Global Woman Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy

Edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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Women are moving around the globe as never before. But for every female executive racking up frequent flier miles, there are multitudes of women whose journeys go unnoticed. Each year, millions leave Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and other Third World countries to work in the homes, nurseries, and brothels of the First World. This broad-scale transfer of labor associated with women's traditional roles results in an odd displacement. In the new global calculus, the female energy that flows to wealthy countries is subtracted from poor ones, often to the detriment of the families left behind. The migrant nanny—or cleaning woman, nursing care attendant, maid—eases a "care deficit" in rich countries, while her absence creates one back home.

Confronting a range of topics, from the fate of Vietnamese mail-order brides to the importation of Mexican nannies in Los Angeles and the selling of Thai girls to Japanese brothels, a diverse and distinguished group of writers offers an unprecedented look at a world increasingly shaped by mass migration and economic exchange. Collected and introduced by best-selling authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, these fifteen essays reveal a new era in which the main goods extracted from the Third World are no longer natural resources and agricultural products, but female labor and love.


Praise for Global Woman

"There are many tempting reasons to pick up Global Woman . . . the overarching theme is important and provocative . . . and the personal anecdotes that spill off every page are heartbreaking, infuriating, dramatic and occasionally hilarious."—The New York Times

"This very interesting collection focuses on the multiple effects of globalization on women and their families. Among its subjects are the rise in female migration, the transfer of domestic services from low- to high-income countries, the care crisis left behind by transnational families, and the problems of international sex tourism. The different essays raise key questions and are important reading for our time."—Lourdes Beneria, Professor of City and Regional Planning and Women's Studies at Cornell University

"These 15 important essays offer a broad view . . . with the aim of achieving better treatment of the women who make monumental sacrifices in search of a better life for themselves and their families."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Global Woman is an extraordinary and original book documenting the effects of far-flung globalization on that most local, domestic, and essential of pursuits—mothering. The commercialization of domestic activity has been hidden in plain view. The authors of Global Woman make it vividly visible."—Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect

"Two of the best social thinkers of our time have joined together to produce a volume of deep insight and impeccable scholarship about what it means to be female, poor and ready to move across borders. Long after the advocates of Neoliberalism have been forgotten, this book will live on."—Patricia Fernández-Kelly, author of For We Are Sold, I and My People

"A series of vivid and devastating portraits of women caught up in the global commodification of women's traditional labor, this collection also illuminates the larger forces driving the transnational traffic in child and elder care, housecleaning, and sex services . . . Global Woman will change the way we think about globalization and about women's caring labor."—Evelyn Nakano Glenn, author of Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor

"The feminization of the migrant work force is an enormously important, underreported subject . . . Fascinating, illuminating, harrowing."—

"This important book should find a place for itself among scholars of globalization, migration studies, and women's studies . . . The current discourse on globalization, according to the authors, has little to say about the 'migration of maids, nannies, nurses, sex workers, and contract brides,' since, to most economists, these women 'are just individuals making a go of it.' The positive effects of their labor are sometimes noted: the money they remit to home countries is a major source of foreign exchange, and the work they do in the host country enables a large pool of upwardly mobile First World women to pursue productive careers. The negative consequences, which can include emotional hardships caused by leaving children behind as well as physical strains, are rarely acknowledged. Social critics Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and Hochschild (The Time Bind) point out that in previous centuries the developed world imported natural resources, and now the import du jour is women, ideally, 'happy peasant' women who can care for the elderly and disabled, lovingly raise children and provide sexual services for men. The editors have gathered some 15 essays on aspects of 'the female underside of globalization'—e.g., Filipina housekeepers in Hong Kong, Latina domestic workers in Los Angeles, sexual slaves in Thailand, Vietnamese contract brides—mostly written by academics working in the field, but largely jargon-free. While one small book can't say everything about a major global phenomenon, Ehrenreich and Hochschild have at least brought attention to these women's plight."—Publishers Weekly

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  • Edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild

  • Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of fourteen books, including The New York Times bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch.

    Arlie Russell Hochschild is the author of national bestsellers The Time Bind and The Second Shift. She is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkely.

  • Barbara Ehrenreich Sigrid Estrada
    Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild © Paige K. Parsons Photography