Ranging from 1640 to the present day, this book looks at the long struggle for women's liberation - and particularly the two different movements which have sought to achieve women's liberation over the past 100 years, for these have explained women's oppression in very different ways and have pursued strategies quite opposed to one another.
Under capitalism, argues Tony Cliff, the production of the necessities of life is a social process, while reproduction - the rearing of children - is a private process, taking place largely in the enclosed family. The oppression of women is rooted in this dichotomy.
But oppression in itself does not lead to a struggle for liberation. The oppression of women, by dividing them and imprisoning them in the four walls of the home, leads most often to powerlessness and submission. Only where women, as workers, have collective power in their workplaces and unions, do they gain confidence to fight. For this reason Tony Cliff looks particularly at the struggles of working class women.