Mothering the world: the making of a gendered internationalism

Helen McCarthy

in The British People and the League of Nations

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780719086168
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702659 | DOI:
Mothering the world: the making of a gendered internationalism

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This chapter investigates the extent and nature of women's League-related activism in interwar Britain. The League of Nations Union (LNU)'s recruiting efforts were profoundly gendered. Its propaganda reinforced the broader trend away from the ideals of ‘manliness’ prevalent before 1914. It also followed the example of the political parties by tending to conceptualise women in homogenising terms. Gender relations preserved tokenism and male power whilst simultaneously offering opportunities for female leadership and self-assertion. The chapter then turns to the major event of the movement's history—the Peace Ballot—treating it as a case study in which the operation of gender can be viewed in particularly sharp relief. Gender relations within the LNU exhibited strong continuities with those prevalent in the mixed political movements of the pre-Suffrage era. Sexual difference was so commonplace a feature of public life that the contradictions made little dent in the League's appeal.

Keywords: League of Nations Union; activism; Britain; manliness; political parties; gender relations; Peace Ballot; sexual difference

Chapter.  13864 words. 

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