This article discusses writing on women's and gender history in the pre-1945 period, written and published in Hungary under state socialism. Education, struggle for social change, legal history, and the history of work formed the four most important clusters in this rich body of historiography. Considering the position of these publications in the state-socialist or Cold War period and in Central Eastern European historiography and their uneasy relation to gender history as established since the 1980s, we can characterize them as a triply marginalized body of writing. The article pinpoints how the authors connected the history of women and gender to larger processes of emancipation, other categories of analysis, and transnational perspectives in historical writing, and explores their contribution to the historiography of women and gender in the twentieth century and to the intellectual history of state socialism. It also discusses why this historiography has fallen into oblivion.
Women's and Gender History Written in Hungary in the State-Socialist Period
This study argues that the changing relationship between paid work, unpaid work and paid care work and social services, and the struggle over this relationship and its implications, constituted key factors in shaping the ‘state socialist’ gender regime in Hungary from 1949 to the 1980s. The study is based on a wealth of recent scholarship, original sources and Hungarian research conducted during the state socialist period. It tries to give a balanced and inclusive analysis of key elements of women’s and gender history in the state socialist project of ‘catching-up development’ in a semi-peripheral patriarchal society, pointing to constraints, challenges and results of this project. Due to the complex interaction of a variety of actors and factors impacting on and shaping the state socialist gender regime not all women were affected in the same way by state socialist politics and gender struggles. Women’s status and opportunities, as well as gender relations, differed according to class, ethnicity and economic sector. As a rule, the gender struggle over state socialist family and gender arrangements in Hungary sought to reduce or temper tensions and conflicts by avoiding substantial or direct attack against the privileges of men both within the home and elsewhere.
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