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Sewing, Fighting and Writing

Sewing, Fighting and Writing

Maria Tamboukou


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Paris, along with New York, was one of the main centres of the fashion industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But although New York based garment workers were mobilized early in the twentieth century, Paris was the stage of vibrant revolutions and uprisings throughout the nineteenth century. As a consequence, French women workers were radicalized much earlier, creating a unique and unprecedented moment in both labour and feminist history.

Seamstresses were central figures in the socio-political and cultural events of nineteenth and early twentieth century France but their stories and political writings have remained marginalized and obscured. Drawing on a wide range of published and unpublished documents from the industrial revolution, ‘Sewing, Fighting and Writing’ is a foucauldian genealogy of the Parisian seamstress. Looking at the assemblage of radical practices in work, politics and culture, it explores the constitution of the self of the seamstress in the era of early industrialization and revolutionary events and considers her contribution to the socio-political and cultural formations in modernity.
Maria Tamboukou is Professor of Feminist Studies, co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research at the University of East London, UK and co-editor of the journal Gender and Education.

Concerned with women who were materially poor, Parisian seamstresses, what riches lie within Maria Tamboukou’s wonderful Sewing, Writing and Fighting. She provides an analytically outstanding feminist genealogy of the submerged histories of some fascinating women, who were socialist revolutionaries, unionised workers, militant feminists, thinkers and writers as well as seamstresses, and in a way that is both engaging and thought-provoking.
Liz Stanley, Professor of Sociology, University of Edinburgh
This highly original, richly theorised account draws us into the storyworlds of revolutionary seamstresses who struggled for recognition of the importance of women’s work. Maria Tamboukou’s meticulous scholarship brings a sense of personal connection, respect and reverence to her philosophical reflections on gendered power relations and the importance of association.
Marty Grace, Professor and Head of Social Work, Victoria University
The meticulous and detailed approach to exploring women’s lives that we have come to expect from Maria Tamboukou is turned in this book to the voices of Parisian seamstresses during the July Monarchy (1830–1850) … So often our research into women’s lives yields an enormous amount of apparently disconnected and potentially irrelevant information that we reluctantly return to the depths of an archive box. Tamboukou’s careful theoretical framing provides an excellent example of why, and how, the minutiae of women’s lives can be brought together to make sense of both the past and the present.