“No Right to Layettes or Nursing Time”

Eileen Boris

in Workers Across the Americas

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731633
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894420 | DOI:
“No Right to Layettes or Nursing Time”

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The United States, nearly alone of industrial nations, lacks paid parental leave. But by considering U.S. efforts in light of the construction of International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on the pregnant worker and in comparison with Latin American nations, major signatories to such conventions, it can be seen that in the immediate postwar years this situation was not as apparent. This chapter first considers international conventions on maternity leave before World War II and the transnational networks behind them. It then looks at the ideas of labor feminists in the United States and their role in revising the ILO maternity convention in the early 1950s as part of transnational debates over wage-earning women. Finally, the chapter examines homegrown, as opposed to international, precedents for government-sponsored maternity leave in the United States: Rhode Island's cash disability program, benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act, and a failed attempt to obtain coverage for civil service employees in Washington, D.C. Seen in the transnational perspective, social policy in the U.S. resembled the practice of nations far less industrialized. Despite better laws on their books, other countries in the Americas more closely resembled the U.S. in practice, reminding us how the politics of social reproduction illuminate large questions of power and authority.

Keywords: maternity leave; ILO; labor feminism; social reproduction; maternity; wage-earning women

Chapter.  10468 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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