II. Work and Family
I always knew [I was adopted], I don’t remember ever having been told…. I think that made me feel different all along—self-conscious—and I remember very clearly skating and a friend of mine, Maxine Jacobson, asking me, “were you adopted?” And that had a stigma in Minneapolis, when I was young. I didn’t answer her, I just skated away…. I have two birth certificates, one says February 9th and the other says February 19th.
This section includes Dr. Hacker’s academic work on gender, work, and family. This work was shaped by her positionality as an adopted child, a young Jewish woman who opposed the oppressiveness of marriage as an institution, and later a divorcee traveling to Italy as a Fulbright scholar. Helen spoke candidly with us about the joys and difficulties in her childhood, her experiences as an adoptee, and how family life influenced her social and intellectual trajectory. Despite never taking a class on the sociology of family, Hacker found herself teaching her first family course at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in the mid-1940s. In her “Slouching Toward Sociology” essay included above, Hacker recalled that “it was assumed that as a woman I was fitted by nature to teach such a course. Amusingly, when it came time to impart sexual facts, Donald Taylor, who also taught a family course, added my class to his. Perhaps this delicacy on the part of the chair derived from my as yet unmarried state.”
The topics of her writing in these areas range from shifting expectations of husbands and fathers in the United States to cross-cultural definitions and conceptualizations of family roles. Scholars today continue to grapple with these intersections of gender, work, and family, developing concepts like “work-family balance” and the “second shift” to better theorize the institutional and cultural challenges that Hacker highlighted. Sociologists’ measurement of family structures has also changed dramatically over time, opening up consideration of more varied and diverse family forms. The questions and challenges Hacker raised remain relevant within current academic and political discussions.
We have included five publications in this section. “The New Burdens of Masculinity” (1957) calls for attention to how shifting relations between men and women in the workplace and at home led men to experience uncertainty, frustration, and even anger. Twenty years later, Hacker published a short follow-up piece titled “Men’s Attitudes Toward Gender Role Issues.” Here, she categorizes subsequent research and social commentary on the topic written during the 1960s and 1970s, ending with a call for more empirical examinations of contemporary men’s attitudes.
Hacker’s third article in this section, “The Feminine Protest of the Working Wife,” was published in 1971, though the data for this project were collected in 1958. As an employee at the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, Hacker added questions on working wives to the company’s nationally representative Consumers’ Poll. This became the source of data for her dissertation, “A Functional Approach to the Gainful Employment of Married Women,” as well as her 1971 article, included here, which finds that both working mothers and housewives in the late 1950s rejected stereotypes associated with their respective roles.
During a sabbatical from Adelphi University in 1974, Hacker traveled to Israel and collaborated with Dorit Padan-Eisenstark on a pilot study of four institutional contexts with varied work and family arrangements. After returning to the United States, she submitted grant applications to the Ford Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health to continue this work, but the project was never funded. Here we include Hacker’s first research proposal, titled “The Socio-Economic Context of Sex and Power: A Study of Women, Work and Family Roles in Four Israeli Institutional Frameworks,” which was published in a 1976 anthology.
The final piece in this section is Hacker’s 1977 article, “Problems in Defining and Measuring Marital Power Cross-Culturally.” In it she tackles the difficult question of how to define and measure power between spouses in different cultural contexts. After researching family dynamics in the United States, Italy, India, and Israel, she uses her work on Moshav Shitufi in Israel as a case study to demonstrate how existing frameworks can be modified to help understand this unique context.
- Helen M. Hacker. 1957. “The New Burdens of Masculinity.” Marriage and Family Living 19(3): 227-233.
- Helen M. Hacker. 1976. “Men’s Attitudes Toward Gender Role Issues.” Pages 36-38 in Sexuality Today and Tomorrow, edited by Sol Gordon & Roger W. Libby. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
- Helen M. Hacker. 1971. “The Feminine Protest of the Working Wife.” The Indian Journal of Social Work XXXI(4): 403-406.
- Helen M. Hacker. 1976. “The Socio-Economic Context of Sex and Power: A Study of Women, Work and Family Roles in Four Israeli Institutional Frameworks.” Pp. 579-600 in Women—Volume I, A PDI Research Reference Work, edited by Florence L. Denmark. Psychological Dimensions, Inc.
- Helen M. Hacker. 1977. “Problems in Defining and Measuring Marital Power Cross-Culturally.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 285: 646-652.