Women's ILO. Transnational Networks, Global Labour Standards and Gender Equity, 1919 to Present. Edited by Eileen Boris, Dorothea Hoehtker, and Susan Zimmermann. [Studies in Global Social History, Vol. 32.] Brill, Leiden [etc.] 2018. xxx, 414 pp. €198.00; $228.00

Eszter Bartha
2020 International Review of Social History  
As part of its centenary celebrations in , the International Labour Organization (ILO) invited scholars of labour history or the history of work as well as political actors and social activists to reflect on the long history of the ILO and its struggle for more inclusion, enhanced social justice, and a greater voice and empowerment for workers. The changing concept of "workers" itself reveals a century-long struggle for more inclusion. Traditionally, it covered wage-workers in formal
more » ... y lifelong) employment, who happened to be mostly men, and it was linked with the patriarchal family model, which was based on the supremacy of the male breadwinner regardless of the actual contribution of women. Leading labour historians, such as Jürgen Kocka and Marcel van der Linden, have long argued for a more inclusive concept of work and workers, one more relevant for countries of the Global South, former socialist states, and, indeed, most of the world outside the Global North. Central to this reconceptualization of labour was an increased sensitivityor increased awarenessof the gender inequalities embedded in traditional labour movements, and, indeed, the traditional labour historiography itself. At the same time, of course, the gendered history of labour is also a history of women "fighting back" and finding their voicealbeit often in the face of great social and institutional difficulties or in a hostile or, at best, "gender-blind" environment. The edited volume Women's ILO is a crucial contribution to this newly conceptualized or global labour history. It takes account of unequal development, the processes of colonization and decolonization, and the surviving or newly formed global inequalities between countries of the Global North and South. At the same time, it raises awareness of gendered inequalities, which are fundamentally interrelated both with the development and the unequal development of capitalism. The ILO's involvement in the initiative to publish Women's ILO is indicative of the enormous conceptual, political, and social changes that call for a reconsideration of the history of the ILO from a gendered perspective that also takes account of the class, race, and citizenship-based inequalities that shape the new world of work both in the North and the South. Indeed, this book sets out to provide an entangled history of global inequalities and unequal access to work (and hence, other resources), which partly determined the history of the ILO, including the composition of its leading organs (long male-dominated), and were partly challenged or undermined from within -by scholars, politicians, and activists, who used the ILO as an instrument that could bring about important changes in national legislation and the ways in which people conceptualized gender and family politics in local contexts. As the editors put it: the book "uncovers a history far richer and engaging than previously recognizeda history that is central for thinking about the boundaries of feminism, the uneven advancement of gender equity, and the significant role that women experts and activists have played in creating a more human world" (p. ).
doi:10.1017/s0020859020000383 fatcat:oltjk3dm7vbddhhw4gehumaidm