Contribution by Maren Hachmeister, Just Around the Corner. Women’s Self-Organized Care for the Elderly before and after 1989 in East Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, in: Selin Çağatay, Alexandra Ghit, Olga Gnydiuk, Veronika Helfert, Ivelina Masheva, Zhanna Popova, Jelena Tešija, Eszter Varsa, Susan Zimmermann (eds.),Through the Prism of Gender and Work. Women’s Labour Struggles in Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond, 19th and 20th Centuries, Studies in Global Social History, Volume 51, 2023.
There is a long-term absence of attention to care work in the history of women’s labour activism. This chapter places women caregivers center stage, highlighting their participation in the field of care. Using examples of elderly care in East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, it provides a comparison of care arrangements from the state-socialist period to the postsocialist transformation after 1989/1990. Findings from qualitative interviews provide more detailed insight into the East German case. Because women’s care work was not accompanied by mainstream forms of protest—in contrast to women’s labour in general—care activism has so far remained under-researched and under-conceptualized in gender and labour history. This chapter introduces the term “care activism,” tracing different forms of small-scale or even the silent activism of women care workers, and thereby contributes to a more nuanced understanding of activism in general, and women’s labour activism in particular.
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