September 7, 2022

What is work? Why do we do it? And what does it have to do with religion? Join CCSR Visiting Fellow Lauren Kerby to explore where Americans’ ideas about work come from (spoiler alert: race and gender are involved too). In this episode, learn about early efforts to “protect” women by curtailing their ability to make their own choices about work and motherhood, and how those efforts maintained white Christian supremacy in the United States.

About the Expert

Dr. Lauren R. Kerby is an expert in American religion and politics. Her first book, Saving History, explores white Christian nationalists’ version of American history through a study of Christian heritage tours in Washington, D.C. During those tours, she started paying attention to how religion can influence what people say or do even when it’s completely implicit. Her current project, Religion at Work, develops strategies to notice that deep level of religion in society, using Americans’ ideas about work as a case study. This series is informed by her own experiences of unemployment, precarity, and workplace sexism, even as it is made possible by her privilege as a middle class, educated white woman currently employed at Princeton University.

This series was filmed and produced on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Lenni-Lenape people, who maintain a continuing relationship with their territory.

Start a Conversation

  1. What are some of the assumptions that Brandeis and Goldmark make about women’s responsibilities and priorities? What about men’s responsibilities and priorities? In what ways are some of those assumptions still active today?
  2. Use a Google Image search to explore deep stories about gender and work. Try searching for images of a profession that interests you, and notice the patterns in the images that come up. What gender, race, and age are the people pictured? What are they wearing and doing? What does this tell you about the deep stories we have about that profession?
  3. What is the wage gap in your own state? Use the U.S. Census findings to learn more about gender and work in your own context. How would you explain the cause of the wage gap, and what would you suggest your state do about it?

Selected Sources

Jaffe, Sarah. Work Won’t Love You Back. Bold Type Books, 2021.

Kaplan, Amy. “Manifest Domesticity.” American Literature, September 1998.

Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work. Oxford University Press, 1983/2003.

Moslener, Sarah. Virgin Nation. Oxford University Press, 2015.