Susan Zimmermann

egyetemi tanár
Year of Birth: 

Contact information

Budapest, Nador u. 11
+36 1 327-3000 x 2577

ZARAH: Women’s labour activism in Eastern Europe and transnationally, from the age of empires to the late 20th century (ERC Advanced Grant; project start date 1 February 2020)

 (ERC Advanced Grant; project start date 1 February 2020)

Susan Zimmermann’s research has been concerned with bringing to bear a critical perspective on the past and present of global inequalities and the unequal international division of labour, as they inform key themes in modern history and interdisciplinary studies. She is also interested in developing research perspectives which simultaneously inquire into and integrate the study of class, gender, and other categories of difference and unequal social relations. She currently works on two projects.

One is the project entitled International Labour Standards, Women’s Work, and Unequal Development. The ILO, woman internationalists, and globalizing gender politics, 1919-1939. This study addresses a number of puzzles enshrined in the international argument and conflict over special labour protection for women as well as legal restrictions on women in the world of work. These conflicts concerned industrial labour policy with an implicit focus on the Northern hemisphere, the construction of labour standards for bonded labour with a focus on the Southern hemisphere, and the connection between international politics pursued in both of these contexts. The study argues that the clash between legal equality and differential (labour) legislation is best understood not as tension between equality and difference; rather it can be conceptualized as an uneasy negotiation between politics prioritizing the reduction of gender disadvantage versus politics aimed at curbing class and race disadvantage, or aimed at overall social transformation. Divergent political visions regarding the global integration of ever broader strata into commodified labour relations, together with related ideas about social reproduction, formed a crucial point of reference in how diverse actors positioned themselves in relation to these questions. The struggle amongst and between labor reformers and organized women in the interwar period formed an important point of departure for, and foreshadowed core dilemmas of, international gender policy in the post-1945 period.

The second project, entitled Women and Trade Unions in Europe and internationally, 1920s to 1980s explores, simultaneously and from a comparative perspective, the histories of socialist and communist trade union women and trade unions’ gender policies in the short 20th century. The focus is on the Women’s Committee of the International Federation of Trade Unions in the interwar period, and activism on behalf of working women, as well as international networking, within the National Association of Trade Unions in state-socialist Hungary. Trade union women who aimed to combine progressive labor and gender policies often struggled with their ‘troubled’ position in highly masculinist organizational contexts. Being part of organizations that often privileged and contributed to the construction of a core working class, these women aimed to represent and promote the interests of marginalized and particularly exploited segments of the labor force. At the same time, trade unions often functioned as means to control labor militancy and workers’ resistance. This project explores how trade union women made use of and tried to expand or alter the space of action so variably construed. In focusing on working women and trade union policies in different political and economic systems, it aims to develop more inclusive and more reflective conceptualizations of labor history.

The book manuscript (in German) Women’s politics and men’s trade union. The IFTU-Women’s International and international gender politics in the interwar period, is under contract with Löcker Verlag, Vienna.

Fellowships and Awards

  • Fellowship at re:work, the International Research Center on Work and Human Life Cycle, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Academic Year 2016–2017
  • Hungarian Ministry for Culture: Pro Cultura Hungarica Memorial Award for non-Hungarian citizens for promoting and popularizing Hungarian culture abroad, and enriching the cultural relations between Hungary and other nations, 2005
  • Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Academic Year 2002–2003
  • Käthe Leichter Award 2000 for the study “Die bessere Hälfte? Frauenbewegungen und Frauenbestrebungen im Ungarn der Habsburger­monarchie 1848 bis 1918,” Vienna-Budapest 1999

 Professional Activities

  • Founding Member, and Member of the Provisional Coordination Committee, European Labour History Network, since 2013
  • President, International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH), since 2014
  • Member, Board of the International Federation for Research into Women’s History, since 2015
  • Editor, “The Habsburg Empire, 1820-1918,” primary sources and secondary works, published in the database “Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires since 1820,” eds. Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin, 2015-2018
  • Editor (together with E. Bartha, A. Grama, D. Kalb, and D. Ost) of the book Series “Work and Labor: Transdisciplinary Studies for the 21st Century,” CEU Press, since 2018
  • Associate Editor for Europe (focus Eastern Europe), Labor: Studies in Working-Class  History (USA), since 2018
  • Member, Editorial Board of International Advisers, Labour History (Australia), since 2018


CEU Doctoral Supervision

  • The Making of a Productivist Middle Class in the Habsburg Monarchy / Mátyás Erdélyi (current) -- co-supervision with Karl Hall
  • Governance and (Under) Development in a Semiperipheral Empire: Croatia, Hungary, and Habsburg Monarchy in Comparative Perspective (1849-1883) / Mladen Medved (current)
  • Loving Designs: Gendered Social Reform and Regulation in Interwar Bucharest (1918-1939) / Alexandra Ghit (current)
  • The Pre-Historic Goddess of Post-Socialism: Transnational Biography and Reception of Marija Gimbutas / Rasa Navickaite (current)
  • The Politics of Gender and the Making of Kemalist Feminist Activism in Contemporary Turkey (1946-2011) / Selin Cagatay (2016)
  • White misrule: terror and political violence during Hungary's long World War I, 1919-1924 / Emily Rebecca Gioielli (2015)
  • The Hungarian pension system, 1948-1990: welfare and politics in a socialist country in its European context / Hanna Szemző (2013) --co-supervision with Judit Bodnár
  • Tactics in between: gendered citizenship and everyday life of internally displaced men in Tarlabasi, Istanbul / Nil Mutluer (2012)
  • Gendered artistic positions and social voices: politics, cinema and the visual arts in state-socialist and post-socialist Hungary / Beáta Hock (2009)
  • Woman's question and women's movement among Ottoman Armenians 1875-1914 / Hasmik Khalapyan (2008)
  • Hungarian family law and the struggle for gender order: 1848-1913 / Anna Loutfi (2006)
  • Feminist ideologies and activism in Romania (approx. 1890s-1940s): nationalism and internationalism in Romanian projects for women's emancipation / Roxana Cheschebec (2005)
  • Restructuring and envisioning Bucharest: the socialist project in the context of Romanian planning for a capital a fast changing city and an inherited urban space 1852-1989 / Raluca Maria Popa (2004)
  • Architecture cultural politics and national identity: Lemberg 1772-1918 entangling national histories / Markian Prokopovych (2004)
  • A history of Hungarian psychiatry 1850-1908 / Emese Lafferton (2003)
  • Family structures and strategies in post-emancipation Lithuania / Vilana Pilinkaite-Sotirovic (2002)


“Habilitation” Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (Austria) 2000.
“Habilitáció” Eötvös Loránd University Budapest (Hungary) 1999.
Ph.D., Universität Wien 1993.