Californian Strawberries: Mexican Immigrant Women Sharecroppers, Labor, and Discipline



Mexican immigrant women, children and teenagers, and transnational female workers in the strawberry sharecropping industry in California present a problem in social sciences. Although sharecropping studies examine the family within the political economy of agrarian commercial production, the bulk of the research avoids the question of gender and intrafamilial relations inside the family. Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper examines the Mexican immigrant strawberry sharecropping household in Santa Maria, California. It finds that sharecropping families do not only organize female workers to supply the needed labor in the strawberry farm, but that they also engender a female labor force by teaching discipline, fostering a work ethic, and producing a docile body to meet the stoop labor needs of strawberry markets. Through a gender focus, this paper adds to our understanding of Mexican female and children workers in rural labor regimes.