UNM Faculty Discusses Chilean Labor Relations at International Conference

September 9, 2013

Dr. Elizabeth Q. Hutchison, Associate Professor in the UNM Department of History and faculty affiliate with the LAII, will present "Chileanización y La Chinita: Domestic Servants in Chile, 1924-1952" as part of the International Conference of Labour and Social History: Towards a Global History of Domestic Workers and Caregivers, which will be held in Linz, Austria, September 12 to 14, 2013. This small conference, organized by one of the leading European institutions for the study of labor, brings together historians from many countries and institutions who are engaged in innovative and historical approaches to domestic service.

"For my ongoing work on a book manuscript about domestic service in 20th century Chile, "From Servants to Workers: Domestic Service and the Rights of Labor in Twentieth-Century Chile," the conference is an excellent opportunity to present my findings to specialists whose work is situated in very different places and time periods. Further, there's a keynote address on the conference theme that will invite everyone into a broader discussion of how the study of domestic workers both changes the field of labor history and connects scholars to current policy and union initiatives," Hutchison said.

Her conference presentation will explore the following: "In Chile's sweeping labor code of 1931, domestic servants were (among other workers) explicitly excluded from a number of provisions, leaving them to rely on the state's social welfare office for medical care and minimal oversight of their labor relations. In the years following that exclusion--and throughout the popular fronts, 1938-1952--female domestic workers regularly petitioned the Labor Office, demanding payment of salaries and severance, as well as an end to employer abuses. Based on these interactions and servant use of CSO clinics, numerous legal, social work, and religious professionals went on to write lengthy treatises describing the negative effects of household workers' exclusion from social legislation, advocating greater state protection. This paper draws on servant petitions, legal and social work studies, as well as newspaper, labor, and union records, to examine how female domestics and others understood their labor and their "rights": as workers, citizens, and mothers. The years of Chile's Popular Front regimes were critical years for the redefinition of "empleada" as a category in labor law and popular culture, which in turn contributed to the construction of myths of mestizaje and "raza chilena" that were so central to the chileanization project of Chile's populist regimes."

Hutchison received her Ph.D. in Latin American History (1995) and her Masters in Latin American Studies (1989) from the University of California, Berkeley. Her lifelong concern with social justice, democracy, and human rights has driven her engagement with Chilean history, as well as her specialization in the history of labor, gender, and sexuality in 20th-century Latin America. In her current book project, From Servants to Workers, Hutchison analyzes the changing labor relations of domestic service in Chile over the course of the twentieth century, linking questions about domestic servants' employment, migration, family life, and political activity to broader class and ethnic relations in Chilean history.