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Swiss Maid

The Untold Story of Women’s Contributions to Switzerland’s Success

Margrit V. Zinggeler

Swiss Maid corrects the omission of women from historical narratives of Switzerland. Women helped with herculean effort in the formation of the small but extraordinary nation, known for its political neutrality and stability, fierce independency, multiculturalism, successful economy, and innovation. The author’s investigation and analysis of women’s work in Switzerland correlates women’s contributions with the country’s sociopolitical and economic successes. Women have made historic change in religious institutions, domestic life, artisanry and trade, education, care work, the military, politics, industry and business, and service sectors. Chapters present the qualitative and quantitative data necessary to establish socioeconomic arguments. Women have indirectly contributed to the GNP but more importantly to social progress and the well-being of the nation. Stories of exemplary, pioneering women are highlighted, but silent and silenced common women are also featured and finally recognized. Although Judeo-Christian traditions placed women in subservient positions, they developed their own strength and contributed to the national economy. However, women’s work was not sufficiently recognized and valued because of inadequate accounting and productivity models. Gender-specific education, division of labor, and gendered social structures of previous centuries are discussed in relation to women’s productivity and social changes in more recent times. Multifactor productivity concepts and social progress measurements shed light on the value of women’s work and care. Portraits of historical and contemporary women attest to their intrepid courage and extraordinary yield, without which the "Swiss brand" and the image of Switzerland could not flourish.

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This book would not have come into existence had not my former student Bernadette Franklin presented me with R. James Breiding’s book The Untold Story behind Switzerland’s Success (2013) before she embarked for her internship in Germany. Thank you, Bernadette, for the inspiration your gift has spawned! I am grateful to Eastern Michigan University for granting me a Faculty Research Fellowship during winter semester 2016, allowing me to conduct research in the following libraries and institutions: the Swiss National Library; the Swiss Literary Archive; the Swiss Federal Archives; the Swiss Military Archive and the Gosteli Archive in Bern; the Swiss Business Archive in Basel; the Swiss Social Archives; the Swiss National Museum; the Women’s Center in Zurich; the Archive for Women’s, Gender, and Social History of Eastern Switzerland in St. Gallen; and the library of the Gastronomy Museum in Thun.

I am greatly indebted to the women of Swiss convents for opening their doors and talking so candidly with me: the sisters of St. John’s Convent in Mustair, the sisters of the Convent in Melchtal, the sisters of St. Catherine’s Convent in Wil, and the deaconesses of Riehen. Their profound and fearless faith and astute business acumen inspires me! Thank you, Gilla Bloch and Barbara Karasek of the Swiss Federal Association of Jewish Women for your affable insights. Thank you, Professor emer. Ruth Meyer and Training Officer Chantal Sempach for meeting ← xvii | xviii → with me to talk about your experiences in the Swiss Military. I...

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