to the communist party, these activists composed a declaration for action, the “Statement of the International Feminist Collective.” The statement rejects a separation between unwaged work in the home and waged work in the factory, pronouncing housework as a critical terrain in the class struggle against capitalism.

Silvia Federici, an Italian expat living in New York, attended the conference and afterward returned to New York to found the New York Wages for Housework Committee. In the following years, Wages for Housework committees were launched in a number of U.S. cities. In each case, these groups organized autonomously, apart from waged male workers. As “Theses on Wages for Housework” (1974) put it, “Autonomy from men is Autonomy from capital that uses men’s power to discipline us.”

In New York, the Wages for Housework Committee consisted of no more than twenty women, who maintained close ties with the Italian Triveneto Committee and the Power of Women Collective in London.

As Federici remembers it, there was high turnover during early years, as members discussed the paradoxical nature of the demand for a wage: was this compensation for housework, and, if so, a mere reformism that further incorporated women’s labor into the capitalist system—or was the demand for a wage a subversion of housework, shifting women’s social roles and identities?

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About Boston Review

From the breast pump to egg freezing, new technologies have long promised to “liberate” mothers, but the results are often uneven, freeing some women while worsening the oppression of others. Once and Future Feminist considers how technology offers women both advances and setbacks in the realms of sex, career, and politics. In the age of Silicon Valley, these issues are more pressing than ever, and this collection pushes readers to consider not only whether emancipatory feminism is possible today, but what it might look like.