From WFH to GWS – a brief history

1972 – International Wages for Housework Campaign founded by Selma James, following publication of A Woman’s Place (1952), The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community (co-author 1972), Women, the Unions and Work (1972), Sex, Race and Class (1973).

1972 – Family Allowance Campaign stops government in UK transfering mothers’ money to men.

1974 – First autonomous organisation: Wages Due Lesbians (now Queer Strike).

1975 – First international conference (London). First women’s centre opens (later called Crossroads).

1977 – Black Women for Wages for Housework organises with US welfare mothers for welfare to be called a ‘wage’, delaying cuts and workfare.

1980 – Women do 2/3 of the world’s work for 5% of the income (ILO). We mobilise for UN to agree to measure & value unwaged work (‘in the home, on the land & in the community’) in national accounts. Women worldwide sign our Women Count – Count Women’s Work petition. We win #120 (Nairobi 1985) and #206 (Beijing 1995).

1985 – Time Off for Women celebrates anniversary of Iceland women’s Day Off (1975).

1999 – We call a GLOBAL WOMEN’S STRIKE for 8 March 2000 after Irish women ask for support. Many countries take part – the name takes root. Our slogan: Invest in caring, not killing.

2000 – Launch of Pay Equity petition.

2015 – Launch of international petition: A living wage for mothers and other carers.

2017 – We take part in International Women’s Strike.

2019 – Caring for people and planet is prioritised by the climate justice movement.  The draft Green New Deal for Europe calls for a Care Income for this work, formal or informal.


In 1972 Selma James coined the word ‘unwaged’ to describe the reproductive caring work that women do; it entered the English language. (We later found it had once been used in the 19th century.)

Wages for Housework begins with those of us with least power internationally – unwaged workers in the home (mothers, housewives, domestic workers denied pay), and unwaged workers on the land and in the community.

Wages for Housework is a demand, it is also a perspective, a way of organising from the bottom up, of autonomous sectors working together to end the power relations among us – a ‘fusion’ (to use the US Poor People’s Campaign word).

WFH/GWS is the collective endeavour of the autonomous organisations formed since 1974 and their campaigns. Antiracism, anti-discrimination, and the justice work we do for ourselves and with others are at the heart of our campaigning.


The caring work women do produces and reproduces the workforce, in fact the whole human race. It should be a source of power for women. Instead it is used to exploit and impoverish us.

To escape poverty and financial dependence,
women have fought to enter jobs and careers previously reserved for men. Some have risen in the capitalist hierarchy but most have not, especially mothers, so we are still the poorer sex.

And the status of caring work – vital to survival and wellbeing – has hardly changed. It is still unpaid or low paid. Some of the financial recognition mothers had won – welfare, Family Allowance / Child Benefit, Income Support has been rolled back.


Our demand for a living wage for mothers and other carers presumes that human beings and all life on earth must become the aim of every policy and development. It is an anticapitalst perspective.  Climate justice campaigners are now now calling for a Care Income for those doing the work of caring for people and planet.