In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.
September 26 - Alicja Kusiak-Brownstein, PhD candidate in History, University of Michigan
Title: The Holy Maidservant: Blessed Aniela Salawa (1881-1922) and the Making of the Modern Domestic Worker Saint in Europe at the Turn of the Century
Abstract: This presentation analyzes the role of the Catholic Church in professional organizing of Polish-speaking female domestic workers around 1900. As domestic work in urban centers relied mostly on migrants from the countryside, the Catholic clergy and institutions often assumed some patriarchal prerogatives in representing female servants in professional relationships, as well as in urban communities. Many housemaids welcomed that shift of patriarchal power from heads of their families to the Church as consensual and contractual. Though symbolic rather than legal, this change of patriarchal agents had important social and economic consequences, as it helped to redefine the professional and personal respectability of Catholic female domestic workers. New forms of women's activism in religious institutions became regarded as a form of symbolic capital, influencing housemaids’ prospects of employment, as well as their relationships with employers.
My argument focuses on life of Aniela Salawa, who worked as a maid in Cracow, and strove for spiritual perfection as a member of many prayer groups, religious institutions (including the Third Order of St. Francis), and Catholic professional organizations (such as St. Zita's Society). Already in her lifetime, the local Church recognized Aniela Salawa’s personal and professional conduct as a model for other female domestic workers. Aniela Salawa’s cult developed immediately after her death, and was confirmed by her beatification in 1991. Though focusing on a case-study from Poland, this presentation places Aniela Salawa’s spiritual and professional formation in the wider context of constructing turn-of-the-century working class female sainthood in Europe.
Bio: Alicja Kusiak-Brownstein is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In Spring 2015 she will be teaching a course on 20th Century Polish History at the University of Notre Dame.