A history of women and reproduction in the "transition to capitalism" must begin with the struggles that the medieval proletariat--small peasants, artisans, day laborers--waged against feudal power in all its forms. Only if we evoke these struggles, with their rich cargo of demands, social and political aspirations, and antagonistic practices, can we understand the role that women had in the crisis of feudalism, and why their power had to be destroyed for capitalism to develop, as it was by the three-century-long persecution of the witches. From the vantage point of this struggle, we can also see that capitalism was not the product of an evolutionary development bringing forth economic forces that were maturing in the womb of the old order. Capitalism was the response of the feudal lords, the patrician merchants, the bishops and popes, to a centuries-long social conflict that, in the end, shook their power, and truly gave "all the world a big jolt." Capitalism was the counter-revolution that destroyed the possibilities that had emerged from the anti-feudal struggle--possibilities which, if realized, might have spared us the immense destruction of lives and the natural environment that has marked the advance of capitalist relations worldwide. This much must be stressed, for the belief that capitalism "evolved" from feudalism and represents a higher form of social life has not yet been dispelled.It is difficult to understand where we are today without also understanding our history--how we got here. The history most of us are taught, the history we receive passively (and some of us actively), is less than no help with this--even on those rare occasions when it isn't a pack of out-and-out lies.
There are three main methods that I can think of offhand that people use to lie about history without lying per se. Federici discusses two of them here (the third, which is to tell the truth about events but either to lie about or to not even mention reasons, she discusses implicitly throughout her book, and I might approach it more directly soon).
The first of these methods is to define history as exclusively the history of power, or the history of wealth, however you want to look at it. In this telling, the history of the "transition to capitalism" (a phrase Federici approaches skeptically, and I follow her example in using quotation marks around it) is the history only of kings and capitalists. We hear about others only as they appear to these kings and capitalists--as resources, as threats.
The second method is to treat what-happened as what-had-to-happen, to look at the past as inevitable. You do this partly via the first method: by ignoring everyone but the powerful, you ignore resistance to power, and therefore you ignore the alternatives, sometimes hypothetical, frequently (though usually briefly) concrete, that resistance offered.
Many people in our circles (the anarchists or whatever) have learned how to break down the walls built by these methods to different extents (and books like Zinn's People's History were a good first step to demolishing the first method), but most of us, myself as always emphatically included, have not learned this nearly enough. No matter how much we deny it, there usually remains a trace of the teleological in our approach to history, a sense of "this is the way things have to be, because that was the way things had to happen," which in its fundamental denial of the reality of how we got here leaves us unable to truly understand where we are, and how to get anywhere else. Similarly--and this is Federici's main but by no means only focus--many of us break through the narratives handed down by those in power to the hidden narratives of the relatively powerless--but only to a point. What many of us (mostly men, but some women too) miss is the role of women in our history, our shared history of resistance.
It is only when we knock down these barriers, not only the ones we've already demolished but the ones we don't yet realize are still standing, that we can move at all.