Women union activists’ relationship to gender and class: Two emancipation paths

By Eve Meuret-Campfort

This paper starts with a case study of a long-term labour union membership by women working in a French textile plant, from the 1960s to the 1990s. It endeavours to analyse women activists’ relationship to the working class, and how this relationship took root in labour union organisations with different cultures and emancipation models – in this case, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT). By focusing on socialisation via the labour movement, and on these women’s relationship to the working class and to family, we identify two emancipation models : whereas women activists with the CGT emphasised the “working class” by reversing the stigma associated with “factory girls”, CFDT activists sought to distinguish themselves from a certain working-class culture and its prescribed roles for women.

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