This introduction situates the articles in this special issue within the broader United States and Latin American historiographies of reproductive labor—the unpaid “caring” work of childcare, housekeeping, food provision, and the maintenance of critical community networks. It explores the conceptual and methodological issues raised in studying labor that individual actors often performed in both public and private realms and in commodified and uncommodified forms. By considering studies dating back to the colonial period and across the Americas, this essay explores the historical contingencies of reproductive labor with particular attention to the specificities of social relations, the impact of modernization and industrialization, and the role of policy makers and state agencies. These studies underscore the challenges of defining and researching this understudied area of labor history and its potential contributions to other historical subfields, especially family, economic, political, social, and cultural history. The introduction concludes with a brief delineation of the articles’ methodological contributions and promising directions in the study of reproductive-labor history.

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