With so many causes and considerations for feminist activists to adjudicate, housework fell by the wayside in the majority of feminist platforms.
The International Feminist Collective felt that this was a mistake—one they did not intend to replicate.
After moving to the US in 1967 to study philosophy at SUNY Buffalo State, Federici was exposed to American activism.
She joined anti-war student movements, learned about the brutal legacy of American slavery and the necessity of anti-racist action, and expanded her understanding of the oppression of women through feminist study groups.
Alix Kates Shulman, another member of Redstockings who had helped organize a protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant, took this adjudication one step further.
In her 1970 essay “A Marriage Agreement,” originally published in the women’s liberation magazine, Shulman outlined an extensive breakdown of how she and her husband split the domestic labor, detailing how everything from shopping to cleaning to booking babysitters and calling doctors could be equitably split between spouses.
She found it in a 1971 essay by the Italian feminist theorist Mariarosa Dalla Costa titled “Women and the Subversion of the Community.” In the essay, Dalla Costa argues for a wholesale reframing of how we conceive of domestic labor.
Instead of regarding the cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing that can dominate many women’s daily lives as givens, Dalla Costa argues that we should recognize such labors as a much-needed part of the larger capitalist economy.
If women’s labor is an essential yet uncompensated component of the economy, it only stands to reason that women’s liberation might be secured through demanding remuneration for services rendered.
Invigorated by the essay, Federici sent Dalla Costa a letter, and the two struck up a correspondence.