Globalizing and Politicizing European Feminist International Activity, 1919-1945
Feminisms in Europe had become deeply intertwined with the growth and development of nation-states, on both the political and the economic front. Indeed, in the aftermath of World War I feminists achieved a level of involvement with national political life that they had only dreamed of a decade earlier. Not only were women voting, forming associations, joining political parties, standing for and being elected to parliaments, but a few were called upon to serve as cabinet ministers.
Following the precedent set by Aleksandra Kollontai, named People's Commissar for Social Welfare in late 1917 for the Bolshevik revolutionary government in Russia, first Constance Markievicz in Ireland (for the rebel Irish republican countergovernment) and then Margaret Bondfield in the United Kingdom (under the Labour Party in 1929) headed their respective ministries of labor. In Denmark, Nina Bang served as minister of education under a Social Democratic cabinet ( 1924-26). None of these political women considered herself a feminist before all else, but they all did attend to women's issues within their respective nationalist, socialist, and labor parties. Many more women served on municipal councils and even, in a few cases, as mayors of major cities. In 1939, just as war threatened once again to sweep through Europe, the Irish senator and revolutionary widow Kathleen Clarke would be appointed Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Women's increasing involvement as nominally full-fledged citizens-- even their election to parliaments and their affiliation with political parties--by no means assured that other feminist objectives for ending women's subordination could be attained, or even that these objectives could be kept in the conceptual foreground of political life. Even the appointment in 1936 of three French women as ministerial undersecretaries by Léon Blum, leading Socialist and head of the French Popular Front