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Andrahandskontrakt i folkhemmet: närmiljö och kvinnors förändringsstrategier
Örebro University, Department of Humanities.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Against the odds : women's strategies for changing the local environment (English)
Abstract [en]

The thesis consists of three studies of problem areas from the 1940s and 1950s, in which women’s organisations in Örebro - a middle-sized Swedish town – demanded that municipal planning of the local environment should ensure that reproductive work, i.e. housework and care work, was organised in a way deemed satisfactory by women. The thesis also examines how these demands were received and handled by the Municipality of Örebro.

It is a well-known fact that women were very under-represented in the political bodies of that time. The question of influence is taken up using regime theory, which assumes that in order to exercise political influence, groups can join forces and work in networks and coalitions.

A central figure in women’s politics in Örebro was the journalist and author Margit Palmaer, who had a strong commitment to the local community and was at the same time well oriented in current political questions. Together with the women’s organisations, she took up her women’s political questions on political decision-making levels.

The studies are about how the laundry work was to be organised, and the building of modern laundries equipped with washing machines, how the women made demands for collective service flats, which would enable the women to take gainful employment outside the home, and finally about the demands for communal child care that would satisfy the needs of gainfully employed women. These were also questions on the national political agenda. At this time the state had considerable welfare ambitions that the municipalities were given the task of realising.

The municipalities could get advantageous loans for the modern laundries if they were integrated in new housing projects. This led to the municipalities, whose main goal was to act in an economically rational way, organising the laundry work in a way that did not satisfy the needs of the women, the people who actually did the washing. In this period, childcare was mainly seen as an emergency measure for the children of single mothers. The women’s demands, that the municipality should have a more general responsibility for childcare, were not considered valid. Those in favour of collective service flats supported the idea expressly to release women for gainful employment, and that was the reason why the idea aroused such strong opposition, and why it was never realised in Örebro. Inherent in the concept of collective service flats were the possible effects on gender relations, since a woman’s main occupation would no longer be to look after her home, husband and children without payment, and those who actually did this would be paid for doing so.

The study shows that there were obvious clashes of opinion between the women and the mainly male municipal politicians and planners about who should have the power to define what needs there were, how they were to be fulfilled and when they were to be regarded as having been fulfilled. And when planning is based on the assumption that women do not have to support their families, when their gainful employment is regarded as secondary, and when they are expected to facilitate men being gainfully employed by doing housework and care work, then they are tied to reproductive work tasks.

Another result of the study is the conclusion that the regime theory assumption about possibilities for networks and coalitions to exercise influence, regardless of their original power resources, needs modification. In order for women to have such possibilities, there had to be a bridge between national and local politics. Margit Palmaer was such a bridgebuilder. There was, however, a limit to women’s political opportunities which lay at the point where the essence of femininity and thus also of masculinity was openly challenged.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitetsbibliotek , 2004. , p. 224
Series
Örebro Studies in History, ISSN 1650-2418 ; 4
Keywords [en]
Historia, Women´s organisations, municipal planning, local environment, reproductive work, laundry, collective service flats, child care, political influence, regime theory, gender relations, historia
National Category
History
Research subject
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-54ISBN: 91-7668-377-X (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-54DiVA, id: diva2:136930
Public defence
2004-02-20, Hörsal D, Örebro universitet, Örebro, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2004-01-30 Created: 2004-01-30 Last updated: 2017-10-18Bibliographically approved

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Larsson, Katarina

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