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

By Christine Bolt | Go to book overview

9

Conclusion

Sisterhood questioned?

I rather dislike united fronts, not because I dislike unity but because forming such a front always means such a terrible amount of machinery and organisation; but again I know that this is often worthwhile. Kathleen Courtney, 1931 1

Kathleen Courtney's heartfelt comment would have found wide support among the American and British feminists studied here. Although such fronts were created from time to time, 2 particularly in the United States, the machinery involved was indeed hard to sustain. Differences developed because they were too big, ambitious and diverse, with member organisations feeling the loss of independence and co-operation thus being too cautious to be effective. But even groups unencumbered by such commitments found it taxing to maintain their internal unity and achieve their overall aims when environmental factors proved unhelpful, opponents proved formidable, interim successes proved few, members proved elusive, and charismatic leaders proved scarce. All of which would suggest that a united feminist movement, however desirable, was impractical. In summarising activists' difficulties and achievements in my conclusion, the shaping context of the Anglo-American relationship has been borne in mind, and the contribution of women activists to ideological debate has been highlighted.


A special relationship?

The Anglo-American relationship which framed the efforts of British and American feminists did not exert an oppressive influence upon them. As they had done since the nineteenth century, activists from the two countries amicably exchanged ideas, information and visitors, besides working together in feminist internationalism. But as early as the First World War, when Britain was forced to seek substantial financial help from the United States, there was British unease about the threat posed by American economic power and hostility towards the British Empire. During the 1920s and 1930s, differences became more pronounced over a host of foreign policy issues, as well as over American aloofness from the League of Nations. Despite the closeness of the United States and

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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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