Anna McEwan

The Featured Researcher for May 2022 was Anna McEwan.

Working Title: Gendered citizenship and women’s relationship to systems of social care: Investigating the GDR’s Frauenparadies (1971-1990).

HEI University of Glasgow, School of Humanities.

Throughout the entirety of the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) existence, the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party, SED) leadership’s claims to have an all-encompassing social care provision for its citizens was central to its claims of legitimacy and to its social structures.1 The SED’s extensive social care policies for women were especially important in justifying its rule since, according to the party, they were evidence of the existing gender equality in the socialist republic. Using an interdisciplinary approach, my thesis investigates the meaning of social care policies and social institutions for those providing and/or facilitating care as well as those experiencing care under East German socialism.  The term ‘social care’ encompasses a variety of services and institutions in the GDR, moreover, in English and German, the term conveys a variety of meaning.  I use the term ‘social care’ to describe the collection of reforms related to reproductive health, family- and childcare implemented between 1971-1975 under Party Chairman, Erich Honecker.  The implementation of these reforms was the responsibility of the state women’s organisation, Demokratischer Frauenbund Deutschlands therefore, in my thesis I predominately analysis East German women’s social care provision through the lens of the DFD.

Children's clinic in East Berlin
The image shows consultation hours in the children’s clinic in the Berlin-Buch area, here a mother sits with her baby in the treatment room, 22.03.1979. This image is freely available via the GDR’s online picture archive: Photo rights: Manfred Uhlenhut.

A wide range of primary material underpins my thesis including internal documentation, reports, and correspondence from the DFD’s party files as well as from the Ministerium für Gesundheitswesen (Ministry for Health) that I have gathered from the Stiftung Archiv der Partei und Massenorganisationen der DDR (Foundation Archive of Parties and Mass Organisations of the GDR, SAPMO) in the Bundesarchiv-Lichterfelde, Berlin. I additionally include film and television programmes and related material from the GDR’s state film studio, DEFA, located in SAPMO in Berlin and from the Deutschesrundfunkarchiv (German Broadcasting Archive) in Potsdam. Finally, I refer to GDR press including regional and national newspapers and the DFD’s official magazine, Lernen und Handeln, housed in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin.

Twitter: @annamcewanx


Some theoretical framing: Konrad Jarausch, (eds), Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Sociocultural History of the GDR, (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1999).  Susan Gal and Gail Kligman, (eds), Reproducing Gender: Politics, Publics, and Everyday Life after Socialism (Princeton University Press, 2000). Sylvia Walby, ‘Is Citizenship Gendered?’ British Sociological Association, 28:2 (1994).