Search for a new identity: Female white-collar employees in Germany, 1918-1933

Chonghi Yu, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This study focuses on female white-collar employees during the Weimar Republic who have been largely ignored in the traditional scholarship of Angestelltenschaft. By emphasizing the crucial role of gender in social identities, this study intends to redirect scholarly attention to gender and women. It discusses specific female employees' experiences in building a new identity and concentrates more on the reconstruction of their everyday life and work conditions. This study reveals that examining gender issues throws the prevailing monolithic interpretation of Angestelltenschaft primed for right wing causes into question. It shows that quite contrary to the common view of a backward looking group with a strong corporatist ideology, white-collar employees in the 1920s were very much a future-oriented and modern social group. They took the lead in dissolving the barrier of rigid separate spheres between men and women that defined nineteenth-century bourgeois gender relations, and established a new gender relationship based on a more egalitarian concept. By emphasizing women's initiative in accelerating those changes, this study argues that women's introduction into the white-collar sector created a new perspective in women's lives and gave women strong incentives to reject traditional concepts of proper womanhood and gender relationships, as these prevailing notions were increasingly incompatible with their new living and working conditions in the 1920s. The new experiences of the post-war generation of female white-collar employees beyond the traditional, family-bound world played a crucial role in defining a new conception of manliness and femininity and creating the modern world less divided by gender.

Subject Area

History|European history|Labor relations|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Yu, Chonghi, "Search for a new identity: Female white-collar employees in Germany, 1918-1933" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9503859.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9503859

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