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On Gender, Labor, and Inequality$
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Ruth Milkman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040320

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040320.001.0001

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Redefining “Women’s Work”

Redefining “Women’s Work”

The Sexual Division of Labor in the Auto Industry during World War II

(p.47) Chapter 2 Redefining “Women’s Work”
On Gender, Labor, and Inequality

Ruth Milkman

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the sexual division of labor in the automobile industry during World War II to find out whether job segregation by gender had been dismantled during the war. It begins with a discussion of “women's work” in the auto industry in the prewar period and goes on to explore how the idiom of sex-typing of occupations was implemented and readjusted in the face of a dramatic change in the economic constraints on the sexual division of labor, along with the ensuing political struggles over the redefinition of the boundaries between “women's work” and “men's work.” It then considers the ambiguity and labor–management conflict over “women's work,” the various exclusionary tactics employed by male auto workers against women, and the disputes over the question of equal pay in the industry during the war. It also discusses the process through which war factories reproduced new patterns of job segregation by sex in the industry, instead of eliminating it.

Keywords:   labor sexual division, automobile industry, World War II, job segregation, women's work, occupations, men's work, labor–management conflict, equal pay, war factories

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