In 1880, the revolutionary anarchist feminist Louise Michel returned to Paris from France’s penal colony in New Caledonia. Arrested, convicted, sentenced, and exiled in the wake of the France’s 1871revolutionary civil war known as the Paris Commune, Michel had spent seven years imprisoned in the South Pacific archipelago. During these years, Michel became fascinated with the indigenous Kanak people. She studied their languages and their history, she gave them lessons in English and mathematics, and she came to strongly sympathize with them in their resistance to French imperial rule.

While in New Caledonia, Michel also developed a camaraderie with the group of Algerian Kabyles who had been exiled to the archipelago for rising against French rule in 1871. Michel identified with both the Kanak and the Kabyles in their desire to cast off French imperial power. In 1904, the final year of her life, she traveled to Algeria on an anti-militarism, anti-religion, and anti-colonial speaking and propaganda tour. This culminated decades of anti-imperial and revolutionary activism in which Michel discussed and compared life and civilization in New Caledonia and Algeria with that of France and England. In many cases, the European nations fell short in her estimations. Yet, she described the Kanak and Kabyles as child-like and, in the case of the Kanak, stone-aged. Michel advocated a revolutionary anarchistic, anti-clerical, feminist vision of Western education as a means to “uplift” and liberation. In Europe, she focused on school children; in Algeria and New Caledonia she targeted subjugated peoples. Michel’s educational theory explains why she equated the development of children with the liberation of a culture, and thus unintentionally imposed imperialist Western forms.

This raises the question of what we can term “anti-imperialist” in the nineteenth-century context. Does a person’s self-identification as anti-imperial suffice? Does she or he have to oppose imperialism and colonialism in all its forms? As in the case of Michel, how does one’s advocacy of a radical form of Western education shape our understanding of her politics? Are there contexts beyond France that provide points of comparison for these, and related questions?

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    In response to Barbara Molony by Rui Kohiyama I was so glad to see many Japanese scholars present at Sheffield, ...

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As promised, here is the blog on women in international history as part of a History Workshop Journal on-line roundtable on Mark Mazower’s weighty tome Governing the World.

For those of you interested in the intersections between international history, European history and gender, see the interviews taped as part of the Sorbonne based consortium rewriting European history: at

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REPORT ON ‘WOMEN’S HISTORIES: THE LOCAL AND THE GLOBAL’: international conference of the
International Federation for Research in Women’s History and the Women’s History Network (UK),
Thursday, 29th August to 1st September, 2013, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
June Purvis, Professor of Women’s and Gender History, University of Portsmouth, UK
It was with great excitement that I arrived at Sheffield Hallam University on 29th August to
participate in the above Conference, where over 250 delegates had gathered. There was a chance to
meet up with old friends I had not seen for some time, renew acquaintances and meet people I had
never spoken to before. The buzz of activity and engagement, evident on that very first day, stayed
throughout. The delegates, overwhelmingly women, came from all corners of the world – including
Bangladesh, Australia, Belgium, India, Finland, Norway, Canada, Japan, Hungary, the USA, Iceland,
the UK, Italy, Nigeria and Cyprus.
The three plenary speakers, all well-known figures in international history, gave stimulating
addresses – Catherine Hall, University College, London, spoke on ‘Gendering the legacies of slaveownership’,
Mrinalini Sinha, University of Michigan on ‘Kunti’s protest: the paradox of gender
in anti-colonialism’ and Jacqueline van Gent, University of Western Australia on ‘Rebecca and
her sisters: indigenous women, gendered authority and global mission networks’. The opening
Reception on Thursday evening, 29th August, sponsored by Sheffield Hallam University and Women’s
History Review included also the Routledge book launch of Women’s Activism: Global Perspectives
from the 1890s to the Present, edited by Francisca de Haan, Margaret Allen, Krassimira Daskalova
and myself. The 12 essays in the book, written by feminist historians from around the world,
developed from papers given at the International Federation’s 2010 Amsterdam conference. They
all explore how women have always found ways to challenge or fight inequalities and hierarchies.
The Reception the following evening was sponsored by Gender and History to celebrate their 25th
anniversary. It also included the Manchester University Press book launch of Modern Women on
Trial: Sexual Trangression in the Age of the Flapper by Lucy Bland as well as the awarding of the
Women’s History Network (UK) Book Prize for an author’s first book. The lucky recipient was Angela
Davis for Modern Motherhood: women and family in England, 1945-2000 (2012). Based on an
impressive 160 oral history interviews, Davis skilfully draws a compelling picture of the ambivalence
and contractions of motherhood in the post-war world.
Such celebratory events came at the end of enjoyable days, popping in and out of panels, listening
to fascinating papers that linked the ‘local’ and the ‘global’, chairing sessions – and enjoying the
delicious chocolate fudge cake served with afternoon tea! (I returned home 2 lbs heavier ….) So I
will just mention a few of the excellent papers I listened to, to give a flavour of what the conference
was about.
In one panel, on ‘Beyond national biographies: transnational perspectives on women’s lives and
activism’, Tamiko Miyatsu, from Japan, spoke about two daughters of transnational women’s
activism in the Progressive Era, Mary Church Terrell in the USA and Raicho Hiratsuka in Japan. Both
were college-educated women from wealthy families. One of the women’s colleges, with which
Raicho was involved, had a school song ‘O, Alma Mater, Mother dear/With songs they name we
greet/Who dost the Gate of Knowledge here/Set open for our feet.’ At the end of her paper, the
presenter began to sing this song, as did other women in the room who had attended that school –
and the rest of us joined in! That poignant moment underlined a key point about transnationalism –
many of us in the UK knew the tune since it was an old English one titled ‘Drink to me only with thine
eyes’. The other paper presenter in this session, Erla Hulda Halldorsdottir from Iceland, discussed
the life and correspondence of one of her fellow countrywomen of the past, Sigridur Palsdottir
(1809-1871). How can we represent this woman’s life beyond its national context? What are the
discrepancies between the grand narratives of European women’s history (mainly British, German or
French) and the local histories and experiences of women in ‘marginal’ areas such as Iceland? Is the
life story of a woman who cannot be counted as a pioneer or having changed the course of history of
any value for European women’s history?
In another panel, on ‘Feminist struggle in the contemporary academy’, Phillidia Bunkle, from New
Zealand, told a distressing story about the ways in which some New Zealand feminists, active in
the international Women’s Health Movement, had been misrepresented as hostile, unreliable
controversialists in some academic studies and inquiries. What should be the relationship between
feminist activists and academic historians? Whose story has greater legitimacy? This latter theme
was particularly evident too in the other paper in this session, that by Gail Chester from the UK,
about the fate of The Women’s Library, formerly housed at London Metropolitan University in a
purpose-built building and now – minus its building – at the London School of Economics. With the
title ‘LSE plays the long game, or how a global institution snatched women’s history’, Gail described
the battle fought in 2012 about the future of The Women’s Library. In particular, she highlighted
the question of why the LSE, with its demonstrable wealth, would only take the contents of the
library, claiming that it was unable to sustain the cost of maintaining its purpose-built building.
Lively debate followed. Some contributors pointed out that the key fact was preserving the
contents of The Women’s Library which, many felt, would be better looked after at the LSE, the only
university left in the bidding process for this irreplaceable and unique archive. Why do so many of
the purpose-built buildings specifically for women face such a fate? And why are governments so
reluctant to support them? Very sad indeed.
Buildings featured in another absorbing session I attended, on ‘Women’s Heritage and Public
History’, a field of growing interest. All the speakers were from the UK. Rosie Sherington, from
English Heritage spoke about the problems in presenting a history of women through buildings –
how do they relate to women’s social status and employment opportunities? Kate Hill focused
on souvenirs, gender and museums from 1850-1914, discussing how women often donated to
museums ‘souvenirs’ which were of their menfolk’s travel abroad, perhaps as acts of mourning or
commemoration. Alison Oram took a different line, discussing gender, intimacy and queer space
in the historic house whose inhabitants have been claimed for LGBTQ history. To what extent is
gender and sexuality inherent in room layouts, gardens and material objects? Of course, it was
not just in the formal panel sessions that discussion took place. Lunchtime chats often lead to an
exchange of email addresses while the lunchtime demonstration by Thomas Dublin and Kathryn Kish
Sklar of the transnational digital resource Women and Social Movements, International, 1840-2010,
attracted an appreciative audience. ‘Did women in the past really do as much as this?’ one delegate,
new to the field, whispered to me.
The range of the papers presented at this conference were far ranging and informative, making us
all think about the ‘local’ and ‘global’ in new ways, from transnational childhoods to stay-at-home
internationalists. Emily Sloan, from the USA, raised important questions about the experiences of
the American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt in the Philippines when on her 1911-12 suffrage tour.
Catt, as President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and a prominent American political
figure, wrestled with the reality of imperialism, concluding that no nation ought to own another. A
loud Amen to that, over and over again.
Many of us came away from this conference feeling energised. And that is how it should be.
In these times of economic recessions it is important that we support, nurture and cherish our
international and national women’s history networks. We cannot afford to do otherwise.
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On August 31, 2013, in an article on ‘Promotion and self-promotion’, The Economist reported on new research undertaken by Barbara Walter, of the University of California, San Diego showing ‘that unlike their male colleagues [women] do not routinely cite their own previous work when they publish a paper. Since the frequency a paper is cited is an indicator of its importance—and one which, since it can be measured, tends to weigh with appointment committees—a systematic unwillingness by women to self-cite may help tip the balance against them’ (, accessed 7/9/13). But are only women to blame?

In current months I have been having an ongoing discussion with my female colleagues in history (and other disciplines) regarding the citation habits of their male peers. Most agree that they have observed in following the citations of their own work, a tendency for men to cite other men, even when the woman’s research is more pertinent, and is known to them. I am not certain how one might study this phenomenon, or whether it would be possible to remove it from the realm of anecdotal evidence. I have noticed it in regard not only to my own work, but that of other women scholars. Is there an issue here that needs more discussion? How appropriate would it be to revise bibliographies of articles we have read in order to bring them ‘up-to-date’ and make them more gender-neutral and relevant? I have heard of some female professors choosing not to review or referee articles that do not cite women. Is that the best way forward? I don’t have answers, but I do have a lot of questions I’d like answered.

My suspicion is that if we looked closer we would find that even in the age of global history all kinds of biases re embedded in the literature we cite, if not that which we read and use, including a bias that non-English language historians, have long noted against the citation of work published beyond the linguistic borders of the transatlantic.

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Glenda Sluga, Professor of International History, University of Sydney.

It’s been a long time since I last posted, so much has been happening in the field of international history, although not all of it has touched on women and gender. And that’s the issue I want to take up here. With all this new research and publication activity, much of it centred on the history of international institutions and forms of internationalism so long identified with feminism and women’s activism, it’s becoming increasingly clear that once again women, let alone gender, are being sidelined or completely ignored. The feminist historiography that has developed the field through the twentieth century, like the primary sources written by or about women just isn’t being taken up, except by committed feminist historians. When it comes to the general histories of internationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the stories of men as historical agents once again dominate.

I want to make the argument that even though in the 1980s, the cultural turn, and the more general interest among historical scholars in theory, helped push advocates of women’s history towards gender history, we would do well to pick up the threads of that earlier push in the interest of incorporating women into international history; I think of this as the ‘Add Women and Stir’ approach…a conscious attempt to revisit the moment when gender historians abandoned adding women to history as rather banal, on the grounds that stirring in a new ingredient was less sophisticated than coming up with a whole new recipe, that adding women did not adequately shift the parameters of male-dominated masculinist history, in preference for gender history.  Yet, I think there is still life in the project of recovering of women in the past, and working to expose the processes by which they were made absent, of forcing European and non-European, state, non-state, and personal, national and international archives into conversation, and integrating the evidence of women’s presence into the narratives we have (master or otherwise) of international history and politics, and, as importantly, the even more gender recalcitrant field that is the history of ideas, which is also expanding into an ‘international’ direction. I also want to emphasise that the stirring is as important as the adding… and while it involves gender, it also involves the reintegration of women into our understanding of the past and non-gender-specific historical questions.

There are a number of projects looking at the future of gender, see for example, in Paris, the Sorbonne-based Lab-ex on Gender and Europe, dedicated to inserting gender into a larger historical project on rewriting history. I was lucky enough to be invited to a preliminary workshop, along with Gisella Bock, Karen Offen and others, to discuss how we all wrote gender into our older published histories of Europe (see, and how we would do it now.

When it comes to international history, Harvard University has set up a wonderful website entitled the UN History Project, which has a sub-theme on ‘Women and Children’ (not my favorite combination, but better than nothing). In this context I talk about the importance of looking for women if we want to find them, not because they were not there in the past, but because women become invisible unless we remember to notice them.

I have been writing about this recently in regard to Mark Mazower’s magisterial new book, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, published last year (my comment is forthcoming on the History Workshop Online Blog, I’ll keep you posted), which over more than 400 pages barely includes any women as historical actors, until the post Cold War era. Yet we know from women’s history that women’s international organizations have a long history, and the engagement of women’s international organizations in international politics and international institutions is as long. For the last two hundred years, the ‘international’ has provided women with a political space in which they could make demands for the same national, state or even imperial rights exercised by men and otherwise denied them; or from where they could participate in the workings of international politics, and the conceptualization of internationalisms—whether liberal or socialist. (We need only remember Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas). One useful thing WIGS can do in this context is to become a good place to exchange sources. I’ll be regularly updating publications I come across, in the cause of adding women to international history, and stirring. Here’s some to begin with (taken from

Peggy Antrobus, (2004), The Global Women’s Movement: Origins, Issues and Strategies (London: Zed).

Charlotte Bunch, “Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Toward a Re-Vision of Human Rights,” Human Rights Quarterly, 12(4),November 1990, pp. 486 – 498.

R. Charli Carpenter, “‘Women and Children First’: Gender, Norms, and Humanitarian Evacuation in the Balkans, 1991–95,” International Organization 57 (Fall 2003): 661–694

Coltheart, Lenore ed. (2004), Jessie Street: A Revised Autobiography (Sydney: The Federation Press).

Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (2008), esp. chapter 8, pp. 276-326.

Arvonne S. Fraser, “Becoming Human: The Origins and Development of Women’s Human Rights,” Human Rights Quarterly 21(4), 1999, pp. 853-906.

Galey, Margaret E. (1995), “Women Find a Place,” Ch. 2 in Anne Winslow ed. (1995), Women, Politics, and the United Nations (Westport; London: Greenwood Press), 11-27.

Karen Garner, Shaping a Global Women’s Agenda: Women’s NGOs and Global Governance, 1925-85 (Manchester: Manchester University Press; distributed by Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

Haan, Francisca de, “A Concise History of Women’s Rights,” UN Chronicle XLVII no. 1 (2010).

Aziza Hussein, “Crossroads for Women at the UN,” in Fraser, Arvonne and Irene Tinker eds. (2004), Developing Power: How Women Transformed International Development (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York), p. 3-13.

Jain, Devaki (2005), Women, Development, and the UN: A Sixty-Year Quest for Equality and Justice (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), Ch. 5, “Lessons from the UN’s Sixth Decade, 1996-2005.

Adam Jones, “Gendercide and Genocide,” Journal of Genocide Research 2(2000): 185–212;

Lake, Marilyn (2001), “From Self-Determination via Protection to Equality via Non-Discrimination: Defining Women’s Rights at the League of Nations and the United Nations,” in Patricia Grimshaw, Katie Holmes and Marilyn Lake eds., Women’s Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave).

Lake, Marilyn and Henry Reynolds (2008), Drawing the Global Colour Line. White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge, New York, etc.: Cambridge University Press).

Catherine A. MacKinnon, “Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights,” and Rhonda Copelon, “Surfacing Gender: Reengraving Crimes Against Women in Humanitarian Law” in Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, ed. Alexandra Stigalmeyer (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

Miller, Carol (1994), “‘Geneva – the Key to Equality’: Inter-war Feminists and the League of Nations,”Women’s History Reviewvol. 3, no. 2, 218-245.

Offen, Karen (2001), “Women’s Rights or Human Rights? International Feminism between the Wars,” in Patricia Grimshaw, Katie Holmes and Marilyn Lake eds., Women’s Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave) 243-253.

Valerie Oosterveld, “Prosecution of Gender-Based Crimes in International Law,” in Gender, Conflict, and Peacekeeping, ed. Dyan Mazurana, Angela Raven-Roberts, and Jane Parpart (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)

Peters, Julie and Andrea Wolper eds. (1995), Women’s Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives (New York, NY [etc.]: Routledge).

Pietilä, Hilkka (2007), The Unfinished Story of Women and the United Nations (New York, UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service):

Pietilä, Hilkka and Jeanne Vickers (1996), Making Women Matter: The Role of the United Nations (London: Zed; third ed).

TV. Spike Peterson, “Whose Rights? A Critique of the ‘Givens’ in Human Rights Discourse,” Alternatives, XV, 1990, pp. 303 – 344.

Popa, Raluca Maria (2009), “Women Activists from Hungary and Romania in the International Women’s Year. Translating Equality between Women and Men across Cold War Divides,” in Jill Massino and Shana Penn eds., Gender Politics and Everyday Life in State Socialist East and Central Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan) 59-74.

Elisabeth Prügl and Mary K. Meyer, eds., Gender Politics in Global Governance (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999)

Ferree, Myra Marx and Aili Mari Tripp (2006), Global Feminism: Transnational Women’s Activism Organizing, and Human Rights (New York: New York University Press).

Margaret Snyder, ‘The Politics of Women and Development,” Ch. 7 in Anne Winslow ed. (1995), Women, Politics, and the United Nations (Westport; London: Greenwood Press) 95-116.

Carolyn M. Stephenson, “Women’s International Nongovernmental Organizations at the United Nations,” Ch. 9 in Anne Winslow ed. (1995), Women, Politics, and the United Nations (Westport; London: Greenwood Press) 135-153.

Skard, Toril, “Getting our History Right: How Were the Equal Rights of Women and Men Included in the Charter of the United Nations?,”Forum for Development Studies no. 1 (2008): 37-60.

Sluga, G. Internationalism in the Age of Internationalism, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (Human Rights series, 2013).

Sluga, G. The Nation, Psychology, and International Politics, 1870-1919 Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave (Transnational History series, 2006).

Sluga, G. ‘Gender’ in P. Finney (ed.), Palgrave Advances in International History (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009).

Sluga, G. ‘New Histories of the United Nations’ Journal of World 2008 History, 19 (3), pp. 251-274.

Sluga, G. ‘Spectacular Feminism: ‘The international history of women, world citizenship and human rights’, in Francisca de Haan, Margaret Allen, June Purvis and Krassimira Daskalova (eds), Women’s Activism: Global Perspectives from the 1890s to the present (Routledge, 2012)

Sluga, G. ‘Gender Images and the New World Order: On the European  Debates of an International Peace Order after the First World War’ in J. Davy et. al. (eds.), Pacifists/Pacifism: Peace and Conflict research as Gender Research (2005).

Sluga, G. Women, Diplomacy, and International Politics (edited with C. James and G. Calvi) Routledge, 2015.

Walter, Lynn ed. (2001), Women’s Rights: A Global View (Westport; London: Greenwood Press).

Anne Winslow, ed. Women, Politics, and the United Nations. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Winslow, Anne, “Specialized Agencies and the World Bank,” Ch. 10 in Anne Winslow ed. (1995), Women, Politics, and the United Nations (Westport; London: Greenwood Press) 155-175.

Zinsser, Judith P. (2002), “From Mexico to Copenhagen to Nairobi: The United Nations Decade for Women, 1975-1985,” Journal of World History vol. 13 no. 1, 139-168.
Francisca de Haan, Margaret Allen, June Purvis and Krassimira Daskalova (eds), Women’s Activism: Global Perspectives from the 1890s to the present (Routledge, 2012)

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Welcome to the newly relaunched WIG—the Web’s richest location for historians of women’s transnational activism.

Previous subscribers–rest assured, you’re still with us.  New subscribers—sign up for our RSS feed.

Everyone—join the conversation.  WIG grew out of the 2010 Amsterdam meeting of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History (IFRWH).   Founded in 1985, IFRWH meets every five years with the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS, founded in 1926), and holds a more informal meeting during the interval between ICHS meetings.   The IFRWH meets soon in Sheffield, England, August 29 to Sept. 1, 2013.

In Amsterdam in 2010, Glenda Sluga and I and met with Eileen Boris and Barbara Caine and others to plan a blog that we named WIG—Women, Internationalisms and Gender.   Launched from a server at the State University of New York, Binghamton in 2011, WIG grew into a useful means of communication among scholars of women’s transnational history.  Now on the eve of the Sheffield meeting we want to make it even more useful — with more scholars posting and exchanging ideas.

So we have cleared all previous posts, enlarged the editorial board, and decentralized WIG’s organization.  Teams of editorial board members will organize blog discussions for two months each.  All will focus on women’s international history, but they will bring different perspectives to that focus.  We’ll begin with Glenda Sluga and Kitty Sklar in International/ Global women’s history in September and October.  Barbara Molony and Febe Pamonag are organizing a team that will discuss women’s international history from the perspective of Asian women’s history in November and December.  Eileen Boris will lead a team that will discuss women’s international history from the perspective of women’s transnational policy history in May and June.  Jenny Thigpen is organizing a team on women missionaries.  Katherine Sadler is organizing a team on African women’s history. We’ll announce other team leaders soon.   Interested in joining or leading a team?  Please contact Kitty Sklar.

Please join our discussions. Help us nurture and shape the growth of women’s transnational history.  Wish you could communicate with scholars working on topics related to your research on women’s transnational activism?  Or test new ideas?  Or keep up with the field’s burgeoning growth?  WIG can help in these ways and more.

So—subscribe!  And let us hear from you.

Kitty Sklar and Glenda Sluga

Kitty Kish Sklar                                                           Glenda Sluga
Distinguished Professor Emerita                            Professor of International History
State University of New York, Binghamton          University of Sydney

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