cover image Gender Politics and Everyday Life in State Socialist Eastern and Central Europe

Gender Politics and Everyday Life in State Socialist Eastern and Central Europe

. Palgrave MacMillan, $85 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-230-61300-3

The commonly held view that women in Communist Eastern Europe uniformly suffered under the double or triple burden of paid work, household duties, and child care gets a more nuanced examination in this collection. Many essays are based on interviews with women who lived through those years and reveal their lives in all their complexity. For example, Basia Nowak details how members of the Polish League of Women felt supported in their traditional roles as mothers and wives as well as benefiting from revolutionary ideas of women's equality. Ana Hoffman's interviews with rural women in Serbian Yugoslavia reveals how they gained self-esteem and a measure of freedom from patriarchal control by participating in state-supported folk song festivals. Raluca Maria Popa describes the crucial role women activists in Hungary and Romania played in creating the U.N.'s International Women's Year in 1975. Co-editor Penn's interviews with two Polish women activists from two generations highlight how feminism developed within varying political and personal contexts. In Bulgaria, Ulf Brunnbauer analyzes how women actually functioned within the contradictions of Communist rhetoric of equality and preindustrial gender expectations just a generation away. A few articles suffer from academic language, but overall the collection is rewarding for its insights and exposure of women's lived experiences.