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Den tillfälliga husmodern: Hemvårdarinnekåren i Sverige 1940-1960
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2022-6405
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The temporary housewife : Public home help service in Sweden 1940-1960 (English)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the history of the Swedish public home help service. The public provision of home help is taken as an empirical example of the state’s relationship with the private sphere. Housework and care work are discussed as political issues and as the objects of a professionalization project. The study addresses the creation and distribution of welfare in the form of public services that are delivered in private homes and analyses how visionary government policies worked in practice. In the broadest sense, the thesis aims to increase understanding of the difficult and deeply-rooted problem of how housework and care work can be made ‘real work’.

Those who started the public home help service argued that it would relieve the shortage of domestic servants, increase the birth rate, reduce poverty and improve public health. In addition, it was believed that paid domestic work, when performed by public home help workers, would be transformed into a respectable occupation through education, selective recruitment and regulated pay and conditions. This ambition, however, was doomed from the start in part because, as this study shows, central actors in the public home help service took an ambivalent approach concerning educational requirements. Professional care work in the household found itself in a paradoxical situation because its central tasks were the same as those all women and mothers were expected to be able to carry out in the private sphere.

The public home help service had a surprisingly short life span. After sixteen years the state subsidy for public home help workers was withdrawn, and new societal problems and political questions took priority.  At the same time, the gender discourse underwent significant changes. The necessary preconditions for the existence of the home help had disappeared. Nevertheless, the significance of the public home help service is greater than its own short existence. Seen in a wider historical perspective, the home help service represents an important example of how paid housework constantly takes on new forms and how difficult raising the status and value of household labor is, even when it is publicly supported and regulated.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2013. , 240 p.
Keyword [sv]
Hemvårdarinnor, socialhemhjälp, hemarbete, omsorg, välfärd, genus, professionalisering
National Category
History Ethnology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-96593ISBN: 978-91-87351-38-9OAI: diva2:676461
Public defence
2014-01-10, hörsal 5, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-12-19 Created: 2013-11-25 Last updated: 2013-12-06Bibliographically approved

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Carlsson, Karin
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