When the announcement of WASMI’s online inauguration arrived, I happened to be (re)reading a comment by the editors of a 2006 biographical dictionary of women in Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe that “it is safe to say that the history of women’s movements and feminisms is largely unwritten”—and nodding in agreement.[i] How fortuitous! Even after all the work of thousands of historians of women, especially during the past forty years of its resurgence in academia, women’s historic struggles against gender injustice remain barely known to most of the world. Clearly we still have a lot of labor left to do. Everything that spreads this knowledge increases the power of those seeking justice for women. WASMI can play an important role in international communication about women’s rights.
Especially for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and found the doors into much of the world closed to us, the past two decades have brought exciting new opportunities to meet and work with our counterparts outside North America and Western Europe, including authors of the above volume. My own first venture onto the international organizational stage came in July 2005, at the conference of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History (IFRWH) held in Sydney, Australia during the 20th International Congress of Historical Sciences. There I met historians of women from all over the world. More recently, one evening during the 2010 conference of the European Social Science History Council in Ghent, Belgium, I sat at table, glasses raised, with historians of women from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, England, the Netherlands, and Russia. I met others from elsewhere at last August’s IFRWH conference in Amsterdam. On just one day, emailing about women’s history, I have touched colleagues in Bulgaria, China, and England.
Perhaps all this won’t seem so remarkable to scholars of a generation younger than myself. But for me, a veteran student from the more nationalistic 1960s and 1970s, it remains wonderful in all senses of the word.
Marilyn J. Boxer, Professor of History Emerita, San Francisco State University
[i] A Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms: Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries, ed. Francisca de Haan, Krassimira Daskalova and Anna Loufti (Budapest and New York: Central European Press, 2006).