Sisterhood Questioned? Race, Class, and Internationalism in the American and British Women's Movements, C.1880s-1970s

By Christine Bolt | Go to book overview

5

Feminism and race, 1920s-1930s

As the previous chapter has shown, while post-war internationalism predominantly involved white American and British women in shared enterprises, the connection also revealed their growing differences of circumstance and outlook. These differences were apparent in the international endeavours affecting women of colour, which are considered in the first part of this chapter. But for most women, the domestic agenda of feminism was more pressing than internationalism, and the political and reform aspects of this agenda in Britain and the United States, together with their racial significance, are the focus of the remainder of the chapter.

Although race was not the key issue for British feminists that it was for their American sisters between the wars, the thinking of activists in both countries was influenced by the well established organisational and social separation between non-whites and whites, which stemmed from contrasting attitudes to race as well as unequal access to power. For women of colour, race and gender problems were seldom separable. For men of colour, women's interests were usually collapsed under the umbrella of race. And for white women, race commonly assumed salience in the context of debates about their responsibilities towards the less fortunate and as preservers of racial peace. Despite the efforts made in the United States and Britain to reformulate feminist ideology after the First World War, it proved impossible to break through these entrenched ways of thinking to a vigorous inter-racialism that could also accommodate gender, to the benefit of non-white and white women alike.


Internationalism and women of colour

For women of colour, coming together as internationalists during the interwar years was more difficult than for the already organised middle-class and working-class white activists discussed in chapters 4 and 6. In the first place, nothing had happened by the end of the First World War to challenge the financial and organisational domination of this branch of feminism by prosperous activists who assumed that they had the right to guide less fortunate women and countries. Equally, nothing had happened to make socialist internationalism an obvious alternative for poorer women, since its exponents, committed to class analysis

-76-

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Sisterhood Questioned? Race, Class, and Internationalism in the American and British Women's Movements, C.1880s-1970s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Setting, 1880s-1914 6
  • 3 - The Impact of the First World War 28
  • 4 - Feminist Internationalism and Nationalism Between the Wars 51
  • 5 - Feminism and Race, 1920s-1930s 76
  • 6 - Feminism and Class During the Interwar Years 106
  • 7 - The Second World War 138
  • 8 - The Post-War Women's Movements 163
  • 9 - Conclusion 182
  • Notes 191
  • Index 252
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