Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Member

Dr. D. Travers Scott, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika

Committee Member

Dr. Stephanie Pangborn


In 1989, years after many women had gained acceptance for working outside of the home, Hochschild (1989) coined the term "second shift labor" referring to the double burden of paid and unpaid labor experienced by working women. Hochschild's work highlights social inequality and suggests that the perceived step towards equality that was commonly associated with women's right to work actually had an adverse effect. It resulted in women, especially those with young children, working double shifts' the first one being their paid formal employment, and the second one being the housework at home. However, just as the women's rights movement has changed in the past thirty years, so has our social world, and while studies show that there is still an unequal division of labor within the home (Brines 1994; Deutsch 1999; Garey 1999; Greenstein 2000; Gupta, 1999; Lennon & Rosenfield, 1994), little research has explored second shift labor in atypical circumstances, such as illness, that may reveal unexpected complexities to the concept. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world and is caused by the overgrowth of abnormal cells in the human body (Sudhaker, 2009). Despite rapid advancements in technology, cancer is an extremely prevalent issue in America, and there are more than 100 different types (American Cancer Society, 2015). In total, it is estimated that 1,658,370 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in America in 2015. Among those newly diagnosed cases, 810,170 are expected to be women, and 277,280 women, previously or newly diagnosed with cancer, are expected to die as a result. Preliminary findings from my research exploring the burden of second shift labor in the lives of mothers with cancer suggested that the women found opportunity within the burden of second shift labor to perform gendered identity work. Drawing on the theoretical perspectives of phenomenology and social construction, this thesis further explores these preliminary findings through the use of thirteen in-depth interviews.This expanded research suggests that unpaid work, or second shift, as well as paid labor and support, play key roles in the identity negotiation process that occurs when individuals are faced with a serious illness that causes them to redefine and adjust their normal life routines in order to accept or, in some ways, reject their “new normal.” While this does not justify or rationalize domestic labor inequality, it is important to understand the varying roles paid labor and unpaid work have in these mothers' lives.



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