Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity

An earlier review, recently posted on History News Network: Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Pursuit of Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America, was reviewed by Jennifer Mittelstadt, Dept. of History, BrooklynCollege, CUNY. The review originally appeared on H-Labor. Encountering Kessler-Harris, Out to Work, was for me one of the joys of graduate school. An economic downturn gives her body of work new relevance. In Pursuit of Equity won the Bancroft Prize in 2002.

Alice Kessler-Harris has spent her career documenting the impact of Americans' beliefs about gender on American institutions. In Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (1982), she revealed how women workers' occupations, benefits, and union membership were shaped by deeply ingrained beliefs about proper gender roles among employers, government, and unions. In her 1995 co-edited volume, Protecting Women: Labor Legislation in Europe, the United States and Australia, 1880-1920, Kessler-Harris broadened her scope, examining how protective labor law for women reflected broader gendered societal debates about the family, citizenship, and social welfare. In her latest work, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America, Kessler-Harris expands upon her studies of labor, gender, and citizenship to present a masterful narrative and analysis of the intersections between gender and the welfare state in modern America. The book integrates a remarkably wide range of historical and theoretical scholarship, spanning welfare state theory and history, labor history, gender theory and history, and studies of citizenship.
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