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Abstract

This study centers on women workers’ experience in small-scale industries and social welfare facilities in Beijing urban people’s communes. Through examining archival documents, published news reports, and women’s oral history, this study explores how women organized their works in the street industries, the communal welfare facilities, and in the family, as well as how their work impacted their everyday lives. I tried to answer the question of what “women’s work” meant to the state’s economic development and to those women workers themselves. I show that women’s labor was utilized by the state as a reserve army of labor to increase industrial productivity through recruiting housewives into small-scale factories established in the urban people’s communes. Further, women’s reproductive labor became visible and quantified when being brought into the public settings as women were paid for providing domestic services for other women workers. In the process of being mobilized to become socialist workers, I argue that women started actively engaging with the official discourses and appropriating them to construct their own self-identity.

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