The Family Way.


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As early as 1866, delegates to the First Socialist International “approved a resolution calling for bans on the employment of women. The measure’s sponsors reasoned that working women pressed down overall wage levels and displaced men; in their view, working women were the equivalent of strikebreakers”. Sweden’s Social Democratic Party adopted this view, and for many years it remained normative for Swedish “progressives.”

The author draws our attention, for instance, to Ellen Karolina Sofia Key: socialist, feminist, eugenics advocate, disciple of Darwin and Nietzsche. None of these commitments prevented her from laying heavy emphasis on the maternal role and its importance to individual women, their children, and the society of the future. Woman was “most free,” she wrote, “in the physical and psychic exercise of the function of maternity.” The mother was an “artist in education” who understood “the enormous significance of the first years.” What she most requires to fulfill this role properly is time, time, and again time.” She believed the State should place as high a priority upon proper mothering as upon military service. For many years a popular women’s magazine, Morning Breeze, propagated Key’s ideal of the socialist housewife, carrying illustrations of athletic-looking Nietzschean Übermütter surrounded by swarms of healthy children.

Gunnar and Alva Myrdals’ pernicious influence on Swedish social politicy commenced in the 1930s, but was effectively resisted for longer than many realize. “Astonishingly,” writes Carlson, “as late as 1964 the labor-force participation rate for Swedish women remained steady at 30 percent; a mere 3 percent of Swedish preschool children were in public daycare centers”.

The socialist housewives began referring to homemaking as “domestic science” and portrayed themselves as efficient laborers whose work station just happened to be the home. They demanded and got several years of mandatory education in home economics and child care for all Swedish girls. Government agencies sponsored quantitative studies which revealed, inter alia, that the average working-class housewife had at her disposal 2.8 frying pans and 1.6 teapots. The modern Swedish household was obviously a highly scientific place.

By the 1960s, however, Alva Myrdal and her stridently anti-familial feminism were again on the march. Individual rather than familial taxation became a central issue in Swedish politics. As passage of the measure approached, a “Campaign for the Family” was launched. Fifty thousand letters of protest poured into the Prime Minister’s office; thousands of women marched on the Riksdag in (as one Swedish newspaper put it) “history’s first housewife demonstration.”

It was to no avail. In 1970, individual taxation went into effect; overnight, a housewife became an expensive luxury.

(The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Fall 2008).

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