A generation ago, British feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham (1974) asked why women were “hidden from history“—and helped to found the field of women's history. Years later, Gayatri Spivak (1988) asked, “Can the subaltern speak?“—and added a new dimension to the field of subaltern studies. Throughout, Marxists have inquired into the relationship between the sexual division of labor and the mode of production, although Engels’ cogent commentary about the state, the family and reproduction (and the “world-historical defeat of the female sex“) was subsequently eclipsed by analyses that focused on capital and (the male working-) class. These questions are used to frame my paper, which examines the history and historiography of working-class women in Iran.
The field of Iranian historical studies is growing, but one is struck by the paucity of studies on working-class women, the dearth of data on women workers, and the absence of working women's voices in the major English-language studies of social, economic, and political history (e.g., works by Lambton, Issawi, Bharier, Keddie, Abrahamian, Ladjevardi, Bayat).