Proletariat: the population operating within the capitalist mode of production that does not own the means of production. Consequently, the proletarian is forced to sell her labor to the owner of capital in order to secure her livelihood. These two forces, proletarian and capitalist, operate in contradiction to each other: the former to secure her due compensation and the latter to generate maximum surplus value by withholding from the worker a portion of her labor-value. This contradiction between laborers and owners, according to various theorists and schools of thought, establishes in the mind of the worker a revolutionary class-consciousness.
Contrary to common belief, particularly due to male-dominated labor movements in the past two centuries, the root of the word proletariat owes its origin entirely to the woman. Terry Eagleton explains the classical etymology behind the term:
“The word proletarius in the ancient world meant those who were too poor to serve the state by property, and who served it instead by manufacturing labour-power. Their role was to produce children; and since the historical burden of this task has fallen more on women than men, it is no mere modish gesture to claim that the proletariat is a woman. If that was so in antiquity, it is equally true today.” (Eagleton; 2001)