Are women past caring?

By Otago University Press | Posted: Thursday January 24, 2019

Care is essential to social relationships and individual well-being. It is woven into New Zealands key social institutions, such as the family, and is also embedded in societal expectations around state provision of health and welfare.

"Care is so vital, in fact, that it is often taken for granted and goes unnoticed and unrewarded,” says co-editor Professor Barbara Brookes, of the University of Otago.

“Historical and philosophical enquiry have largely ignored the issue of care, yet it raises profound questions about gender, justice and morality.”

She says the essays in Past Caring? Women, work and emotion raise those questions directly.

Understanding the history of care requires attention to personal narratives: a Māori grandmother’s story, a Rarotongan leader’s concept of duty to her people, or the sense of service that drove a long-term social worker. Memories of childhood night-time care are carried across the ocean from North East India.

Essays in the volume also highlight material and visual expressions of care, such as photograph albums and making clothes. The depiction of sole-carer mothers in New Zealand film suggests a ‘caring’ alternative to the celebrated concept of ‘man alone’.

The case studies examined focus on the everyday nature of care operating across domestic, institutional and political spaces, and build upon areas of strength in women’s history with its interest in family, motherhood, health, welfare, education and employment.

The foundations of Past Caring? lie with Making Women Visible, a national conference on women’s history held at the University of Otago in February 2016.

This important volume opens up a set of perspectives and experiences of caring to begin a conversation about urgent questions facing New Zealand society. How do we recognise, reward and do justice to those acts that hold our society together?

Past Caring? Women, work and emotion
Edited by Barbara Brookes, Jane McCabe and Angela Wanhalla
Release Date: February 2019
ISBN 978-1-98-853134-2

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