Women in Mao's China.

Kelkar G
Development: Seeds of Change. 1984; (4):55-8.

This discussion, based on interviews and observations during a 1978 visit, recounts the history of the single most important effort to equalize women's position in society, the quest for egalitarianism in Maoist China. It focuses on how the Chinese women view their progress in the revolutionary society and the tasks that still call for their protracted struggle in order to achieve complete liberation. The emancipation of women began with the May 4th movement. In 1917 under the impact of the Soviet Revolution and with the practice of Marxism-Leninism, the women's movement began to grow. The women's movement gained momentum under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. In its drive for expansion and consolidation of peasant movement, the Sixth National Congress decided in 1928 to absorb peasant women into their revolutionary movement. Thus, the Party's task was to bring masses of peasant women under its influence. Party members and cadres helped women to organize themselves into associations. Women's position in the Communist-controlled areas was further strengthened during the land reform when land was redistributed to the individual, rather than only to the head of each household. The First National Congress of Chinese Women in early 1949 in Beijing founded the All China Democratic Women's Federation. At the brigade level of the women's federations, focus was on political study, productive work, and family planning. The Women's Federation in general works to encourage its members to change their social and economic identity by leaving the confines of their homes to work in productive labor alongside men. Since 1949, the role of women in the Chinese society has been totally changed. There are now women in all trades and professions. Women work side by side with men and seemingly on an equal basis. The emancipation of women has been greatly promoted by the enforcement of the Marriage Law of 1950, which guaranteed the equality of sexes in marriage and prohibited polygamy, concubinage, child betrothal, and the exaction of money or gifts in connection with marriage. The fundamental reason for the improved position of Chinese women in the People's Republic is the change in the ownership of productive forces. The system of state and collective ownership of productive forces gave employment opportunities to women. Also, a comprehensive range of supportive services was created to reduce the burden of household chores and child care. Yet, many manifestations of male prejudice continue along with surviving feudal influences in the existing family life. The challenge for Chinese women is systematic elimination of the Confucian, feudal remnants.

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