Prague Forum for Romani Histories

‘The minor would hinder the mother in finding employment’: Child protection regulating women’s labor force participation


Tuesday, 26 April at 3:00 pm (CET).

We will discuss Eszter Varsa’s chapter “‘The minor would hinder the mother in finding employment’: Child protection regulating women’s labor force participation” from her recently published book Protected Children, Regulated Mothers: Gender and the “Gypsy Question” in State Care in Postwar Hungary, 1949-1956 (Budapest/New York: CEU Press, 2021).
Our invited discussant is Ivan Simić (Charles University in Prague).

Zoom registration is required. Registered participants will receive Eszter Varsa’s text upon registration.

Abstract: Protected Children, Regulated Mothers examines child protection in Stalinist Hungary as a part of twentieth-century East Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European history. Taking a Foucauldian perspective on the role of residential institutions in defining norms of behavior and deviance, Chapter 2 presents child protection as a means for the regulation of women’s behavior through the encouragement of as well as pressure on mothers to enter paid work. The insufficient socialization of care work at the moment of women’s fast growing labor force participation in the late 1940s and the first half of the 1950s enabled the institutions of child protection to take an important function in filling the role of missing child care services and thus exercise greater influence over the lives of mothers. At the same time, parents also turned to child protection in order to ease the tension between their responsibilities for both productive and reproductive work.

Eszter Varsa is a social historian with a Ph.D. in Comparative Gender Studies (Central European University, Budapest, 2011). She was Marie Sklodowska-Curie Intra-European (IEF) Research Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) in Regensburg (2014-2016) and Romani Rose Fellow at the Research Centre on Antigypsyism at Heidelberg University’s Department of History (2020). Her major fields of research interest include the history of child protection, health/hygiene, reproductive politics, and Roma in 20th century Eastern Europe. Currently, Eszter Varsa is a post-doctoral researcher in the ERC project ZARAH: Women’s Labour Activism in Eastern Europe and Transnationally, From the Age of Empires to the Late 20th Century (Project director: Susan Zimmermann) at Central European University, Vienna. Contact:

Ivan Simić holds a Ph.D. from the University College London – School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Currently, he is the principal investigator on the project Sickle and Veil: Communist Gender Policies Towards Muslim Minorities in Eastern Europe at Charles University in Prague. Before joining Charles University, Ivan Simić was a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University in Canada, a research fellow at Yale University, and held fellowships at the University of Graz and the Center for Advanced Studies in Sofia. He is the author of the book Soviet Influences on Postwar Yugoslav Gender Policies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Contact:

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