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Women's Movements

Class And Women's Movements In Denmark

Danish women's movements have placed high priority on alleviating poverty, providing social support for women and children, and promoting gender equity in the family and society. Their success is tied to working-class women's demands that the public and private sectors accommodate women's employment and family responsibilities along with middle-class women's critiques of gender discrimination and male privilege.

Education, equal access to careers and business, and property rights were all goals of the nineteenth century middle-class women's rights movement. Established in 1871, Dansk Kvindesamfund (the Danish Women's Society) is still the most prominent national women's rights movement organization. It is explicitly nonpartisan and autonomous and has followed a strategy of promoting change through legislation.

At the same time, working-class women organized to improve women's lives through the formation of labor unions and the Social Democratic Party, the architects of the welfare state. Founded in 1885, Kvindeligt Arbejderforbund (Women Workers Union) organized unskilled women workers to fight for better working conditions and wages. Through union and party affiliations, working-class women's organizations have pursued state-supported programs, such as daycare, parental leave, health care, unemployment compensation, and old-age pensions.

Beginning in the late 1960s, a new women's movement arose, the most important branch of which was RødstrømpebevÊgelsen (the Redstocking Movement). Most of the members were young, middle-class, university-educated women; many belonged to new left parties. However, they maintained the Redstockings as an autonomous socialist-feminist movement organization and criticized the state as a form of public patriarchy.

The Redstocking Movement generated a national debate about the dominance of men over women in the family, the workplace, and political arena. In so doing, they contributed to a cultural shift that led to support for quotas on political party lists, women's centers and domestic violence shelters, women's studies programs, and expanded welfare services. Another result is that the state itself is less dominated by men. Danish women now make up 37.4 percent of the parliament, second highest in the world.

Although the Redstockings opposed it, Denmark joined the European Union (EU) in 1973. The EU is a new international power center whose bureaucracy is far more distant and opaque than the Danish state. New strategies of international feminist organizing are required to address it effectively (Walter 2001).


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