This article reconstructs the origins and effects of radical Catholic activism on the expansion of household workers' associations in Chile during the Cold War. Joining the efforts of local priests affiliated with the Juventud Obrera Católica (JOC) in the 1950s, a generation of live-in household workers in Santiago and other urban centers nurtured a sizable movement for empleadas domésticas that was unique in the Americas—the JOC de Empleadas—which joined housing and vocational services with a lay Catholic movement to advance empleadas' labor rights. Impacted by both the radicalization of their religious leadership and the revolutionary politics of the period, the Catholic household workers' movement of the 1960s turned increasingly to union organizing and legislative reform to advance its agenda, pressing for greater recognition and regulation of domestic service as a matter of labor rights. Through its focus on the Catholic Church as a transnational and hegemonic actor in the mobilization of household workers, and on the changing discourse of domestic service as “labor,” this article challenges the persistent stereotype of Latin American Catholicism in relation to workers' movements prior to Vatican II.

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