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Women - Life under Mao

By Xenia Paulsen

12. Thanks

11. Sources

10. Quote

9. Impact of cultural revolution on women

7. Impact of famine on women and family

6. Quote

5. Women's rights under CCP- disadvantages

4. Poem

3. Women's rights under CCP- advantages

2. Mao's attitude towards women

8. Quote

1. Women in imperial China


  • patriarchal society
  • confucian theory: society follow rules of san gang
1. loyalty of ministers to emperor 2. respect of children for parents 3. obedience of wives to husbands
  • some instances of females playing leading role --> Cixi

Women in Imperial China

Mao's attitude towards women:

  • Maos betrothal 1907 (14 yrs old)
  • financial arrangement between both families
  • refused to go through with betrothal
  • this decision was later used in CCP propaganda: Mao was the prime example, who fought against a corrupt social system in which women were treated as commodities not people
  • 1919 incident in Changsha: example of 'the rottenness of the marriage system and the darkness of the social system'
  • arranged marriages = 'indirect rape'

in soviets that Mao led: insisted women equal to men

  • outlawed footbinding
  • 1950s: women allowed to own and sell land and property
  • because of communes women didnt have to prepare food for family everyday
  • new marriage law in 1950:
1. concubinage outlawed 2. arranged marriages were to be discontinued 3. dowries and bride prices forbidden 4. women and men in arranged marriages allowed to divorce 5. all marriages had to be officially recorded

Womens rights under CCP - advantages

Advanatges of collectivisation on women(a poem by a woman that appeared in a magazine in 1958)

Nurseries, kindergartens, tailor shops,You don't do the cooking or feed the pigs the slops. Machines make the clothing and grind the flour. When you give birth to a baby it's cared for every hour. Freed from houshold drudgery, let's produce more by the day. And drive ahead to communism, it isn't far away!

  • land redistributions after seizure from landlors --> women allowed to own land
  • but collectivisation: ended holding of private property
  • in realoity Mao and the party often failed to respect principle of female equality
  • because men and women equal: sometimes assigned unsuitable work (heavy physical labour)
  • ingrained prejudice against women; wanted male babies
  • western provinces: muslims --> unchanging peasant attitudes
  • restrictions on women remained: difficult to obtain key role
  • collectivisation disrupted classical family structure --> to quick of a change

Womens rights under CCP - disadvantages

Women and the family (official party statement of 1958)

The framework of the individual family, which has existed for thousands of yeras has been shattered for all time. We must regard the People's Commune as our family and not pay too much attention to the formation of a seperate family of our own.

Impact of famine on women and family

  • women sufferded most because of famine --> psychological shock; impossible to be main provider for children
  • rise in divorce rates
  • wife selling alternative to divorce
  • after famine women refused to go back to original family, grown accustomed to new family
  • children neglected: sold into slavery, baby girls (and later boys) abandoned
  • child abuse and prostituion, CCP allowd building of brothels reserved for special use by party members

Famine impact on women and family (description of Gansu villager)

The road form the village to the neighbouring province was strewn with bodies, and piercing wails came from holes on either sides of the road. following the cries, you could see the tops of heads of children who were abandoned in those holes. A lot of parents thought their children had a better chance of surviving if they were adopted by someone else.

  • rejection of the importance of the individual and the family :
1. private ownership --> crime 2. enforced pooling of resources & effort --> breakage of economic link that held families together 3. provision of social welfare (education, medicine) organised by Communist party officials
  • traditional nuclear family considered as one of the 'four olds' that the young had to destroy
  • Mao and Party were now the parents

Impact of cultural revolution on women

Impact of cultural revolution on women and family (recalling of a Beijing student)

From the first day of my schooling, at 7 years old, I learned 'I love you Chairman Mao', not 'I lpove you Mamma or Papa'. I was brainwashed for 8 years and looking back I realised that the party was doing everything ti keep us pure, purifying us so we would live for Mao's idealism, Mao's power, instead of discovering our own humanity.

The People's Republic of China 1949-76, Second Edition Michael Lynch (p112- 120)