The Labor of Care: Rethinking Gender, Work, and Rights in the American Welfare State

Jennifer Klein '89

Domestic Labor Protest

Once considered economically marginal, jobs in nursing, home health care, and childcare have moved to the center of the economy. In this year’s Women’s History Month lecture, Jennifer Klein ’89 will reconsider the history of the American welfare state from the perspective of care work. What will define work, rights, security, and dignity amid the new care work economy? Domestic work, and other caring labor that is performed in individual homes, was once considered outside of the market or on its periphery. Traditionally performed by women, this type of work has now become a strategic site for labor organizing in the US, and women workers are leading these efforts. Organizing for worker rights, dignity, and autonomy has required new kinds of strategies and alliances that reflect the interdependence of social needs and an emphasis on the value of care labor itself.

Jennifer Klein is Professor of History at Yale University. She is the author of the award-winning book, For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America’s Public-Private Welfare State, and the forthcoming book, Caring For America, co-authored with Eileen Boris. She writes on healthcare, Social Security, labor, collective bargaining, and the welfare state.