Labor History Seminar: Caroline Merithew, University of Dayton

Labor History Seminar
Friday, September 25, 2009

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

“ ‘Perplexities Enough’: The Bodies and Minds of Working Class Women”
Caroline Merithew, University of Dayton

In “Perplexities Enough:” The Bodies and Minds of Working Class Women, I look at how working class women described, experienced, used, and rhetorically constructed their bodies and minds for power in the first half of the twentieth century. I compare these sensibilities as workers with their middle class contemporaries’ constructions of them. My analysis draws on recent discussions in labor history which view the body as a possible avenue for integrating materialism and linguistic analysis to bring into focus female subjects. Ava Baron and Eileen Boris, for example, have called for studies which center the body in the practice of labor history to, among other things, dislodge the male physical form as paradigmatic. The paper brings together two strands of research which connect my scholarship in coal mining women and, in turn, more recent interest in labor education.

Commentators:  Susan Levine, University of Illinois at Chicago and Christine Stansell, University of Chicago