In recent years, scholars have begun to rethink the history of the global women’s movement by examining the history and contributions of socialist or left-feminist women’s organizations. Nonetheless, we are only in the beginning of rethinking the role of these women and their organizations in advancing a global women’s rights agenda since 1945, and to some extent even earlier. The aim of this paper is to uncover some of that history by tracing the longer history of CEDAW, the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women—regarded as “the centerpiece of the international women’s rights discourse.”
In order to uncover socialist, communist and left-feminist women’s contributions, this paper will ask three questions. First, what, exactly, does recent scholarship on the global women’s movement and the advancement of women’s rights in the international domain say about the role and contributions of socialist or left-feminist women and their organizations? And what do we know about Polish women in this respect? Secondly, if this review points to certain blind spots in the literature—some of them having to do with methodological nationalism in the scholarship—what would be a way forward? Thirdly, if we do lift the Cold War curtain on left-feminist women’s contributions to the global women’s rights agenda, how does the picture change? In addition to recent scholarship, my paper will be primarily based on WIDF and UN documents.
Francisca de Haan is Professor of Gender Studies and History at the Central European University (CEU), and currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Polish Institute for Advanced Studies (PIASt). She has published widely on the history of the international women’s movement, most recently Rosa Manus (1881-1942): The International Life and Legacy of a Jewish Dutch Feminist. Co-edited with Myriam Everard (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2017), and “The Global Left-Feminist 1960s: From Copenhagen to Moscow and New York,” in The Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties. Between Protest and Nation-Building, ed. Chen Jian et al. (London; New York: Routledge, 2018).
Prof. de Haan is Founding Editor of Aspasia: The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern and South Eastern European Women’s and Gender History (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books), and served as Vice-President of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History (2005-2010).