Heroines of Labour and Bizneswoman

 “[…] gender politics could serve as a bridge between traditional segments of society and the new state seeking legitimacy in a hostile environment.”

With these words, Małgorzata Fidelis describes why the Polish People’s Republic (PPP) imposed new restrictions on working women, such as banning them from underground work after the end of Stalinism in Poland. This quote remains relevant even for the late Polish People's Republic, particularly from the mid-70s when the focus of the Polish People’s Party shifted towards a depiction of women that emphasized their role as mothers, rather than as workers. This was especially the case in times of crisis, when the PPP needed the support of society and the powerful Catholic church in Poland.

My research discusses the long term (dis)continuities of the Polish governments’ narratives in relation to gendered aspects of work in the long period of transformation (1980-2004). I am particularly interested in the question of whether and how the so-called transformation from a planned to a free market economy as well as from an authoritarian to a democratic political system has fundamentally changed women’s access to and participation in the labour market.

Methodologically, this entails linking social history research on the transformation of state socialism in East Central Europe with cultural history and social science. Additionally, in order to capture the continuities across the socialist and capitalist periods, particularly in regards gender policy, both periods will be analysed in tandem. My research would go beyond the scope of current research which tends to focus on the socialist and capitalist periods separately, therefore, missing the continuities in both periods. For the purposes of this research, gender is used as an analytical category based on the concept of Joan Scott.