H-Diplo Roundable XXII-12 on Siegel. Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights after the First World War

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H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-12

Mona L. Siegel.  Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights after the First World WarNew York: Columbia University Press, 2020.  ISBN:  9780231195102 (hardcover, $35.00); 9780231195119 (paperback, April 2021, $26.00).

16 November 2020 | https://hdiplo.org/to/RT22-12
Editor:  Diane Labrosse | Production Editor: George Fujii

Contents

Introduction by Katherine M. Marino, University of California, Los Angeles. 2

Review by Susan Pedersen, Columbia University. 6

Review by Katharina Rietzler, University of Sussex. 9

Review by Leila J. Rupp, University of California, Santa Barbara. 13

Response by Mona L. Siegel, California State University, Sacramento. 16

 

Since Mona Siegel’s first prize-winning book The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism (1914-1940) (Cambridge University Press, 2004), she has continued to advance our historical understandings of women’s pacifism while expanding her geographic scope.[1]  Her latest book, Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights after the First World War, is a tour de force. It argues that women influenced the 1919 Paris Peace conference that, in turn, itself catalyzed global feminism.

In Peace on Our Terms we understand 1919 not only as the “Wilsonian moment” but also as “the global feminist moment.”[2]  Spanning multiple continents and drawing on transnational research, including in archives that have not been utilized by other scholars, Siegel demonstrates how feminist pacifists from the U.S., France, Egypt, and China shaped national and international politics. She argues that the patriarchal world order the Paris Peace Conference established was itself a reaction against feminists’ forceful insistence on including women’s social, economic, and political rights.  While rejecting many demands, world leaders incorporated other of their ideas in documents and treaties— in their approaches to peace and mediation of disputes that appeared in Wilson’s 1918 Fourteen Points, the inclusion of women in League of Nations bodies in its Covenant, and the promotion of social justice for working women in the founding of the International Labor Organzation (ILO), among other examples. Siegel shines a spotlight on dynamic women, including U.S. Pan-Africanist Ida Gibbs Hunt, China’s first female lawyer and judge Soumay Tcheng, and Egyptian anti-colonial feminist Huda Shaarawi, who played pivotal roles in diplomacy and national politics. For these women and others, national self-determination was not just a metaphor for women’s self-determination; they were mutually constitutive.  The reverberations of this concept sparked women’s mobilizations around the world.  Thanks to Siegel’s book, the first multi-national history of these events, we understand why.

The reviewers here highlight the book’s accessible, narrative-driven writing and innovative structure.  Katharina Rietzler notes that its “six compact and well-organized chapters provide an elegant narrative of key gatherings of a mobilizing and globalizing international women’s movement.” They also praise Siegel’s prosopographical approach that brings its protagonists to life with often moving personal stories.  Susan Pedersen argues that by focusing on “distinct individuals with pasts, personalities, and commitments,” as well as their connections and conflicts with each other, Siegel highlights “the value of personal encounters, even across divides of race, nation, politics, and class” to global feminism.

The reviewers explore the benefits and challenges of a tight chronological focus on the 1919 conference and global events surrounding it.  Leila Rupp finds that this structure ultimately reinforces Siegel’s argument about the diversity of global feminism.  The strategy allows Siegel to take up, in different chapters, “women’s activism at the peace conference, Black women’s fight for racial justice, Egyptian feminist nationalism, [the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s] WILPF’s radical pacifism, Chinese feminist nationalism, and labor feminist struggles for social justice,” while also showing how these events were inter-connected. In so doing, Siegel weaves together different “threads in the tapestry of what we now call global feminism.”

One consequence of what Siegel calls her “snapshot” (10) approach to women’s activism in 1919, as Pedersen notes, is that the frame excludes women galvanized by another global feminist moment, the 1917 Russian Revolution.  Siegel explains in her response that focusing on the Paris Peace conference precluded inclusion of feminists from Russia which was not invited to that conference.  Socialism, however, clearly influenced many of her activists, especially the labor feminists, and catalyzed global feminisms as well.[3]  Like any generative history, Siegel’s book opens new avenues for research.  (Pedersen’s own lively description of Russian-born anarchist Emma Goldman who was deported from the United States, British suffragette and anti-colonial socialist Sylvia Pankhurst, and Polish socialist and pacifist Rosa Luxemburg makes me eager for a global history that includes these and other socialist feminists.[4])

The reviewers all discuss Siegel’s definition of “global feminism” and some question its lasting historical significance.  Pedersen asks “whether a global feminism defined this capaciously had much historical force—or rather, whether the category ‘woman’ really proved able to reach across the many divisions forcing women apart.” In a similar vein, Rietzler questions the book’s inherent optimism regarding global feminist unity, especially in light of more contemporary forms of it that revolve around diplomatic and neoliberal state power.

In her response to Pedersen, Siegel emphasizes that in spite of their differences, the women in her book indeed made common cause. She also explains that “beyond their differences, women’s rights activists shared an underlying belief in both the right and the necessity of full female participation in national and international political life.” Finally, she explains that the tapestry of disparate but overlapping threads Rupp describes was exactly what made global feminism so powerful at this moment.

To this point, I would add that although Siegel’s book places great weight on feminists at the peace table and in diplomacy, its Rashomon-like approach around 1919 roots all of these women in their own local contexts. Thus, one of its take-aways is that global feminism is not just made by international congresses/documents, but by the meaningful synergy between them and the national and often grassroots struggles in various contexts.  For the Egyptian women whose 1919 confrontation of armed British soldiers in Cairo’s streets propelled the country’s nationalist rebellion, anti-colonialism was a global feminist as well as a national issue.  For African American women, fighting global white supremacy was a women’s issue as well as one concerning their communities more broadly.  These women understood connections between various forms of oppression—patriarchy, colonialism, imperialism, and racism—while they sought transnational feminist alliances to confront them.  This is what Siegel means by global feminism being “intersectional from its moment of inception” (247).

This intersectionality was certainly not embraced by all women.  Siegel’s book shows that racism and colonialism were alive and well among the Western European and Anglo-American feminists who led major international feminist organizations.  As Pedersen emphasizes in her review, African American suffragist and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell called out Anglo-American pacifist and settlement reformer Jane Addams and other WILPF leaders for propagating racist stereotypes of African and African American men as rapists.  That, and other work Terrell did, pushed WILPF to embrace anti-racism.  Other times, these women’s demands fell on deaf ears.  In those cases, women of color and from the Global South sometimes still maintained alliances with Euro-American groups for instrumental reasons, in order to legitimize demands and pressure their governments, while also organizing on their own. Other times, they broke from these groups.  As Siegel explains, the years after the First World War saw new activism around Pan-Arab, Pan-Asian, Pan-African, and Pan-American feminisms.  These instantiations were in no small part galvanized by a rejection of exclusively Anglo-American and Western European feminism.  For example, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Huda Shaarawi’s frustration with the International Alliance of Women’s disparaging views of Muslim women and refusal to support Palestinian rebellion against the British mandate, impelled her to help form an Arab Feminist Union in 1944. These groups from the global south made significant contributions to women’s rights and national and international politics around the world.  Latin American activists built on the demands the women in Siegel’s book initiated in 1919, to include women’s rights and social justice in international treaties, when they promoted both women’s and human rights in the 1945 founding of the United Nations.[5]

In response to Rietzler’s question about contemporary neoliberal co-optation of both human rights and global feminism, Siegel acknowledges the legitimacy of these concerns.[6]  Siegel notes that though her book “does not pretend to answer this question[,] [it] does…speak to urgent concerns in 2020, including democratic governance, global peace, and human security,” and the widespread recognition that all these issues relate to women’s rights. I would add that global feminist irruptions around the world have been making some of the most meaningful challenges to right-wing, white nationalist, neoliberal, and militarist patriarchy.[7]  Learning about the transformative work of activists from 1919 could change the way we think about what is possible today.

Participants:

Mona L. Siegel is Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento.  In addition to Peace on Our Terms, she is the author of The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism, 1914-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), which was awarded the 2006 History of Education Society Outstanding Book Award.

Katherine M. Marino is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She is the author of Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019).

Susan Pedersen is Gouverneur Morris Professor of British History at Columbia University.  Her most recent book is The Guardians:  The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Katharina Rietzler teaches at the University of Sussex, England, and is co-editor of the essay collection Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021) and the anthology Women’s International Thought: Toward A New Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Leila J. Rupp is Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and Associate Dean of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton University Press, 1997).

 

 

Feminism framed by the “Global Turn”

 

Forty years ago, when I first looked for “World War I” in the card catalog of Harvard’s Widener Library, I discovered it under the subject heading, “European War, 1914-1918.” An avalanche of scholarly work over the past few decades has shown just how wide of the mark that capsule description is.  The war was a clash of empires, not of nation-states, one fought by multi-racial and multi-ethnic armies recruited across the globe.  Territories not just in Europe but also in the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific were occupied; blockaded Syrians as well as Germans starved.  Nor did the conflict “end” with the Armistice, as rival would-be states sought to force new borders and colonized populations made bids for self-determination.[8]

1919 was the crest of that global moment—a year equally of intense negotiations over the coming world order and intense mobilization by peoples and movements eager to stake their claims.  Much of that ferment was about self-determination and nation building, but other forms of solidarity were expressed too.  Those who had wagered in 1914 that loyalties of class or sex would override appeals to patriotism had been (mostly) disappointed—but after four years of hard sacrifice, labor and social movements were in a militant mood.  They reached again across borders—as, too, did anticolonial activists determined to resist the global hierarchies imperial statesmen sought to preserve.

Mona Siegel’s Peace on Our Terms is a history of women’s transnational mobilizations at that critical moment, and it is one shaped very much by history’s “global turn.” The book it most resembles, Leila Rupp’s Worlds of Women:  The Making of an International Women’s Movement, tracked women’s international organizations and conferences through the first half of the twentieth century.[9] Siegel, by contrast, limits her focus to 1919, and devotes herself as much to women’s activism within anti-imperial and nationalist contexts as to what one might call “official” or organized feminism. I want to discuss here the benefits, and note briefly the costs, of three of Siegel’s choices:  to focus narrowly on 1919; to rely on biographies of exemplary subjects; and to see all claims made for women’s greater political participation as part of a common, if variably expressed, cause. Does Siegel’s account show, as she claims, that global feminism was “intersectional from its moment of inception” (247)?

Siegel takes the reader through women’s international activism across one twelve-month period.  1919 saw women convene for three international conferences:  the inter-allied women’s conference that took place in Paris alongside the Peace Conference in the spring; the founding conference of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Zurich in May; and the First International Conference of Working Women held alongside the inaugural conference of the International Labour Organization in Washington at the year’s end. Three of six chapters explore those landmark events, with three additional chapters treating women’s mobilizations during 1919 within pan-Africanist and nationalist movements.  Siegel zeroes in on Egypt and China—but Ireland, Korea, India, Syria, or a host of other locales could have served as well.  The point is that, by moving between international conferences and national mobilizations, she shows how entangled with national claims women’s international activism was.  Patriotism and nationalism were the grounds on which women often won their right to be heard.  The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was unusual in its willingness to reach across enemy lines, much less to say, as Virginia Woolf put it in Three Guineas, “as a woman I have no country.”[10]

That focus on 1919 aligns the book closely with recent historiographical trends:  Peace on Our Terms is, one could argue, Erez Manela’s Wilsonian Moment written with an eye trained on women’s rights rather than self-determination.[11] That tight temporal framing lends the book coherence and narrative force, but there are costs too. 1919 was a consequential year, yes—but so too was 1917, which saw not only revolution in Russia but popular risings against war and hunger in many belligerent countries.  By focusing on that single year—rather than, say, the broader period of social revolution and state-making from 1917 until the mid-1920s—Siegel is able to highlight women’s central role in the anti-colonial movements that are the focus of Manela’s book, but at the cost of neglecting their equally important role in social uprisings and international socialist and Communist movements. That those movements, with their strong claims (if sometimes weak records) on sex equality, hardly figure is a sign of how thoroughly the “Wilson versus Lenin” framework has been supplanted.[12] 

Siegel’s canvas is geographically wide, temporally narrow, and also thickly peopled—not by the anonymous masses or classes of social history but by distinct individuals with pasts, personalities, and commitments. Each chapter’s themes are explored through the lives and work of a few key protagonists.  We see Egyptian women’s involvement in the 1919 national movement through the story of upper-class philanthropist and feminist Huda Shaarawi’s difficult married life and gradual radicalization, learn of the commitment of a generation of young Chinese women to the nationalist cause through the adventures of the radical Peace Conference delegate Soumay Tcheng, and follow Russian Jewish immigrant Rose Schneiderman’s remarkable journey from impoverished seamstress to leadership in the National Women’s Trade Union League of America. These portraits draw on the work of a generation of women’s historians across a wide range of fields, and Siegel generously acknowledges that debt.  I found the chapter on Mary Church Terrell and Ida Gibbs Hunt, among the first generation of college-educated African American women and friends since their Oberlin days, especially engrossing.  Hunt, whose husband was one of the very few African Americans to rise in the American diplomatic service, had the connections and language skills to help W.E.B. Du Bois organize the landmark 1919 Pan African conference; Terrell, who was prominent within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the suffrage movement, challenged feminists’ unexamined racism at the WILPF conference in Zurich. Siegel marshals fragmentary records and photographic evidence to show how skillfully both women built alliances despite the racism they confronted at many turns. (Unfortunately, though, because she pays so little attention to the fraught revolutionary politics of those years, women who played a prominent role in that drama—often emerging as sharp critics of democratic centralism or even of the Communist line on the ‘woman question’—never appear.  I am thinking here, say, of such iconoclastic activists and thinkers as Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered at the year’s beginning, Emma Goldmann, who was deported from the U.S. to Russia at the year’s end, or perhaps especially Sylvia Pankhurst, who transformed her suffragette organization into Britain’s first Communist party, traveled in disguise to Soviet Russia to argue with Vladimir Lenin over democratic centralism at the second Comintern Congress, and was in short order expelled from the party she helped to found.)

Siegel dwells on her chosen subjects not because they are representative.  As she points out, almost all women who were able to travel to international conferences or access international statesmen in 1919 were well educated, well off, and well connected.  They merit attention, rather, because they are exemplary, not only for their bravery, but equally for the way their activities show up the political fault lines of the time.  Siegel likes and admires her subjects, and recounts their persistence against sharp odds:  Marguerite de Witt Schlumberger’s successful lobbying of President Woodrow Wilson for an audience for women; Huda Shaarawi braving police harassment to mount the “Ladies’ Protest” against British rule in Egypt; Soumay Tcheng’s crucial role lobbying for China’s boycott of the Versailles Treaty; Japanese labor advisor Tanaka Taka’s fierce support of a ban on women’s night work at the International Labour Organization (ILO) conference despite her own government’s unwillingness to antagonize textile employers. We see, in such cases, how women demanded the right to represent their nations, but also sought to shift those nation’s policies in women’s interest.  We see, too, how power and prejudice could sometimes aid, and sometimes thwart, their efforts.  Allied statesmen were happy to listen to their countrywomen’s appeals for aid to (Christian) Armenian women victimized by (Muslim) Ottoman men, but the French government sought to prevent French women from meeting with women from the Central Powers at the WILPF conference.  Chinese delegates could see that Tcheng’s performance of an emancipated femininity helped bolster their national claims, but when Huda Shaarawi took off her veil on returning to Egypt from an international women’s conference she was denounced for succumbing to dangerous Western influences.

Examples like these bring out the many pitfalls on the path to international cooperation.  More interesting, however, are those instances when women openly disagreed among themselves over just what a true women’s internationalism entailed.  Women were, after all, never simply women, unmarked by other identities and untouched by other loyalties; most, indeed, had spent the war years working to support the war efforts of their own (mostly belligerent and imperial) states. Some moved towards pacifism but others did not, and even those who sought reconciliation might, as Siegel shows, do so by falling into familiar racist tropes about white women’s vulnerability. Even the radical organization WILPF was only deterred from calling for the removal of African troops from the occupied Rhineland on the grounds of their alleged sexual abuse of white German women after Mary Church Terrell reminded the America social reformer Jane Addams, who was WILPF’s president, that it was rather African American women who had suffered a long history of sexual abuse by white men. The issue of protective labor legislation was also divisive, pitting so-called egalitarian feminists against labor women determined to improve factory conditions even at the cost of excluding women from night work. 

Siegel’s attention to these conflicts does more than bolster her argument that global feminism was never unified and that “many feminisms and many movements blossomed” (248).  It also shows the value of personal encounters, even across divides of race, nation, politics, and class.  Allied feminists felt remorse when they saw for themselves the effects of the blockade on the bodies of German friends from prewar days; Mary Church Terrell’s words and presence at the WILPF conference surely did much to bring that conference to endorse (as the Paris peacemakers would not) the racial equality clause. In an epilogue, Siegel shows how the processions of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance—in which women from states that had granted women’s suffrage marched in the front while women from states that had not done so took up the rear—could viscerally and visually disrupt presumed racial hierarchies. In 1923, for example, unenfranchised French women found themselves marching behind Indian women, and in later years behind Middle Eastern and Latin American women as well.

It is impossible not to find this argument attractive, especially when we need feminism more than ever.  One might ask, though, whether a global feminism defined this capaciously had much historical force—or, rather, whether the category “woman” really proved able to reach across the many divisions forcing women apart.  After all, the interwar years saw feminist movements fracture and sharp arguments emerge about what feminism actually entailed:  splits between egalitarian and social feminists worsened; imperial feminists pursued protective agendas that were deeply offensive to colonized women; left-wing parties forbade women to work with those they termed bourgeois women; right-wing, fascist, and racist polities had no trouble producing avid women’s movements of their own. Recovering this complex past, historians have reasonably asked themselves whether racism or imperialism were not so much unfortunate habits (some) feminists had to overcome as constitutive, at that historical moment at least, of feminism itself.  One might answer—and I would answer—that the women Siegel writes about might have been feminists but they were also experienced and battle-hardened politicians; they had ideals, but they were pragmatists as well. For some especially, collaborating in a movement that was of course riddled with privilege and hierarchy was a risk to be carefully weighed.  I applaud Siegel for recovering this often stirring and moving history.  But I can’t help but wish that feminism’s imbrication in relations of global power had been made analytically central from the start—which would allow us to ask: How did global feminism reflect as well as contest those relations? And why, then, were so many women on the sharp end of those inequalities still willing to take part in it?

 

 

This is an appealing and readable book, for many reasons.  Offering a “snapshot” (10) of women’s activism in the year of the Paris Peace Conference, six compact and well-organized chapters provide an elegant narrative of key gatherings of a mobilizing and globalizing international women’s movement.  The history of key organizations such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the International Federation of Working Women is skillfully interwoven with diplomatic history, the history of anti-imperialism and national ‘awakenings,’ and the biographies of prominent women activists. The latter consist of mostly well-known figures such as the Egyptian nationalist Huda Shaarawi, the African American civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell, Chinese diplomat and revolutionary Soumay Tcheng and American social reformer Jane Addams.  Others that may be less familiar are also deftly characterized, for instance the French dress-maker and trade unionist Jeanne Bouvier, who became a feminist when she needed male approval to take out a much-needed loan against her own savings, and her bourgeois counterpart, pro-natalist Marguerite de Witt Schlumberger.  The many illustrations provide a vivid sense of the protagonists’ life worlds and the sociability of international women’s activism.  The author has also analyzed archival material that has only recently become available, and there are several exquisitely crafted close readings of primary sources, ranging from an evocative passport photo of Mary Church Terrell (69) to a playful doodle drawn by a French bureaucrat on the resolutions of the May 1919 International Congress of Women in Zurich (155).

As a work of international history, Peace on Our Terms benefits from skillfully executed contextualization but always with a light touch.  Important contemporary debates and developments form a crucial backdrop, for instance the Japanese proposal to include a clause on racial equality in the League of Nations’ Covenant, Egypt’s road from British protectorate to partial independence, the aims and evolution of Pan-Africanism as a political movement, or the Allied food blockade of the Central Powers. None of these were ‘women’s issues’ per se, but they were deeply interwoven with women’s international activism.  Siegel’s close attention to the diplomatic context also serves as a reminder that states and their officials very much cared about this activism and, despite disparaging attitudes (as indicated by the above-mentioned doodle), did not regard it as a fringe issue. The British government, which remained in charge of Egyptian foreign policy even after nominal independence in 1922, thus forbade Huda Shaarawi to invite the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (on whose executive board she served) onto Egyptian soil, while the Foreign Office kept a close watch on the International Congress of Women in Zurich, suspecting the British delegates of treason.

The book’s claim to global coverage is well substantiated, even if the focus on international governance in the early twentieth century, a time when world order was underpinned by hierarchies of race and civilization, puts the emphasis on organizations that were European or North American in origin. Siegel includes protagonists from North Africa and Asia as well as African American women, who were citizens of the United States but subjected to racist discrimination in a historical moment when U.S. racial classifications consolidated around race-as-color.[13] Some experienced this discrimination directly, for example Mary Church Terrell, who was unjustly fired from one job with the federal government only to be faced with ‘whites only’ facilities at the next. Siegel acknowledges that women’s organizations did not always oppose racism and ethno-cultural stereotypes as resolutely as they could have done but also suggests that they were more willing to listen than male-dominated institutions.  WILPF actively sought African American representatives for the Zurich Congress and took seriously Terrell’s challenge of racist assumptions within its own ranks.[14] Shaarawi rejected Orientalist stereotypes of submissive Eastern women when addressing international gatherings of women, arguing that Egyptian political and cultural autonomy was essential for women’s equality. At the same time, Siegel, a specialist in French history, does not conflate the ‘West’ with the Anglophone world and acknowledges conflicts and divergences, for instance by highlighting how France’s comparatively late embrace of female suffrage in 1944 impacted the status of French women’s organizations within the international movement.

The two chapters that focus on Egypt and China, respectively, are well-integrated but can give the impression of a slight over-identification with the key protagonist, possibly because they are largely based on the memoirs of Shaarawi and Soumay Tcheng. At the same time, the extensive detail on both women makes clear that they represented the socio-economic elite of their respective communities.  The same could be said about Terrell and Ida Gibbs Hunt, both “Daughters of the ‘Talented Tenth’” (54).  The book’s final chapter on women workers and their organizations provides crucial balance by highlighting how policies favored by working women sometimes challenged their richer peers’ “abstract appeals to gender equality” (232).  Women workers had no choice but to combine motherhood with often grossly exploitative wage labor, and the First International Congress of Working Women in late 1919, coinciding with the founding conference of the International Labor Organization, successfully petitioned for the adoption of mandatory paid maternity leave as an international standard – a demand that remains unfulfilled in the United States. Women workers’ representatives such as Tanaka Taka of Japan also argued that, rather than restricting women’s free choice in employment, bans on women’s night work were essential to combating exploitation in industries in which female workers clustered.

In short, this is an eminently teachable book with both scholarly and wider appeal, which is what the author aimed for.  That said, Peace on Our Terms also serves as a valuable springboard for the discussion of topics that are more specialist in nature.  In the following, I will focus on two aspects, the wider significance of woman suffrage and women’s international thought.

Although not explicitly foregrounded in the book’s title, the fight for woman suffrage (and more broadly, women’s rights as citizens) held together a diverse movement in a particular historical moment.  This was for a good reason.  Historiographically, Siegel positions her book in conversation with Erez Manela’s influential thesis on the ‘Wilsonian Moment’ at the end of World War I, when people around the world interpreted the American president’s promises for self-determination and global democracy in ways that ultimately reconfigured anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements.[15] Analogously, 1919 also represented a sort of Wilsonian Moment for women as they tried to exert influence on the peacemakers at Paris and beyond. As in the case of anti-colonialism, there was ample ground for disillusionment, and, as with anti-colonialism, women’s hopes and demands centered on President Woodrow Wilson’s promise for self-determination as the only legitimate mechanism for conferring state sovereignty in response to the post-World War I challenge of democracy. Women interpreted Wilson’s promise of national self-determination to mean individual self-determination in a new world order under the rule of law.  Some women scholars actually made this point very explicitly at the time, not least Sarah Wambaugh, WILPF member and the world-leading expert on international plebiscites.[16] For what was the fight for women’s legal equality with men if not a quest for individual self-determination and the recognition of independent personhood? In very concrete ways, sovereignty as a spatial structure was linked to women’s political emancipation in post-World War I Europe, as the international plebiscites that were negotiated in the peace treaties to determine the sovereignty of disputed border territories gave votes to women at a time when female suffrage was the exception. As scholars such as Karen Knop have argued, it is no exaggeration to say that woman suffrage was central to international law in the aftermath of World War I.[17]

When Marguerite de Witt Schlumberger of the French Union for Women’s Suffrage asked Wilson in early 1919 to discuss women’s enfranchisement at the Paris Peace Conference she was thus referencing the much broader question of the ways in which the peace of 1919 would be a true “people’s peace,” a slogan that feminists continued to press into service throughout the post-war period (25). Influential WILPF member Emily Greene Balch highlighted the relevance of women’s and other emancipatory movements to the principles of democracy when she argued that these principles entailed “not only rejection of such obsolete doctrines as the divine right of kings, but also the negation of racial subordination and exploitation, whether internally or in a colony, the end of sex domination – women are also people – and of class domination and exploitation.”[18] In the end, Schlumberger’s request was not granted but one of the key outcomes of 1919 in terms of movement learning was women’s activism’s alliance with the structures of international governance, both in terms of working within international organizations and utilizing the tools of transnational organizing within international NGOs, even if women of color remained wary of Western-dominated international governance. (Soumay Tcheng played a key role in preventing China from signing the Versailles Treaty, while Mary Church Terrell denounced the League’s mandates regime.)

Peace on Our Terms also invites readers to consider its female protagonists as important thinkers.  Jane Addams has long been recognized as a key figure in American intellectual life, even though it is her activism that is foregrounded here and her attempts to carve out a political space after she had been, in today’s parlance, ‘cancelled.’ (Her pacifism turned this public intellectual into a voice that the public no longer wanted to hear.) Constance Drexel, the Chicago Tribune journalist, also makes several appearances, highlighting the influence of women foreign correspondents in the early twentieth century, and the role of journalism in women’s intellectual production.[19] Siegel hints at the neglected importance of women’s intellectual contributions, for instance when she calls African American suffragist and diplomatic spouse Ida Gibbs Hunt an “intellectual heavyweight” (63), and analyses her significant influence on major Pan-Africanist intellectuals and activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois. Indeed, Hunt’s perceptive analysis of war and empire was striking, even more so because it was written in 1915.  While Hunt empathized with the violations visited on the civilians of “poor little Belgium” after the German invasion, she also noticed the “inconsistency in protesting against the overrunning and annexing of weaker nations when that is what they all have been doing in Africa and other countries for nearly a century.” Belgium reaped “what Leopold [II of Belgium] sowed,” referring to the horrors of the Congo Free State (65).  Later thinkers would draw similar conclusions, most famously Hannah Arendt in her articulation of the ‘boomerang effect.’[20] Occasionally, Siegel provides tantalizing glimpses that are not fully explored.  Soumay Tcheng, portrayed as a bold political entrepreneur, wrote a doctoral thesis in French at the Sorbonne’s law faculty, a comparative study on Chinese constitutionalism.[21] Siegel tells us that the work revealed little of Tcheng’s “feminist viewpoint” (194) but that does not make it any less interesting. What was Tcheng’s political and legal analysis?  How did it inform her conceptualization of international order?  Tcheng was, after all, the only Allied woman officially appointed to a national delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and the first Chinese woman to graduate with a law degree from any European university (8, 193).

Peace on Our Terms ends on a celebratory and hopeful note.  Its admirable protagonists were courageous people who, it is implied, might serve as inspiration for our time as their actions “transformed women’s rights into the global rallying cry that continues to echo around the world today.” (249) But is this a case of straightforward continuity?  The adhesive that once held together women’s rights activism has become less sticky as the fight for female suffrage has been achieved.  Today, no country bar Vatican City (an obvious exception given that only males may become Roman Catholic priests and thus cardinals) denies voting rights on the basis of sex, even though many barriers to women’s full participation in the political life of a nation remain, according to recent data.[22]

And while international governance and international organizations seem to have served women well in the past, is this alliance still as useful as it once was?  Do international organizations give women what they want, on their terms?  Some feminist scholars have expressed their skepticism on this matter, decrying the rise of the “femocrat” who repurposes originally emancipatory ambitions to serve global governance projects in thrall to free-market orthodoxy.[23] Meanwhile, states that have embraced a ‘feminist’ foreign policy have been criticized as paternalistic and even racist due to the way in which they have used Western standards of gender equality to project power in the Global South. If feminist foreign policy is defined as a “way of doing foreign policy that is people-led rather than state-led and emphasizes solidarity over interest,” one may ask whether such a high ideal is achievable, and how to craft actual foreign policy that is not in some way “state-led.”[24] Nonetheless, the continued rhetorical identification of women’s political interests with a more democratic and humane international order vindicates Siegel’s choice of focusing on a moment in history when, across boundaries of race, nation, and class, women successfully, but also out of necessity, argued that they, maybe more so than men, held the key to a ‘people’s peace.’

 

 

 

Writing global history is a challenge.  That is both obvious and an understatement, given the demands of languages, archives, and familiarity with, if not expertise in, multiple national and regional histories.  Historians utilize a number of different strategies, focusing, for example, on a single crucial global event, a particular issue bringing actors together across national borders, or transnational organizations. It is not at all clear what qualifies a study as global, rather than transnational, history, but both are undertakings that demand a strategic approach to telling a big story.

Mona Siegel’s strategy in exploring the impact of organized women’s activism around peace and women’s rights after the First World War is to focus on different groups that targeted the 1919 Versailles conference.  By bringing together existing and original research in archives in the United States, France, Britain, and Belgium, she weaves together the stories of women’s lobbying at the Peace Conference and gathering at the Inter-Allied Women’s Conference, the activism of women of color around racial justice and anti-imperialism, Egyptian women’s contributions to transnational feminism and nationalist anti-imperialism, the founding of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the feminist origins of Chinese nationalism, and the activism of working-class women around the formation of the International Labor Organization. By telling some new stories along with others which are more familiar, Siegel’s book contributes to both the burgeoning history of women’s transnational activism and brings organized women’s endeavors into the mainstream story of the peace settlement and its global aftermath.

In terms of strategy, Siegel keeps her sights on the 1919 Peace Conference and the waves it produced in the following few years, while the conferences of transnational organizations play a central role in the story.  Along the way, individual women emerge as both leaders and representatives of the different groups that targeted the end of the war as a propitious moment to advance their agenda.  Some are well-known, depending on the reader’s field of expertise, and others are less so or not all.  In the first category, we encounter U.S. peace activist Jane Addams; Mary Church Terrell, first president of the U.S. National Association of Colored Women; Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi; and Rose Schneiderman, U.S. labor activist; in the second, French feminist Marguerite de Witt Schlumberger; Ida Gibbs Hunt, U.S. Pan-African and anti-imperialist activist; Chinese nationalist and feminist Soumay Tcheng; and French labor activist Jeanne Bouvier. The inspiring stories of these women, along with others with walk-on roles, speak to Siegel’s intention to write a book that is accessible to general readers as well as scholars.

To that end, Siegel uses the lives and actions of individuals to good effect, most notably in the case of Soumay Tcheng, a young Chinese revolutionary who played a key role in keeping the Chinese delegation from signing the Versailles Treaty.  At the age of 27, Tcheng, who had been studying in Paris when the war broke out and returned to China to recruit Chinese workers to support the Allied cause, arrived back in the city of light as a representative of the Chinese government. How unusual it was for a woman, much less a young Chinese feminist, to represent her government, cannot be overstated.  She, along with other students and workers in the May Fourth movement who opposed the deal that would give the city of Shandong to Japan, gathered outside the house of the chief of the Chinese delegation to keep him from agreeing to sign the peace treaty. Siegel tells a compelling story of Tcheng brandishing a rosebush branch she pretended was a gun to threaten a government official and gain leverage over the chief plenipotentiary.  This dramatic encounter resulted in China alone among the Allied countries refusing to sign the Versailles Treaty.  In Siegel’s telling, based primarily on Tcheng’s autobiography, so memorable was the incident that Tcheng took the rosebush ‘gun’ home to Shanghai, where it was lost when the Japanese looted the family home in 1937.[25] Siegel tells the story of Chinese women’s feminism and nationalist activism through the career of Tcheng, who went on to graduate with a law degree from the Sorbonne, serve as the first woman judge under the nationalist government in China, and contribute in significant ways to a new Civil Code that established important new rights for women. Yet, Siegel tell us, because Tcheng was a nationalist and not a supporter of the Communist Party, she has pretty much been written out of history.

Equally dramatic, if not as impactful, is the story of French militant union activist Jeanne Bouvier, whom Siegel pairs with Rose Schneiderman in her chapter on labor feminism.  A silk weaver and dressmaker, Bouvier rose through the union ranks to win a place on the labor subcommittee of the Inter-Allied Women’s Conference, at the First International Congress of Working Women in Washington, and on the Commission on Women’s Employment at the International Labor Organization (ILO). Along with other labor feminists, she spoke out forcefully for working women’s right to participate in the making of the labor standards that shaped their working lives.  She seemed well on her way to playing a prominent role on the international stage in the fight for the principles of self-determination that were so important to her and other labor feminists.  But then, on board the ship back to France after the founding meeting of the International Labor Organization, a male union colleague’s insistence on dining with his mistress caused the government and employer representatives to refuse to sit with the union delegates, dividing the group in a way she found distressing. Back in France, her calling out such sexual improprieties on the part of male union members, along with her criticism of their failure to support policies important to working women, did not sit well with the union leadership.  She was driven out of the labor movement, losing her position at the ILO.  Such details, as in the case of Tcheng, bring alive the analysis of collective efforts to shape policy in ways that make the book eminently readable.

Given that scholars have analyzed all but the Chinese case in light of transnational women’s activism around the end of the war, what does Siegel’s linking of events accomplish?[26] I think the answer lies in her insistence that women’s activism at the peace conference, Black women’s fight for racial justice, Egyptian feminist nationalism, WILPF’s radical pacifism, Chinese feminist nationalism, and labor feminist struggles for social justice are threads in the tapestry of what we now call global feminism. This is not to ignore the competing interests of different groups of women: women from Europe and the United States who asserted Western superiority and failed to understand the nationalist struggles of women from colonized countries, African American women who encountered and fought racism in the women’s movement, and elite women who insisted they knew what was best for women workers. Siegel acknowledges the fissures of racism, classism, and imperialism in multifaceted struggles for peace, women’s rights, and social justice.  But she sees these different groups and interests as part of a collective effort, if not a single movement.

The other big question, given the movement’s lack of success in bringing peace to the world or achieving women’s equality on all fronts, is what difference it all made.  This is not a new question about transnational women’s activism in this period, and Siegel pretty much agrees with other scholars that despite the lack of progress, this activism mattered.  It mattered because women came together across national borders to fight for their rights.  It mattered because women’s insistence on being part of the solution slowly changed the all-male world of diplomacy.  It mattered because women showed that international bodies and treaties could make a difference within national borders.  It mattered because women, out of the experience of 1919, “would build not one international women’s movement but many, all dedicated to battling women’s subordination around the world” (10).  Siegel ends the book on an upbeat note: “Through their conferences and speeches, marches and charters, the courageous female activists of 1919 transformed women’s rights into the global rallying cry that continues to echo around the world today” (249). In this way she makes the immediate aftermath of the war a crucial moment in the history of global feminism.

If this is not an entirely new argument for those who are immersed in the scholarship on transnational women’s activism, I hope it will speak to those who are more familiar with the focus on President Woodrow Wilson and his male compatriots as they remade the world in the aftermath of the First World War. In the same way that the story of North Vietnam revolutionary Ho Chi Minh’s trip to Paris to try to win support for ousting the French from his country calls attention to the long term consequences of the Versailles Treaty, Siegel’s bringing to the fore all the women from different countries with various and often competing interests reminds us that not all the important actors occupy center stage.

 

 

 

It truly is a unique kind of pleasure to engage in conversation about my book with a group of scholars whose own work helped inspire it.[27]  This response to Susan Pedersen, Katharina Rietzler, and Leila Rupp’s reviews of Peace on Our Terms is written in gratitude and in the hope that our discussion will encourage future scholars to tackle some of the important and open-ended questions raised here.

When I was applying for grants to launch this book project about five years ago, I explained that I had two intertwined goals:  to gender the history of international relations and to globalize the history of the early feminism.  Both of these objectives were, of course, linked to ongoing and expansive historiographic projects, and they put me in good company with a remarkable group of scholars, including the participants in this roundtable review.  Peace on Our Terms is a combination of synthesis and original research.  It leans on several decades of pathbreaking scholarship by feminist historians of Europe, Egypt, China, the United States, Japan, the Pan-African movement, and international relations.[28] More unusually, it seeks to bring all of these histories in dialogue with each other.  It is the first book in any language to demonstrate that women were active and influential actors in the dramatic diplomatic events of 1919, at the moment when global statesmen at the Paris Peace Conference were giving rise to the modern, liberal, international order.  In it, I argue that the overwhelmingly patriarchal values and institutions that undergird that order were crafted not reflexively but deliberately, in reaction to women’s articulate and omnipresent demands for female participation and women’s rights at the end of the First World War.

While the book is scholarly in its underlying arguments, it is narrative in tone.  I take true pleasure in Katharina Rietzler’s characterization of Peace on Our Terms as “elegant,” “skillfully executed,” and “an eminently teachable book with both scholarly and wider appeal.”  I have indeed labored to write a book that can capture the imaginations of armchair historians and light the fire under the feet of young women’s rights activists, even as it tackles important historiographic questions.  Susan Pedersen aptly describes the book as “geographically wide, temporally narrow, and also thickly peopled.”  It is a book focused on real-life women who engaged in high historical drama.  It is not surprising to me that each of the reviewers expresses some particular attachment to one or more the featured women:  the revolutionary, nationalist, and feminist lawyer, Soumay Tcheng; the Pan-Africanists, Black civil rights activists, and Oberlin college roommates Mary Church Terrell and Ida Gibbs Hunt; the French seamstress, labor organizer, and suffragist, Jeanne Bouvier.  My historical subjects were extraordinary (if imperfect) individuals who dreamed, suffered, and sacrificed for their ideals.  Capturing their humanity was as important to me as parsing their actions.

The narrative and analytical choices I made in crafting this book are not without consequences, as some of the reviewers reasonably point out.  Most notably, my decision to limit the book to women’s movements and actions linked closely to the Paris Peace Conference imposed real restrictions on which social and national movements I focused on.  Susan Pedersen is right that Communist women scarcely make a showing.  She is not the first to lament the absence of German Spartacist Rosa Luxemburg—who was murdered by a Freikorps militia on 15 January 1919—from the book’s pages.[29]  Because of its early armistice with Germany, Russia was excluded from the peace conference, and in 1919, as most of the book’s events unfold, Russian feminists, like their compatriots, were embroiled in civil war.  As a result, the People’s Commissar for Welfare and future diplomat Alexandra Kollontai does not figure into the story I tell.  Although the Bolshevik government established the zhenotdel (women’s department) of the Central Committee in September 1919, my book does not try to analyze its mixed record in promoting sexual equality.[30]  

Equally regrettable, in my view, is the near absence of Indian feminists in Peace on Our Terms, despite the important lobbying work undertaken by Sarojini Naidu, Hirabai and Mithan Tata, and others in both India and London.  These women’s relentless—and partially successful—campaign to build female suffrage into the Government of India Act of 1919 is clearly part of the broader story of feminist organizing in the immediate aftermath of World War I.  Their efforts, however, were dictated more by the internal dynamics of British imperialism than by the demands of international peacemaking.[31]  These and other exclusions limit the story I tell and undoubtedly influence the conclusions I draw.  I hope future scholars will pick up these loose strands and weave them back into the sprawling story of early-twentieth-century global feminist organizing.

In my mind, the most important concern raised by all three of the reviewers relates to the unity or disunity of global feminism itself.  “Global feminism” is a term that I frame in the singular to refer to the common struggle of women and their allies for female emancipation and equality.  Beyond the unifying arena of overarching ideals, however, global feminism manifests itself in the plural, as the sum total of the differing and (sometimes) conflicting national, international, and transnational alliances, networks, and organized movements activists have built in pursuit of these goals.  Pedersen asks “whether a global feminism defined this capaciously had much historical force—or, rather, whether the category ‘woman’ really proved able to reach across the many divisions forcing women apart.”  In 1919, I would argue, the clear answer to this question is yes, but even looking beyond the brief, hopeful period immediately following World War I—when democracy, self-determination, and social justice appeared within arm’s reach—many unifying forces continued to encourage women to seek transnational alliances and to build international movements. 

The female activists featured in my book came from vastly different circumstances and backgrounds.  Race, class, and imperial status shaped the timing, form, and priorities of their political engagement and sometimes brought them into direct conflict.  Peace on Our Terms underlines many of these clashes, such as feminists’ deep divide over whether to emphasize legal equality or defend sex-specific protective labor legislation.  Both racism and imperialism impeded international and transnational cooperation.  Despite these conflicts, the female activists featured in my book continually sought to make common cause in order to challenge the laws and customs that restricted their horizons as women.  These alliances could be fleeting or enduring, but they were continuous and ran in every imaginable direction.

Beyond their differences, women’s rights activists shared an underlying belief in both the right and the necessity of full female participation in national and international political life.  This claim on women’s rights as citizens, as Rietzler rightfully emphasizes, drove their activism in the post-World War I era, whether they were demonstrating in the streets or knocking on diplomats’ doors.  It is why, after 1919, issues like women’s participation in international plebiscites and married women’s citizenship status were matters of ongoing concern.[32]  Similarly, women from nations that gradually adopted female suffrage continued to advocate on behalf of those from nations that had not, even choosing locales for international feminist gatherings in part to bring international pressure to bear in national suffrage campaigns. 

Pedersen is right that deeply held differences sorely tested the unity of international feminist movements in the interwar years.  Yet, as recent research has underlined, even in these fractious decades, women continued to seek out and build new international alliances in pursuit of sexual equality and related goals.  Feminists from Latin America came into their own in the 1920s and 1930s, forming the Inter-American Commission of Women, while Black nationalist “proto-feminists” in the United States worked tirelessly to forge lasting alliances across North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. [33]  Indian suffragists, at the same time, assiduously cultivated Commonwealth, international feminist, and Eastern networks to forward their campaigns for political rights.[34]  Even heated disagreement, moreover, did not always lead to rupture, as I have explained in a recent article on French, Belgian, and German feminists’ efforts to overcome distrust and animosity after World War I.[35]  Did good will and shared interests lead international feminists to forge a unified movement?  No. But as Leila Rupp usefully summarizes in her contribution to this roundtable, collectively, international women’s activism, alliances, networks, and organizations came to constitute “threads in the tapestry of what we now call global feminism.”

Rietzler raises a similar question about the effective bonds of feminist unity, although her query is more about the present than the past.  She asks if “the adhesive that once held together women’s rights activism has become less sticky as the fight for female suffrage has been achieved.”  In particular, she asks if international organizations are capable of delivering tangible women’s rights or if the pursuit of feminist foreign policy is a repackaged way for the West to project its power on the rest of the world.  These are legitimate concerns.  In the quarter century that has passed since the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a sweeping international agenda for women’s empowerment, no nation has lived up to its commitments.  Today, according to UN Women, all across the world “progress toward gender equality is faltering and hard-won advances are being reversed.”[36]  Do feminists have the will—or sense of common purpose—to unite in the face of such tremendous challenges? 

Peace on Our Terms, does not pretend to answer this question. It does, however, suggest that many policies, strategies, and goals advanced by feminists in 1919 continue to speak to urgent concerns in 2020, including democratic governance, global peace, and human security.  The fact that many national governments and the United Nations now recognize these issues to be fundamentally intertwined with questions of women’s rights is a testament to how far global feminists shaped the conversation a century ago. 

Postscript:  In a roundtable review on H-Diplo, of all places, I would be remiss if I did not thank the three reviewers for generously overlooking the embarrassing gaffe that slipped into Chapter 1.  How I accidentally swapped the names of the Japanese and Italian delegates to the peace conference, and how that error made it past so many eyes and edits is a mystery.  Please rest assured, it is earmarked for correction in the paper edition!

 


Notes

[1] Mona Siegel, The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism (1914-1940) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[2] Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[3] Julia Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia,” Journal of American History 100:4 (March 2014): 1021-1051; Temma Kaplan, “On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day,” Feminist Studies 11:1 (1985): 163-171.

[4] On Chinese anarchist feminist He-Yin Zhen, see The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory, edited by Lydia H. Liu, Rebecca E. Karl, and Dorothy Ko (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013).  See also Vicki Ruiz, “Class Acts: Latina Feminist Traditions, 1900-1930,” American Historical Review 121:1 (February 2016): 1-16; Sonia Hernández, “Chicanas in the Borderlands: Trans-Border Conversations of Feminism and Anarchism, 1905-1938,” in Carlos K. Blanton, ed. A Promising Problem: The New Chicana/o History of the Twenty-First Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016), among other works.  In June, 2019, historians Wang Zheng, Elisabeth Armstrong, and Kristen R. Ghodsee organized a Global Socialist Feminism history conference at the University of Michigan that is also generating new research: https://www.globalsocialistfeminism.com/.

[5] On Huda Shaarawi, see Leila Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 58-60 and Charlotte Weber, “Unveiling Scheherazade: Feminist Orientalism in the International Alliance of Women, 1911-1950,” Feminist Studies 27:1 (Spring 2001): 125-157. On Pan-African, Pan-Asian, Pan-Arab, and Pan-American feminisms see Keisha Blain, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2108); Keisha Blain and Tiffany Gill, eds., To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2019); Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel, Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2020); Nova Robinson’s forthcoming book Truly Sisters: Arab Women and International Women’s Rights; Katherine M. Marino, Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), among others.

[6] In addition to the works that Rietzler cites, see Sara Farris, In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017) about alliances between feminism and “women’s rights” discourse, right-wing nationalist political parties, and neoliberalism.

[7] Some examples include #BlackLivesMatter, movements against feminicide and state violence in Latin America, and indigenous land defender movements, among others.  See Barbara Ransby, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019); Elisabeth Jay Friedman and Constanza Tabbush, “#NiUnaMenos: Not One Woman Less, Not One More Death!” NACLA Report, November 1, 2016 https://nacla.org/news/2016/11/01/niunamenos-not-one-woman-less-not-one-more-death; Nina Lakhani, Who Killed Berta Caceras?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet (London: Verso Books, 2020). Scholars have also explored ILO and UN conferences and treaties are meaningful to a range of grassroots and global feminist movements.  See for example, Eileen Boris, Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019); Jocelyn Olcott, International Women’s Year: The Greatest Consciousness-Raising Event in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); Lisa Levenstein, They Didn’t See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties (New York: Basic Books, 2020); Sylvanna Falcón, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism inside the United Nations (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016); Maylei Blackwell “Weaving in the Spaces: Indigenous Women’s Organizing and the Politics of Scale in Mexico,” in Dissident Women: Gender and Cultural Politics in Chiapas, edited by Shannon Speed, R. Aída Hernández Castillo, and Lynn M. Stephen (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013), 240-318.

[8] It is not possible even to begin to list the hundreds of important works that exemplify this revisionist trend, but for a collection that treats the belligerents as empires rather than states, see Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela, eds., Empires at War, 1911-1923 (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2014), and for account of the mobilization of Asian and African soldiers, see David Olusoga, The World’s War:  Forgotten Soldiers of Empire (London: Head of Zeus, 2014).  Gerwarth also makes a strong case for the “unending” nature of the war in Eastern Europe in particular in The Vanquished:  Why the First World War Failed to End (London:  Allen Lane, 2016).

[9] Leila Rupp, Worlds of Women:  The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1997).

[10] Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (New York:  Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1938), 108-9.

[11] Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment:  Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-Colonial Activism (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2007).

[12] Notably, Arno Mayer, Wilson vs. Lenin:  Political Origins of the New Diplomacy (1959; rpt. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1964).

[13] Matthew Pratt Guterl, The Color of Race in America: 1900–1940 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

[14] See also Wendy Sarvasy, “Militarized Occupations: Evolution of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s 1920s Intersectional Conversation,” New Political Science 37:4 (2015): 476-493.

[15] Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[16] Sarah Wambaugh, A Monograph on Plebiscites (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1920), 33.

[17] Karen Knop, Diversity and Self-Determination in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 284.

[18] Emily Greene Balch, “The Principle and Practice of Democracy – n.d.,” cited in Catia Confortini, “Race, Gender, Empire, and War in the International Thought of Emily Greene Balch,” in Patricia Owens and Katharina Rietzler, Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 256.

[19] Nancy Caldwell Sorel, The Women Who Wrote the War (New York: Arcade Pub, 1999).  See also the ongoing research on the American journalist Sigrid Schultz by David Milne at the University of East Anglia.

[20] On German atrocities in Belgium see John Horne and Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 2nd ed. (New York: Meridian, 1958), 155, 206.

[21] Soumé Tcheng, “Le mouvement constitutionnel en Chine. Étude de droit comparé” (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Paris Law Faculty, 1925).

[22] UN Women, “Women in Politics: 2020,” https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/03/women-in-politics-map-2020#view, accessed on 14 August 2020.

[23] Nancy Fraser, Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (London: Verso, 2013), 20.

[24] Toni Haastrup, “Feminist Foreign Policy Cannot Ignore Race,” forum “Why Is Mainstream International Relations Blind to Racism?” Foreign Policy, 3 July 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/03/why-is-mainstream-international-relations-ir-blind-to-racism-colonialism/ [accessed on 14 August 2020]

[25] Wei Tao-ming [Tcheng’s married name], My Revolutionary Years: The Autobiography of Madame Wei Tao Ming (New York: Scribner’s, 1943).

[26] Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Laura Beers, “Advocating for a Feminist Internationalism between the Wars,” in G. Sluga and C. James, eds., Women, Diplomacy and International Politics Since 1500, 202-221 (London: Routledge, 2016); Joyce Blackwell, No Peace Without Freedom: Race and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1975 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004); Dorothy Sue Cobble, “A Higher ‘Standard of Life’ for the World: U.S. Labor Women’s Reform Internationalism and the Legacies of 1919,” Journal of American History 100:4 (March 2014): 1052-1085, DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jau005; Lisa G. Materson, “African American Women’s Global Journeys and the Construction of Cross-Ethnic Racial Identity,” Women’s Studies International Forum 32:1 (January-February 2009): 35-42, doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2009.01.007; Melinda Plastas, A Band of Nobel Women: Racial Politics in the Women’s Peace Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011); Michelle Rief, “Thinking Locally, Acting Globally: The International Agenda of African American Clubwomen, 1880-1940,” Journal of African American History 89:3 (Summer 2004): 203-222, doi.org/10.2307/4134075; Leila J. Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Marie Sandell, The Rise of Women’s Transnational Activism: Identity and Sisterhood between the World Wars (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015); Lara Vapnek, “The 1919 International Congress of Working Women: Transnational Debates on the ‘Woman Worker,’” Journal of Women’s History 26:1 (Spring 2014): 160-184, DOI: doi.org/10.2307/4134075.

[27] Leila J. Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), and Valeska Huber, Tamson Pietsch, and Katherina Rietzler, “Women’s International Thought and the New Professions, 1900-1940,” Modern Intellectual History (2019), 1-25.

[28] In addition to Rupp’s seminal book, see Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Eileen Boris, Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019); Dorothy Sue Cobble, “A ‘Higher Standard of Life for the World’: U.S. Labor Women's Reform, Internationalism, and the Legacies of 1919,” Journal of American History (March 2014), 1052-85l; Dorothy Sue Cobble, “Japan and the 1919 ILO Debates over Rights, Representation and Global Labour Standards,” in The ILO from Geneva to the Pacific Rim:  West Meets East, ed. Jill M. Jenson and Nelson Lichtenstein (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 55-97; Louise Edwards, Gender, Politics, and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage in China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Erika A. Kuhlman, Reconstructing Patriarchy After the Great War: Women, Gender, and Postwar Reconciliation between Nations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), Karen Offen, European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), Karen M. Offen, ed. Globalizing Feminisms, 1789-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2010), Melinda Plastas, A Band of Noble Women: Racial Politics in the Women’s Peace Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011); Ingrid Sharp and Matthew Stibbe, eds. Women Activists between War & Peace: Europe, 1918-1923 (London: Bloomsbury, 2017); Glenda Sluga, “Women, Feminisms and Twentieth-Century Internationalisms,” in Internationalisms: A Twentieth-Century History, ed. Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 61-84.

[29] “Mona L. Siegel in conversation with Michael G. Vann about her book, Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women’s Rights After the First World War,” New Books in History Podcast, 29 June 2020, https://newbooksnetwork.com/mona-l-siegel-peace-on-our-terms-the-global-battle-for-womens-rights-after-the-first-world-columbia-up-2020/, accessed 7 September 2020.

[30] Elizabeth A. Wood, The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 75.

[31] Sumita Mukherjee, Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Networks (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018), 26-76, and Kumari Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (London: Zed Books, 1986), 73-108. 

[32] Glenda Sluga, “Female and National Self-Determination: A Gender Rereading of the 'the Apogee of Nationalism',” Nations and Nationalism 6 (2000) 495-522, and Catherine Jacques, “Des lobbys féministes à la Sdn: L'exemple des débats sur la nationalité de la femme mariée (1930-1935),” in Jean-Marc Delaunay and Yves Denéchère, eds., Femmes et relations internationales au xxe siècle (Paris: Presses Sorbonne nouvelle, 2006), 267-277.

[33] Katherine M. Marino, Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2019); Keisha N. Blain, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

[34] Mukherjee, Indian Suffragettes.

[35] Mona L. Siegel, “To Meet or Not to Meet:  International Feminist Organizing After the First World War,” Ariadne – Forum für Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte wird vom Archiv der deutschen Frauenbewegun 76 (June 2020), 84-101.

[36] UN Women, “On the 25th anniversary of landmark Beijing Declaration on women’s rights, UN Women calls for accelerating its unfinished business,” 4 September 2020, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/9/press-release-25th-anniversary-of-the-beijing-declaration-on-womens-rights, accessed 7 September 2020.

Categories: Roundtable, H-DiploPub
Keywords: women's rights, WWI