Writing a dissertation was a daunting task - how does one pick a topic that you want to spend essentially two years of your life reading, researching, and writing about?! "The worst thing a doctoral student can do is pick a topic because it's good for your career", said my academic advisor. Instead she told me to pick something that spoke to my heart. So I began with a question: Why, during a time when 'women didn't work' was I surrounded by women who did? Work was something everyone did else you were described as a laggard, n'er-do-well, or 'not too work brickle.' Work and being a hard worker was something to be proud of. So began my journey into exploring women's lives in my hometown who worked in a garment factory. It was a life changing journey.
The purpose of this study was to gather and analyze stories about the dailiness of rural working women’s lives from my hometown, McLeansboro, Illinois. Dailiness is a term Bettina Aptheker used when referring to “the patterns women create and the meanings women invent each day and over time as a result of their labors and in the context of subordinated status to men” (1989, p. 39; 1993, p. 86). With dailiness, daily work and women’s meanings associated with their work are upheld as valid and illustrative of knowledge and meaning within their social context.
A qualitative narrative inquiry approach was used to gather and explore stories from each woman’s life during the time she worked at a garment factory. Data collected included in-depth interviews with each of the seven participants. This study facilitated an opportunity for rural working women to voice their lived experiences.
The findings in this study present five themes about the patterns of meaning evident in the dailiness of women’s lives. These themes are: (a) an ethic of responsibility and work, (b) a continuum of daily experiences, (c) competence, (d) connection, and (e) resistance. Recommendations are provided for further research.