Women, Race and Class
By Angela Davis
By Audrey Huff
Women, Race, and Class is a series of essays concerning the history of women's
liberation in the U.S, focusing on Black women’s experiences. She discusses
struggles with slavery, white racism in suffrage and abolition movements,
reconstruction, anti-unionism, sexism, and housework. Women, Race, and
Class is a foundational Marxist feminist text, utilizing a historical materialist
lens to answer vital questions about the women’s movement.
Here are some quotes that stuck out to me:
“The inestimable importance of the Seneca Falls Declaration was its role as the
articulated consciousness of women’s rights at midcentury. It was the theoretical culmination of years of unsure, often silent, challenges aimed at a political, social, domestic and religious condition which was contradictory, frustrating and downright oppressive for women of the bourgeoisie and the rising middle classes. However, as a rigorous consummation of the consciousness of white middle-class women’s dilemma, the Declaration all but ignored the predicament of white working-class women, as it ignored the condition of Black women in the South and North alike. In other words, the Seneca Falls Declaration proposed an analysis of the female condition which disregarded the circumstances of women outside the social class of the document’s framers.” - page 53
That paragraph took me a while to get through, but it really helped me understand who the original women’s movement was for. It was not intersectional at all, and a common phrase heard in the 1860s and 70s, when Black men got the right to vote was, “woman first and N-gro last.” Women like Susan B. Anthony who repeated that slogan had basically no conception that Black women existed and deserved rights as well. White suffragists even joined forces with racists to try and put down calls for black liberation.
“Although the post-Reconstruction period and the attendant rise of Jim Crow education drastically diminished Black people’s educational opportunities, the impact of the Reconstruction experience could not be entirely obliterated. The dream of land was shattered for the time being and the hope for political equality waned. But the beacon of knowledge was not easily extinguished—and this was the guarantee that the fight for land and for political power would unrelentingly go on.“ - page 109
If you read the book, this chapter has a bunch of really interesting quotes from young Black kids who were able to get schooling, and many of them viewed their education as synonymous with freedom. It was also cool to read quotes from like, 7-year-olds and 12-year-olds from centuries ago.
“The abolition of housework as the private responsibility of individual women is clearly a strategic goal of women’s liberation. But the socialization of housework—including meal preparation and child care—presupposes an end to the profit-motive’s reign over the economy. The only significant steps toward ending domestic slavery have in fact been taken in the existing socialist countries. Working women, therefore, have a special and vital interest in the struggle for socialism. Moreover, under capitalism, campaigns for jobs on an equal basis with men, combined with movements for institutions such as subsidized public child care, contain an explosive revolutionary potential. This strategy calls into question the validity of monopoly capitalism and must ultimately point in the direction of socialism” - page 244
Truth!! This is still very applicable for today, because billions of women around the world are forced to balance that mental and physical load of housekeeping and childcare. Socialism is for everybody, and Socialism will benefit everybody, especially in ways like was mentioned above. This quote personally gives me a lot of optimism, especially after watching my mother (and to some extent, myself, as the eldest daughter) do the exhausting work of making sure everything runs smoothly, making sure 6 kids are fed and okay, making sure the house is clean before my father gets home, and every other little thing she did. Angela Davis says things can get better!
At 244 pages, it is a very accessible read, yet really well-researched, and is available to read online for free here:
Rating: 5/5 WAYCJ suns