Poverty and Social Exclusion During and After Poland’s Transition to Capitalism Four Generations of Women in a Post-Industrial City Tell Their Life Stories

Opis produktu

The book is about poverty in Poland during the period of system transformation and in the decade that followed, as documented in the life courses of consecutive generations of women living in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the post-industrial city. 69 life histories were collected. The authors analyse the life histories of four generations of women where the oldest are former workers in state-owned factories in which they worked until retirement and who used to be the avant-garde of the women’s working class during the socialist period. Their daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters occurred redundant on the capitalist labour market and lived on social benefits. The book is unique in both Polish and world literature since it goes beyond traditionally considered “feminisation of poverty” in monetary terms. It searches for poverty drivers and maintainers embedded in changes in industrial relations, welfare regime and family structures and relations. It also tells about women’ efforts and capabilities to cope with the disadvantage.

The publication will be of interest to a broad audience composed of scholars concerned with poverty, social marginalisation and exclusion, officers in public and non-governmental institutions as well as to students of social work, sociology, pedagogy, psychology, social policy, gender studies and family science.



Introduction 9

Chapter 1. The sociology of the life course 21

Chapter 2. Poverty in the biographical experience of women from the oldest generation – ‘grandmothers’ 29
1. Childhood 31
1.1. Poverty in childhood in the countryside 31
1.1.1. Children working as servants 34
1.2. Poverty in childhood in Łódź 36
1.2.1. Working mothers. Caring for younger siblings 40
1.3. World War II and the Nazi-German occupation 41
1.3.1. Forced displacement and labour in Germany 42
1.3.2. Working in German factories. Taking responsibility for the mother and younger siblings 44
2. Youth 45
2.1. Starting work in a factory – a new biographical experience 45
3. Adulhood 47
3.1. Getting married 47
3.2. Reconciling work with maternity and child care 49
3.2.1. Marriages founded on partner relations 49
3.2.2. Traditional marriages 50
3.2.3. Lack of trust in marital relations – alcoholism in the family of procreation 50
3.3. Financial conditions of the family of procreation 51
3.4. Events that damage stability – illness and husband’s death 53
4. Old age 54
4.1. Living on an old age pension in an extended family 54
4.2. Grandmothers as foster families 56
4.3. Health problems – lack of money for medical care 57
4.4. Summing up one’s life – subjective assessment of one’s life in the past and at present 58

Chapter 3. Poverty in the biographical experience of women from the middle generation – ‘mothers’ 61
1. Childhood 63
1.1. Childhood in poverty – the father’s alcoholism 63
1.2. Education 65
2. Adulth 67
2.1. Marriage – capital at the start 67
2.1.1. The drinking husband’s violence and aggression 71
2.1.2. Taking responsibility for the finances and organization of family life 76
2.2. The breakdown of a marriage 77
2.2.1. Divorce and its consequences 78
2.3. Employment 80
2.3.1. Loss of employment and its consequences 82
2.4. Health problems and sudden illness as poverty driver and maintainer 87

Chapter 4. Poverty in the biographical experience of women from the young generation – ‘daughters’ 91
1. Childhood 92
1.1. In the shadow of alcoholism 92
1.2. At the grandparents’ place 95
1.3. Mother’s divorce. Breaking off relations with the father 96
2. Adulth 97
2.1. Early, unplanned motherhood 97
2.2. Being a mother 99
2.3. Outside the labour market 100
2.4. Dependency on family support and social welfare 101

Chapter 5. Poverty in the biographical experience of women from the youngst generation – ‘granddaughters’ 103
1. Childhood 106
1.1. Good childhood memories 106
1.2. Childhood trauma 107

2. Adolescence 109
2.1. Early disengagement from school – hanging out with those guys 109
2.2. Early pregnancy 110
3. Early adulthood 113
3.1. Single teenage motherhood 113
3.2. On the margins of the labour market 116
3.3. Undignifying housing conditions 117
3.4. Future plans 119
3.5. Women only 121

Chapter 6. Life histories of three families 123
1. The F. family 123
2. The W. family 133
3. The Z.B. family 143

Conclusions 153
References 159
About the authors 167



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