“Mothers’ Freedom Is the Key to Women’s Emancipation:” Feminist Efforts to Expand Maternity Legislation in the Interwar Period
During the interwar period, Norwegian feminists transformed maternity support from a form of economic protection, one that in many cases was tainted by a rhetoric of dependence and included means-testing, to an economic right. Situated within the larger history of European feminist struggles for economic rights in the interwar period, this chapter examines feminist efforts to get motherhood recognized as a service women performed for the state, a service that deserved recognition and compensation. They built on the Castbergian Children’s Laws and the maternity insurance laws and worked to expand these laws to include more women, especially middle-class, married women. The chapter outlines the two strategies feminists used to achieve this goal. One involved treating motherhood as a profession that should be paid for by the state and ultimately led to the passage of Norway’s first universal social policy in 1946. The other sought to increase women’s ability to combine motherhood with paid employment outside the home by lobbying for better and more comprehensive forms of maternity leave that could enable all mothers to work outside the home without suffering economic discrimination. The chapter demonstrates how these feminist efforts contributed to the crafting of a Norwegian welfare state that contained dual paths to economic support for mothers, which continues to characterize maternity policies in place in Norway today.