The Gender of Memory

Rural Women and China’s Collective Past

What can we learn about the Chinese revolution by placing a doubly marginalized group—rural women—at the center of the inquiry? In this book, Gail Hershatter explores changes in the lives of seventy-two elderly women in rural Shaanxi province during the revolutionary decades of the 1950s and 1960s. Interweaving these women’s life histories with insightful analysis, Hershatter shows how Party-state policy became local and personal, and how it affected women’s agricultural work, domestic routines, activism, marriage, childbirth, and parenting—even their notions of virtue and respectability. The women narrate their pasts from the vantage point of the present and highlight their enduring virtues, important achievements, and most deeply harbored grievances. In showing what memories can tell us about gender as an axis of power, difference, and collectivity in 1950s rural China and the present, Hershatter powerfully examines the nature of socialism and how gender figured in its creation. —University of California Press


Gail Hershatter
University of California Press
August 2011

Gail Hershatter is a Professor and History Department Chair at University of California at Santa Cruz. She teaches courses in East Asian Studies and Feminist Studies. Her research interests include modern Chinese social and cultural history, labor history, women’s history, history of sexuality, feminist theory, oral narratives, and memory. She is the author of many books, including Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century (2007) and Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai (1997), both from UC Press. She received her MA and PhD from Stanford University.