Through Women's Eyes
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|"Nothing captures the
historic links between American and international feminism better
than the story of International Women’s Day, which was
first celebrated in 1908 by American socialist women. The celebration
was carried through the international socialist and communist
movements until, in the 1960s, American women’s liberationists
rediscovered it when they visited Cuba and Vietnam. In 1981,
the U.S. Congress declared Women’s History Week (later
Women’s History Month) as an official federal event.
International Women’s Day is still
celebrated around the world and connects far-flung women’s
movements to each other."
In writing about the last third of the 20th century
through the eyes of women, there is a strong tendency to write triumphantly.
Paying attention to the differences and tensions — race and
ethnicity, class, sexual preference — within the feminism
of the late 1960s and 1970s helps to counter this inclination, as
does exploration of later feminist writings of the 1980s and ’90s.
Finally, the changes and gains in women’s lives
must be situated within larger economic shifts such as deregulation,
deindustrialization and globalization, emphasizing the emergence
of a distinctive “post-feminist” class gap between those
working women with professional or corporate positions and those
working women, increasingly immigrant, who take up the domestic
and familial obligations of wealthier women.
When U.S. women’s history first emerged as
a new, exciting field, scholars debated at what point it would no
longer be necessary to study women separately from men. Now that
the field has developed, we see that the more we learn, the more
there is to learn, and that women’s history is not a finite
field of scholarly possibilities that will one day be exhausted.
But it is also true that as the discoveries of women’s history
multiply, scholars should attend to the details of integrating our
findings within the larger tale of U.S. history. Since women were
always there, women’s history can be integrated into all historical
subjects, from industrialization to globalization, from manifest
destiny to the Cold War. As a scholar in this field, it has been
a truly illuminating experience to revision U.S. history through
Professor of History
is co-author, with Lynn
Dumenil of Occidental
College, of Through Women’s Eyes: An American History
With Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005).