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Valuing Housework : Nineteenth-Century Anxieties About the Commodification of Domestic Labor
- SIEGEL, REVA B.
- TheAmerican behavioral scientist 1998 v.41 no.10 pp. 1437-1451
- courts, economic structure, homemaking, labor, labor market, markets, marriage, property rights, women
- This article explores the role that law has played in insulating wives' household labor from market exchange. During the 19th century, the feminist movement challenged giving a husband property rights in his wife's labor and argued that wives were entitled to rights in labor they performed in and out of the household. Legislatures and courts ultimately granted wives rights in labor performed for third parties but refused to countenance any arrangement that would give a married woman rights in the labor performed for her husband or family. In particular, courts refused (and still refuse to this day) to enforce spousal agreements compensating wives for the performance of household labor. In reforming the law of marriage, legislatures and courts struggled to distinguish between market and family relations. In so doing, they imposed legal boundaries on the labor market and defined the economic structure of family transactions for the industrial era.