Megan K. Stack - Women's Work - Wednesday 7th August

In conversation with Prof. Elizabeth Hill

'The cold reality of my gender was dawning on me. It was motherhood that forced me to understand the timeless horror of our position. The reason women had not written novels or commanded armies or banked or doctored or explored or painted at the same rate as men. The cause was not, as I had been led to believe, that women had been prevented from working. Quite the opposite: We had been doing all of the work, around the clock, for centuries.’

After her first book was published to acclaim, journalist Megan K. Stack got pregnant and quit her job to write. She pictured herself pen in hand while the baby napped, but instead found herself traumatised by a difficult birth and shell-shocked by the start of motherhood.

Living abroad provided her with access to affordable domestic labour, and, sure enough, hiring a nanny gave her back the ability to work. At first, Megan thought she had little in common with the women she hired. They were important to her because they made her free. She wanted them to be happy, but she didn’t want to know the details of their lives. That didn’t work for long.

When Pooja, an Indian nanny who had been absorbed into the family, disappeared one night with no explanation, Megan was forced to confront the truth: these women were not replaceable, and her life had become inextricably intertwined with theirs. She set off on a journey to find out where they really come from and understand the global and personal implications of wages paid, services received, and emotional boundaries drawn in the home. As she writes herself: ‘Somebody should investigate. Somebody should write about all of this. But this is my life. If I investigate, I must stand for examination. If I interrogate, I’ll be the one who has to answer.’

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