This interdisciplinary course brings together the history of feminist internationalism, International Relations, peace studies, and globalization studies. Students will explore how feminist internationalists sought to make the world more interdependent and peaceful since the mid-nineteenth century.
Feminism’s first wave crashed upon the shores of the industrializing world in the mid-nineteenth century. Feminist involvement within both international peace and political emancipation movements grew out of the mid-nineteenth-century antislavery movement. This radical confluence of social justice activism further solidified within the turn-of-the-century transatlantic women’s suffrage and anti- imperialist movements, to become what Harriet Alonso has described as “the suffragist wing” of the international peace movement from the First World War onwards. More recently, scholars have begun to recognize the feminist pacifist contributions to the foundations of International Relations theory and international thought. This course brings together these interconnected fields of study to trace and critically analyze how feminist internationalists worked to reform and regulate the global capitalist system through global governance in order to make the world more equitable, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful.
Students will engage with how feminist internationalists sought to transform the war-torn and nationalistic global capitalist system since the mid nineteenth century through global governance, such as through international arbitration, collective security, supranational control of the world’s raw materials, and trade liberalization. Connected to this last element, students will also delve into the economic cosmopolitan vision of feminist peace internationalists. For many of the leading feminists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, economic nationalism — and the ensuing trade wars and geopolitical conflict that followed in their wake — was responsible for laying the economic foundations for imperialism, war, and hunger. Free trade instead promised a panacea of cheap food, political emancipation, prosperity, anti-imperialism, and peace. Even more than their male counterparts, feminist internationalists emphasized free trade’s association with plentiful food, democratization, peace, security, and social justice. They believed that the free market’s ability to break up the monopolistic power of male landed elites would create a more conducive political environment for the expansion of women’s suffrage. Free trade’s dual promise of peace and cheap food meant putting an end to the violence, poverty, and starvation of women and children that invariably followed in the wake of the era’s frequent trade wars, embargoes, and military conflicts. Students will explore how feminist internationalist support for global governance contributed to the liberal transformation of the global economy in the years surrounding the Second World War.
Students will then explore how feminist internationalists became increasingly critical of the more liberal post-1945 economic order that they had helped create. The growing influence of neoliberal politics and multinational corporations over the global capitalist system caused feminist internationalists to seek alternative paths for globalization. Some would turn to new moralistic forms of international trade liberalization that emphasized social justice, such as the Fair Trade Movement and international cooperativism. In doing so they added their voices to a growing chorus of opposition to the racist global capitalist system that had long existed among feminist nationalists within the decolonizing Global South. For the latter, however, economic nationalism was instead seen as the proper developmental path for the decolonizing world—through high tariffs, boycotts, indigenous control of natural resources, and a New International Economic Order (NIEO) — as an anti-colonial means of allowing them to “catch up” to the Western imperial industrial powers. Thus, students will critically grapple with how feminist internationalism evolved and diverged. Some helped to create a new US-led system of international trade liberalization regulated through supranational governance and institutions in the mid-twentieth century, while others numbered among its most vocal critics.
Students will also be encouraged to consider how this evolution and divergence continues to influence feminist internationalist critiques of global governance today.
This course will give students a historical understanding of how feminist internationalists helped create, reform, and remake the post-World War II system of global governance. As well as learning the functions of key international organisations, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the League of Nations, the UN, and the GATT/WTO, they will gain an understanding of the controversies that have at various times surrounded them from the perspective of feminist internationalists. They will explore case studies, for example the role of free trade in debates around security, governance, and peace, as well as the emergence in the Global South of the discourses of economic development, Pan-Africanism, and “dependency.”
The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, group discussion of weekly readings, and small-group exercises.
Students submit one essay (2,000 words). The essay will count for 50 per cent of the overall course assessment. There will be penalties for late submission without a valid excuse. The tutor will provide a list of questions; alternative questions may be possible, but only in consultation with the tutor.
Each student will also participate in a group seminar presentation. Group presentations are peer assessed and are moderated by the tutor. In other words, fellow students take a leading role in evaluating the quality of the work presented, the tutor’s role being to ensure that this is done equitably between individuals and groups. The group presentation mark received amounts to 50 per cent of a student’s overall course mark. Groups may find it useful to allocate distinct sections of the presentation to specific group members.
Brooke A. Ackerly, Maria Stern, and Jacqui True, Feminist Methodologies for International Relations (2006). Paul Adler, No Globalization Without Representation: U.S. Activists and World Inequality (2021).
Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights (1993).
Naomi Black, “The Mothers' International: The Women's Co-operative Guild and Feminist Pacifism,” Women's Studies International Forum 7 (1984): 467-476.
Keisha N. Blain, “‘For the Rights of Dark People in Every Part of the World: Pearl Sherrod, Black
Internationalist Feminism, and Afro-Asian Politics during the 1930s,” Souls, Vol. 17, Nos. 1-2 (June 2015): 90-112.
Brandon Byrd, “To Start Something to Help These People: African American Women and the Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934,” Journal of Haitian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2015): 127-153.
Sandi I. Cooper, Patriotic Pacifism: Waging War on War in Europe, 1815-1914 (1991).
Richard Evans, Comrades and Sisters: Feminism, Socialism and Pacifism in Europe, 1870-1945 (1987).
Dayo F. Gore, Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War. New York: New York University Press, 2011.
Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Changing Differences: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy, 1917-1994 (1997).
Cecilia Lynch, Beyond Appeasement: Interpreting Interwar Peace Movements in World Politics (2000).
Erik S. McDuffie, “‘For the Full Freedom of…Colored Women in Africa, Asia, and in these United States…’: Black Women Radicals and the Practice of a Black Women’s International.” Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender and the Black International 1 (2012): 1-30.
Patricia Owens, “Women and the History of International Thought,” International Studies Quarterly 62 (2018): 467-481.
Patricia Owens and Katharina Rietzler, eds., Women's International Thought: A New History (2021).
Marc-William Palen, “British Free Trade and the International Feminist Vision for Peace, c.1846- 1946,” in Imagining Britain’s Economic Future, c. 1800-1975: Trade, Consumerism, and Global Markets, edited by David Thackeray, Richard Toye, and Andrew Thompson (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2018): 115-131.
David S. Patterson, The Search for Negotiated Peace: Women's Activism and Citizen Diplomacy in World War (2008).
Leila Rupp, "Challenging Imperialism in International Women's Organizations." NWSA Journal 8 (1996): 8-27. Leila Rupp, "Constructing Internationalism: The Case of Transnational Women's Organizations, 1888-
1945." American Historical Review 99:5 (December 1994): 1571-1600.
Mona L. Siegel, Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women's Rights After the First World War (2020). Megan Threlkeld, Citizens of the World: U.S. Women and Global Government (2022).
J. Ann Tickner, Jacqui True, “A Century of International Relations Feminism: From World War I Women’s Peace Pragmatism to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda,” International Studies Quarterly 62 (2018): 221-233.
Anne Wiltsher, Most Dangerous Women: Feminist Peace Campaigners of the Great War (1985).
Susan Zimmermann, "The Challenge of Multinational Empire for the International Women's Movement: The Habsburg Monarchy and the Development of Feminist Inter/National Politics." Journal of Women's History, 17: 2 (Summer 2005), 87-117.
Last updated: May 11, 2023