Maternalism Reconsidered

PhD workshop at the IISH

Call for papers for a workshop organised by the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, January 25-26, 2002

The IISH invites PhD students
- involved with historical research on gender and welfare states in the 20th century
- interested in reconsiderations of maternalism and
- eager to discuss the pitfalls of international comparisons to participate in a two-days-workshop

'Maternalism reconsidered: Mothers and method in 20th century history'

Mothers' rights constitute an essential element in gendered histories of welfare states. Often maternity benefits are juxtaposed with male worker benefits in the context of widespread notions on the development of Western two-channel welfare states. In such cases mothers' rights serve as an indicator of the male breadwinner-mindedness of a given public insurance system at a particular moment in time. But the social rights of women as mothers are historically interesting for more reasons. Experts - like Jane Lewis, Gisela Bock, Pat Thane, Sonya Michel and Seth Koven, Theda Skocpol, Theresa Kulawik, Ann Cova, Christiane Eifert, Joanne Goodwin, Molly Ladd Taylor, Gwendolynn Mink, Lynn Haney and Susan Pedersen - supply us with ample evidence. The research into mother's rights and the discourse regarding these rights in different countries shed light on the history of for example population policies, the socio-economic (in)dependence of ordinary people and, last but not least, on women's agency in the past. Women have attempted to influence maternity-arrangements, - benefits and the political debates about them in many ways. Feminist power in the debate is a popular theme in the flourishing historiography, as well as the relationship between feminism and maternalism. There are quite a few international comparisons in this area, but ... the concept of maternalism is a slippery one, as Jane Lewis noted in a review in Gender and History, April 1994. Is it simply policies for women by women? Is it mostly about measures to improve the well-being of mothers and children? Or is it a kind of familial feminism, a strategy to demand civil rights based on the (potential) role of women as mothers? Do we have to see it as a limiting or redistributive way of thinking?

In order to
- gain insight in unpublished research on maternity-benefits and the ‘female voice' in various countries
- come to grips with (the pitfalls regarding historical research on) the relationship between feminism and maternalism in different states
- gain a better perception of which interpretation of maternalism best suits international comparisons
the IISH invites PhD students to supply proposals for a paper (max. 300 words) before the end of April, 2001. To ensure a fruitful discussion, we aim to limit the workshop to ten participants. Sonya Michel and Berteke Waaldijk will comment on the papers.

Please send your proposals to:
Marian van der Klein
International Institute of Social History
Cruquiusweg 31
1019 AT Amsterdam
The Netherlands
e-mail: [MAILTO][/MAILTO]

Posted: 21 February 2001