Jennifer Lisa Klein is a professor of history at Yale University, where she teaches courses in twentieth-century U.S. labor history, political economy and capitalism, women's history, urban history, and post–World War II America. Klein is a coauthor, with Eileen Boris, of Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State (2012), which won the National Women's Studies Association's Sara A. Whaley Book Prize. She is also the author of For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America's Public-Private Welfare State (2003), which won the OAH Ellis Hawley Prize and the Business History Conference's Hagley Prize. Klein served as co–senior editor of the journal, International Labor and Working-Class History (ILWCH), from 2010–2015. She won the 2014 Hans Sigrist Prize, a major international prize conferred by the University of Bern and Hans Sigrist Foundation in Switzerland, for her work on the theme of "Women and Economic Precarity: Historical Perspectives." She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Research Center. Her articles have appeared in academic journals and collections as well in Dissent, the New York Times, prospect.org, washingtonpost.com, thenation.com, New Labor Forum, and Labor Notes.
A historical discussion of women’s precarious labor in the U.S., spotlighting gendered processes of incorporation into urban wage work, from the mid-19th century to the era of Uber and TaskRabbit. Tracing how urban labor markets become gendered and racialized at different historical moments, I follow the role of the state; rehabilitative tropes of work; gendered cultural scripts; and the transformations of the employment relationship as these phenomenon structure precarity over time. Precarity involves not only a struggle over sufficient income, reliable income, but also time: the undulation between over work and not enough work. With the increasing instability of work time, what are the social and political consequences? What does it mean for political culture—democratic practice—when there is a lack of clear boundaries over work? Unending hours and not enough hours undermine our ability to have a feminist restructuring of family life and undermine democratic culture. How then will histories of gendered work help us think anew about democratic possibilities?