Antoinette F. Konikow, M.D.

Women Workers Suffer Double Exploitation

(2 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 22, 2 June 1945, p. 6.
Transcribed by Marty Goodman.
Marked up by David Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The problem as to whether a woman prefers to be a housewife or a worker is discussed at length in recent issue of the Sunday magazine section of the N.Y. Times. But the ladies discussing the question did not have in mind the lives of the twenty million women workers in factories and shops. They describe women of the middleclass. Their “housewife” has means to hire help; she has time to look after her husband’s financial problems. She certainly does not have six children. (This is actually stressed.) No doubt such a “housewife” can get a nap during the day and be in the best of moods to greet her husband in the evening.

But what of the housekeeper, and unfortunately the majority belong to this type, whose husband has no financial interests, whose husband receives only limited wages, who has five or six children, who has to rush in her housework frorn early morning to late at night? Such a housekeeper cannot take a beauty sleep. She often does not get even a good night’s sleep, for if children happen to be ill, the mother must get out of bed at any hour. Such a housekeeper is not always a picture of sweetness and kindness. In the evening she is often so tired she can hardly talk and her husband comes home from exhausting factory work in the same condition.

As to the “career woman.” These ladies of the N.Y. Times did not talk about women standing on their feet nine or ten hours a day, working under “speed-up” conditions. Oh, no, their “career women” were sitting at a desk, receiving good salaries.

In the N.Y. Times discussion, the new type of woman worker who has to combine factory and housework was entirely forgotten. The average working woman, after eight hours of tiresome work, now has to go shopping. This is no easy task when one has to stand an hour or more at butcher shops and grocery stores. Then she prepares supper without any rest does the dishes and the laundry. Then she falls into bed more dead than aliveonly to start the same routine next day.

Is there really a choice between these two occupations, housework or career work? Why have twenty million women decided to go into factories and shops?

The reason often given is that women are disgusted with the drudgery of housework. But we mustn’t forget that most of them do not get rid of the housekeeping when they go into the factory. Why then do these millions of women leave home to go to work? The answer is simple. These women suffer from one of the greatest evils of our present capitalist system – namely, insecurity. They go to work to add to their husbands’ income, to save a few dollas and to provide better clothing and better care for their children.

Knowing well that factory work places a heavy burden on women’s health, we Socialists are nevertheless in favor of women’s entrance into industry. Factory work brings women into contact with the workers. It makes her feel the struggles of the working class. In the factory she learns how many women are exploited and that her own interests are closely connected with the fate of other workers.

She joins the trade unions, and there a new, life of workers’ aims and purposes are open to her. She may be dead tired, but instead of being a self-centered housekeeper who is thinking only of saving a few cents here and there and of the immediate welfare of her own family, the larger aspects of the workers' struggles are disclosed to her.

Industrial life for women is a schooling which can open the gates of a new life for her. Life for her class-life for the future of her children. It prepares them for the greater and more satisfying duties of the coming struggle for socialism.

Last updated: 14 July 2018