Wages for “women’s work”
This interview focuses on the founding of Toronto Wages for Housework in 1975 and its organizing principles, networks, and campaigns. Three years earlier, feminists in England, Italy, the United States, and France had founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign. It was a grassroots women’s network that lobbied for the recognition of and payment for all caring work, inside the home and outside it. Toronto WFH became one of the largest and most active WFH groups in Canada.
Judith Ramirez, a co-founder of Toronto WFH, discusses the political context and motives that led to the group’s founding. She describes her own politicization and WFH’s focus on the most marginalized women: unwaged immigrant, racialized, and lesbian mothers in the home and foreign domestics recruited through highly exploitative temporary worker schemes. She recalls early campaigns and successes. There is some commentary on Intercede (est. 1979), an advocacy group for the rights of foreign domestic workers in Canada. In this period, Ramirez also co-founded the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre, and she offers some commentary on immigrant women’s reproductive rights.
WFH’s mandate has been described as highly misunderstood. Many feminists accused WFH, which aimed to secure women a wage for performing the socially necessary labour of housework and childcare, of wishing to institutionalize women within the home. Ramirez recalls the National Action Committee on the Status of Women’s rejection of their application to join NAC, but also their persistence in the face of that criticism.
with Judith Ramirez
interviewed by Franca Iacovetta
This project has been made possible in part by Library and Archives Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program.