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1914-Present Document 1
Latin America:
Keen and Hayes. Cuban Revolution. A History of Latin America.
Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.
Social relations changed slowly in Latin America. Inequalities based on ethnicity continued in some
places. Women had entered the labor force in large numbers but began to gain the vote only aftel'1929.
However their status was in many ways closer to that of women in Western Europe than to those of
Asia or Africa. Population growth, urbanization, and the migration of workers continued to challenge
the region as both politicians and artists tried to identify and confront persistent problems.
Despite the structural, political, and international conditions that have frustrated Latin American
attempts at profound reform, there have been great changes during the 20th century. Problems of ethnicity, gender, and class continue to influence many of these societies. The movement of populations
and their settlement has also been a major feature of the century. These aspects of social life are just
two of the continuing historical processes of Latin America.
Social and gender relations have changed during the century. We have already seen how countries
such as Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia sought to enfranchise their Indian populations during this century in
different ways and with differing degrees of success. National ideologies and actual practice often are
not the same, and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity continues in many places. To be called
Indian is still an insult in many places in Latin America. Although ethnic and cultural mixture
characterizes many Latin American populations and makes Indian and African elements important
features of national identity, relations with Indian populations often continue to be marked by
exploitation and discrimination in nations as diverse as Brazil, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Slow Change in Women's Roles
The role of women has changed slowly. After World War I, women in Latin America continued to
live under inequalities in the workplace and in politics. Women were denied the right to vote anywhere
in Latin America until Ecuador enfranchised women in 1929 and Brazil and Cuba did the same in
1932. Throughout most of the region, those examples were not followed until the 1940s and 1950s. In
some nations, the traditional associations of women with religion and the Catholic Church in Hispanic
life made reformers and revolutionaries fear that women would become a conservative force in
national politics. This attitude, combined with traditional male attitudes that women should be
concerned only with home and family, led to a continued exclusion of women from political life. In
response, women formed various associations and clubs and began to push for the vote and other
issues of interest to them.
Feminist organizations, suffrage movements, and international pressures eventually combined to
bring about change. In Argentina, 15 bills for female suffrage were introduced in the senate before the
vote was won in 1945. Sometimes the victory was a matter of political expediency for those in power:
In the Dominican Republic and some other countries, the enfranchisement of women was a strategy
used by conservative groups to add more conservative voters to the electorate in an effort to hold off
political change. In Argentina, recently enfranchised women became a major pillar of the Peronist
regime, although that regime suppressed female political opponents such as Victoria Ocampo, editor of
the important literary magazine Sur.
Women eventually discovered that the ability to vote did not in itself guarantee political rights or
the ability to have their specific issues heard. After achieving the vote, women tended to join the
national political parties, where traditional prejudices against women in public life limited their ability
to influence political programs. In Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, for example, the integration
of women into national political programs has been slow, and women have not participated in
proportion to their numbers. In a few cases, however, such as in the election of Peron in Argentina in
1946 and Eduardo Frei in Chile in 1964, or in the popular opposition to Salvador Salvador Allende, Chili
in 1972.
Some of the earliest examples of mobilization of women and their integration into the national
labor force of various Latin American nations came in the period just before World War I and
continued there after. The classic roles of women as homemakers, mothers, and agricultural workers
were expanded as women entered the industrial labor force in growing numbers. By 1911 in Argentina,
for example, women made up almost 80 percent of the textile and clothing industry's workers. But
women found that their salaries often were below those of comparable male workers and that their
jobs, regardless of the skill levels demanded, were considered unskilled and thus less well paid. Under
these conditions, women, like other workers, joined the anarchist, socialist, and other labor unions and
Labor organizations are only a small part of the story of women in the labor force. In countries
such as Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, women working in the markets control much small-scale
commerce and have become increasingly active politically. In the growing service sectors, women
have also become an important part of the labor force. Shifts in attitudes about women's roles have
come more slowly than political and economic changes. Even in revolutionary Cuba, where a Law of
the Family guaranteed equal rights and responsibilities within the home, enforcement has been
By the mid-1990s, the position of women in Latin America was closer to that in Western Europe
and North America than to the other areas of the world. Women made up 9 percent of the legislators in
Latin America, a percentage higher than in any other region of the world. They also held 9 percent of
the cabinet posts, standing second only to North America's 12 percent. In terms of demographic patterns, health, education, and place in the work force, the comparative position of women reinforced
Latin America's intermediate position between the developed nations and the Third World.
In 1920, Alfredo Zayas, a former liberal who had participated in an unsuccessful revolt in 1917, won
the presidency with conservative support. Troubled over the crash of sugar prices in the second half of
1920 and the resulting political unrest in Cuba, President Warren Harding sent General Enoch Crowder
to Cuba in January 1921 as his special representative. In effect, Crowder ruled Cuba from his
headquarters on board the battleship Minnesota until 1923, when he became United States ambassador.
In the last two years of the Zayas administration, Cuban nationalism revived. Crowder's blatant
meddling in Cuban politics and the postwar collapse of Cuban sugar revealed the disastrous
consequences of foreign domination and monoculture. Searching for solutions to these problems,
Cuban university students, one-quarter of whom were women, entered the political arena in the
postwar period. Believing that to change society they must change the university, they directed their
first attacks against inept and corrupt professors and administrators; In 1922 students at the University
of Havana demonstrated for reforms along the lines of the recent university reform in Argentina.
Students would henceforth play an important role in Cuban politics until the fall of Batista In 1959.
Women also played Increasingly Influential roles in Cuba. Economic growth, especially in household
services, textiles, and the tobacco and sugar-refining industries, created greater employment for
women outside the home. But as they moved "from the house to the streets," in the words of historian
Lynn Stoner, women brought to their public activities a communal consciousness forged in family life.
Even the Women's Club, organized in 1917 and composed primarily of upper- and middle-class
women, insisted that the state, the pater familias of Cuban society, should regulate domestic-social
relations consistent with the common welfare. It therefore supported woman suffrage, equal pay for
equal work, greater access to education, and civil equality.
Castro spent nineteen months in prison on the Isle of Pines. During this period, the leadership of
the 26th of July Movement fell largely to women compatriots like Haydee Santamaria, a founding
member of the 1952 anti-Batista resistance, and Melba Hernandez, the intrepid lawyer who had
defended Castro at trial. They forged political alliances with other anti-Batista groups like the
Association of United Cuban Women, led by Gloria Cuadras, and the Women's Marti Civic Front,
organized by Carmen Castro Porta, whose anti-dictatorial activities were rooted in struggles against
the Machado regime in the 1920’s.
Together, they built a network of urban and rural women who served the revolution as lawyers,
interpreters, medical aides, grassroots organizers, educators, spies, messengers, and armed
combatants, In addition to Cella Sanchez, perhaps Cuba's best-known woman guerilla, the revolution
also spawned a female combat unit known as the "Mariana Grajales” Brigade, in honor of the
"heroic mother” of the Afro-Cuban independence fighter, Antonio Maceo.
By 1955, these women had produced and distributed some ten thousand copies of Castro's History
Will Absolve Me, which enhanced his reputation. Batista's general amnesty freed him in 1955, and
shortly thereafter he went to Mexico to organize a new attack on the dictatorship.
By mid-1957, violence, especially in Havana, had become endemic as various groups, most
unaffiliated with Castro's 26th of July Movement, attacked the regime and met with brutal
retaliation. Even women revolutionaries, insulated from earlier repression by the regime's sexism,
began to experience wholesale arrests, torture, and imprisonment. But they maintained a sense of
humor; when their lawyer. Margo Aniceto Rodriguez, was also imprisoned for denouncing Batista's
terrorism, other jailed rebels joked that "Margo is such a good lawyer that, if she cannot free us, she
at least comes to stay with us in prison."
1914-Present Document 2
Keen and Hayes. Cuban Revolution. A History of Latin America.
Despite its mixed economic record, the revolution's achievements in the areas of employment, equitable distribution of
income, public health, and education were remarkable. Until the onset of the 1990 economic crisis, which caused many
factories to shut down due to lack of fuel, Cuba had the lowest rate of joblessness in Latin America. But even workers
who were laid off because of plant closings continued to receive 60 percent of their wages. Inequalities In the standard of
living were dramatically reduced from the days of Batista. The working classes in particular benefited from government
policies; rents were controlled, limited to no more than 10 percent of income, as were rationed food prices (but the
government tolerated an open market in farm products). Eighty percent of Cubans owned their own homes. Agricultural
workers on state farms and cooperatives got furnished houses with televisions and community recreational centers.
Cuban city streets had virtually no beggars and sidewalk vendors, which set them apart from their Latin American
counterparts. Education and health care were free and equally accessible to all.
The revolution had always promised equality and social justice, but these were special goals of the Cuban Women's
Federation (FMC), organized in 1960 under Vilma Espin's leadership. The FMC played a crucial role early in the development of revolutionary social services: literacy crusades reduced illiteracy from 24 to 4 percent; a national child-care
system freed women, Irrespective of class, to pursue their own careers; an innovative rural education program taught
vocational skills and provided peasant women with modern health-care information; and schools for maids and
prostitutes discouraged exploitation of women and retrained them as professionals in socially productive activities.
Since then, the FMC, Latin America's largest women's organization with a membership of 3 million has continued to
influence Cuban policy regarding health care, education, women's employment, daycare, sexual discrimination, and
family life. For example, it secured passage of the 1975 Family Code, which recognized the equal right of both spouses
to education and career, required them to share in household duties and child care, and established divorce as a legal
remedy for any spouse whose mate refused to comply. Although a 1988 survey showed that men worked only 4.52 hours
per week at home while women worked 22.28 hours, it also revealed the law's potential: most respondents acknowledged
that this inequity was diminishing steadily.
The extremely difficult economic situation produced by the collapse of the socialist economic community and the
tightened U.S. embargo temporarily reversed the trend of steadily improving social conditions and produced a decline in
living standards. During this "special period," most Cubans lived on a drab diet of white rice and red beans,
supplemented by some vegetables and fruit an occasional chicken, and what they could purchase on the open market.
The food rationing system, however, prevented the emergence of the massive hunger and malnutrition so common in the
rest of Latin America.
Children continued to be special objects of the government's solicitude. Children aged seven and under and pregnant
women received a daily distribution of milk. Cuba's infant mortality in 1993, 9.4 per 1,000 live births, was among the
lowest in the world and almost equal with that (9.1) of the United States. Despite the growth of hardships and resulting
slippage in living standards, Cuba continued to lead all other Latin American countries in the quality of life it provides
its children. A 1993 study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) noted that, among other things, Cuban
children had a greater chance at survival, with 12 deaths per 1,000 children up to the age of five. The average for Central
America and the Caribbean was forty-seven and for South America fifty-four. The most recent estimate of life
expectancy in Cuba, 75.9 years, compared to average life expectancy of 58.2 years in the underdeveloped world. Cuba
had the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio in Latin America. According to a 1990 study in the Latin American Research
Review, Cuba had "transformed itself into a world-class health-care provider, an extraordinary achievement."
Sophisticated medical procedures performed in Cuba included heart transplants, heart-lung transplants, and
microsurgery. The educational budget amounted to 7 percent of the nation's GNP, the highest in Latin America. The
population had an average of a ninth-grade education, and illiteracy was wiped out. Undoubtedly, most Cubans benefited
from the revolution, which explains their extraordinary support for it, almost forty years later in the midst of its deepest
economic crisis. According to an independent 1994 poll, commissioned by the Miami Herald and conducted by a Costa
Rican affiliate of the Gallup Organization, 69 percent of Cubans identified themselves as revolutionaries, socialists, or
communists and 58 percent believed the revolution had produced more achievements than failures.
1914-Present Document 3
Gender in the U.S. 1950’s and 1960’s (Cold War)
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
When Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon squared off in the kitchen debate in Moscow, their argument
underscored the importance of women and domesticity as a means of understanding the differences between
their respective societies and by extension, between all capitalist and communist societies. Citizens of the
United States, like Nixon, celebrated the wondrous home appliances that made the lives of housewives and
mothers so comfortable and that distinguished these U.S. women from their toiling Soviet counterparts.
Clinging to the notion that U.S. women best served their families and their nation by staying home and
rearing patriotic children, social and political leaders in the United States believed that families provided the
best defense against communist infiltration in their nation. Women did not need to work, as they did in the
Soviet Union, because their husbands earned enough to support the family in suburban splendor and because
a mother's most important job was keeping the family happy and loyal.
Cold war concerns about the spread of communism reached into the domestic sphere, particularly in the
United States. Politicians, F.B.I. agents, educators, and social commentators warned of communist spies
trying to undermine the institutions of U.S. life, and Senator Joseph McCarthy (1909-1957) became infamous
in the early 1950s for his unsuccessful quest to expose communists in the U.S. government. Supporting any
radical or liberal cause, or behaving in any odd way, nonetheless subjected citizens of the United States to
suspicions about their loyalty. Thousands of citizens, especially those who were or once had been members of
the Communist Party, lost their jobs and reputations after being deemed risks to their nation's security.
Conformity to a socially sanctioned way of life thus became the norm during the early, most frightening years
of the cold war. Staying safely protected in family life meant avoiding suspicion and ignoring some of the
more anxious elements of the cold war as waged by the United States-the atomic peril in particular. Some
scholars have dubbed this U.S. retreat to the home and family "domestic containment," indicating its
similarity to the U.S. foreign policy of the containment of international communism.
While the burden of domestic containment fell on all members of the family, women were most affected
by its restraints. Married women in the United States actually worked in larger numbers during the cold war
than during World War II, and many began to resent having to feel shame or guilt at not living up to the
domestic ideals being showcased on the new and widely viewed television shows that sustained the U.S.
public during the cold war. Not all women aspired to be June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963 TV
show), and female discontent with postwar domesticity in the United States helped to fuel the modem
feminist movement. Aligning themselves to some extent with women in societies like the Soviet Union and
taking inspiration from women in Asia and Africa who fought for their independence from the colonial
powers---and often won legal equality as a result--U.S. women rejected cold war norms and agitated for their
own equal rights.
Building on the dissatisfaction that had surfaced after World II with the often forcible return to the home
from war work, women in European and North American societies expressed a newfound understanding of
their oppression at the hands of men. French writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) wrote The Second Sex in
1949, denouncing the second-class status of women. In 1963 U.S. author Betty Friedan (1921-) published The
Feminine Mystique, laying bare the severe unhappiness of women who presumably enjoyed the best life the
Cold War United States could provide. Feminists provided just one signal that not all was well within the
capitalist orbit, as African-Americans and university students around the world also contested elements of
cold war life. When student radicals began to object to U.S. policies in Vietnam, for example, rioting and
demonstrating from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, it became clear that a consensus about Cold War
policies had broken down. Women activists started to adopt the very language and terms of both Marxism
and anti-colonialism in their own quest for equality and independence. They referred to women as an
"oppressed class" and argued against male “colonization" of female bodies and for "women's liberation."
Support for domestic containment, and containment itself, wavered.
1914-Present Document 4
The Women's Revolution in Western Europe and the U.S.
Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, a Global Experience. 4th ed. 2008.
A key facet of postwar change involved women and the family; again, both Western Europe and the United States participated
in this upheaval. Although family ideals persisted in contradictory ways, with workers urging that "a loving family is the finest
thing, something to work for, to look to and to look after," the realities of family life changed in contradictory ways. Family
leisure activities expanded. Extended family contacts were facilitated by telephones and automobiles. More years of schooling
increased the importance of peer groups for children, and the authority of parents declined.
The clearest innovation in family life came through the new working patterns of women. World War II brought more
factory and clerical jobs for women, as World War I had done. After a few years of downward adjustment, the trends
continued. From the early 1950s onward, the number of working women, particularly married women, rose steadily in Western
Europe, the United States, and Canada. Women's earlier educational gains had improved their work qualifications; the growing
number of service jobs created a need for additional workers. Many women also sought entry into the labor force as a means of
adding to personal or family income, affording some of the consumer items now becoming feasible but not yet easy to buy or
fulfilling themselves personally in a society that associated worth with work and earnings.
The growing employment of women brought the female segment of the labor force up to 44 percent of the total in most
western countries by the 1970s. To be sure, full job equality was not achieved. Most women were concentrated in clerical jobs
rather than spread through the occupational spectrum, despite a growing minority of middle-class women who were entering
professional and management ranks. Clearly, however, the trends of the 19th century Industrial Revolution, which had kept
women and family separate from work outside the home, had yielded to a dramatic new pattern.
Other new rights for women accompanied this shift. Where women had lacked the vote before, as in France, they now got
it. Women made gains in higher education, although again full equality remained elusive. Family rights improved, at least in
the judgment of most women's advocates. Access to divorce increased, which many observers viewed as particularly important
to women. Abortion law eased, though more slowly in countries of Catholic background than in Britain or Scandinavia; it
became increasingly easy for women to regulate their reproduction. The development of new birth control methods, such as the
contraceptive pill, introduced in 1960, and growing knowledge and acceptability of birth control, decreased unwanted
pregnancies. Sex and procreation became increasingly separate considerations. Although women continued to differ from men
in sexual outlook and behavior, for example, more than twice as many French women as men hoped to link sex, marriage, and
romantic love, according to 1960s polls, more women than before tended to define sex in terms of pleasure.
Predictably, changes in the family, including the roles of women, raised new issues and redefined ideals of companionship.
The first issue involved children. A brief increase in the Western birth rate ended in the early 1960s, and a rapid decline
ensued. By the 1990s countries such as Italy and Greece were no longer maintaining population levels except by immigration.
The greater number of employed women and the desire to use income for high consumer standards worked against having
children, or very many children, particularly in the middle class. Increasingly, children were sent, often at an early age, to day
care centers, one of the amenities provided by the European welfare state. At the same time, however, some observers worried
that Western society was becoming indifferent to children in an eagerness for adult work and consumer achievements. For
example, between the 1950s and 1980s American adults shifted their assessment of family satisfaction away from parenthood
by concentrating on shared enjoyments between husbands and wives.
Family stability also showed new cracks. Pressures to readjust family roles, women working outside the family context,
and growing legal freedom for women caused men and women alike to turn more readily to divorce. In 1961, 9 percent of all
British marriages ended in divorce; by 1965, the figure was 16 percent and rising. By the late 1970s, one-third of all British
marriages ended in divorce; and the U.S. rate was even higher.
A new surge of feminist protest showed the strains caused by women's new activities amid continued limitations. The
growing divorce rate produced an increase of female poverty. New work roles revealed the persistent earnings gap between
men and women.
A new feminism began to take shape with the publication in 1949 of The Second Sex by French intellectual Simone de
Beauvoir. Betty Friedan popularized and Americanized this thinking with her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, a
college graduate who had worked in psychology before marrying, had moved to the suburbs and raised three children in the
1950s. Her role left her deeply dissatisfied, and she urged women's work and equality, writing for women's magazines and
interviewing many women equally frustrated with the suburban dream. Divorced in 1969, Friedan helped found the National
Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Efforts of this sort, throughout the West, launched a new wave of women's rights
agitation after three decades of calm. Compared to earlier efforts, the new feminism tended to emphasize a more literal equality
that would play down special domestic roles and qualities
Thus, even as social class tensions declined in the West, compared with the century of industrialization, new divisions
became important. Gender conflict was an obvious new issue, but so was the gap between racial minorities, new or old, and
established white populations.
1914-Present Document 5
Mobilizing Women in the Soviet Union
McKay et al., A History of World Societies, Vol. II, 4th ed.
The radical transformation of Soviet society had a profound impact on women's lives. Marxists had
traditionally believed that both capitalism and the middle-class husband exploited women. The Russian
Revolution of 1917 immediately proclaimed complete equality of rights for women. In the 1920s divorce
and abortion were made easily available, and women were urged to work outside the home and liberate
themselves sexually. The most prominent Bolshevik feminist, Alexandra Kollontai, went so far as to declare
that the sex act had no more significance than "drinking a glass of water." This observation drew a sharp
rebuke from the rather prudish Lenin, who said that "no sane man would lie down to drink from a puddle in
the gutter or even drink from a dirty glass.” After Stalin came to power, sexual and familial liberation was
played down, and the most lasting changes for women involved work and education.
These changes were truly revolutionary. Young women were constantly told that they had to be fully
equal to men, that they could and should do anything men could do. Peasant women in Russia had long
experienced the equality of backbreaking physical labor in the countryside, and they continued to enjoy
that equality on collective farms. With the advent of the five-year plans, millions of women also began to
toil in factories and in heavy construction, building dams, roads, and steel mills in summer heat and
winter frost. Yet most of the opportunities open to men through education were also open to women.
Determined women pursued their studies and entered the ranks of the better-paid specialists in industry
and science. Medicine practically became a woman's profession. By 1950, 75 percent of all doctors in the
Soviet Union were women.
Thus Stalinist society gave women great opportunities but demanded great sacrifices as well. The vast
majority of women simply had to work outside the home. Wages were so low that it was almost
impossible for a family or couple to live only on the husband's earnings. Moreover, the full-time working
woman had a heavy burden of household tasks in her off hours, for most Soviet men in the 1930s still
considered the home and the children the woman's responsibility. Men continued to monopolize the best
jobs. Finally, rapid change and economic hardship led to many broken families, creating further physical,
emotional, and mental strains for women. In any event, the often neglected human resource of women
was ruthlessly mobilized in Stalinist society. This, too, was an aspect of the Soviet totalitarian state.
1914-Present Document 6
Women in Asian and African Nationalist Movements
Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.
One important but .often neglected dimension of the liberation struggles that Asian and African peoples waged
against their colonial overlords was the emergence of educated, articulate and politically active women in most
colonial societies. The educational opportunities provided by the European colonizers often played as vital a role as
they had in the formation of male leadership in nationalist movements. Missionary girls' schools were confined in
the early stages of European involvement in Africa and Asia to the daughters of low-class or marginal social
groups. But by the end of the 19th century they had became respectable for women from the growing Westernized
business and professional classes. In £act, in many cases same degree of Western education was essential if
Westernized men were to find wives with whom they could share their career concerns and intellectual pursuits.
The seemingly insurmountable barriers that separated Westernized Asian and African men from their
traditional-and thus usually without formal education-wives became a stock theme in the novels and short stories of
the early nationalist era. This concern was perhaps best exemplified by the works of Rabindranath Tagore. The
problem was felt so acutely by the first generation of Indian nationalist leaders that many took up the task of
teaching their wives English and Western philosophy and literature at home. Thus, for many upper-class Asian and
African women, colonization proved a liberating force. This trend was often offset by the male-centric nature of
colonial education and the domestic focus of the curriculum in women's schools.
Although women played little role in the early, elitist stages of Asian and African nationalist movements, they
often became more and more prominent as the early study clubs and political associations reached out to build a
mass base. In India, women who had been exposed to Western education and European ways, such as Tagore's
famous heroine in the novel The Home and the World, came out of seclusion and took up supporting roles,
although they were still usually behind the scenes. Gandhi's campaign to supplant imported, machine-made British
cloth with homespun Indian cloth, for example, owed much of its success to female spinners and weavers. As
nationalist leaders moved their anti-colonial campaigns into the streets, women became involved in mass
demonstrations. Throughout the 1920s arid 1930s, Indian women braved the lathi, or billy club, assaults of the
Indian police; suffered the indignities of imprisonment; and launched their own newspapers and lecture campaigns
to mobilize female support for the nationalist struggle.
In Egypt, the British made special note of the powerful effect that the participation of both veiled women and
more Westernized upper-class women had on mass demonstrations in 1919 and the early 1920s. These outpourings
of popular support did much to give credibility to the Wafd's demands for British withdrawal. In both India and
Egypt, female nationalists addressed special appeals to British and American suffragists to support their struggles
for political and social liberation. In India in particular, their causes were advanced by feminists such as the
English champion of Hinduism, Annie Besant, who became a major figure in the nationalist movement both before
and after World War I.
When African nationalism became popularly supported after World War II, women, particularly the outspoken
and fearless market women in west Africa, emerged as a major political force. In settler colonies such as Algeria
and Kenya, where violent revolt proved necessary to bring down deeply entrenched colonial regimes, women took
on the dangerous tasks of messengers bomb carriers, and guerrilla fighters. As Frantz Fanon argued decades ago,
and as was later beautifully dramatized in the film The Battle of Algiers, this transformation was particularly
painful for women who had been in seclusion right up to the time of the revolutionary upsurge. The cutting of their
hair, as well as the wearing of lipstick and Western clothes, often alienated them from their own fathers and
brothers, who equated such practices with prostitution.
In many cases, women's participation in struggles for the political liberation of their people was paralleled by
campaigns for female rights in societies dominated by men. Upper-class Egyptian women founded newspapers and
educational associations that pushed for a higher marriage age, educational opportunities for women, and an end to
seclusion and veiling. Indian women took up many of these causes and also developed programs to improve
hygiene and employment opportunities for lower-caste women. These early efforts, as well as the prominent place
of women in nationalist struggles, had much to do with the granting of basic civil rights to women. These included
suffrage and legal equality that were key features of the constitutions of many newly independent Asian and
African nations. The majority of women in the new states of Africa and Asia have yet to enjoy most of these rights.
Yet their inclusion in constitutions and post-independence laws provides crucial backing for the struggles for
women's liberation in the nations of the postcolonial world.
1914-Present Document 7
Women's Subordination and the Nature of Feminist Struggles in the Postcolonial Era
Africa and Asia
Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.
The example of both the Western democracies and the communist republics of eastern Europe, where women had
won the right to vote in the early and mid-20th century, encouraged the founders of the emerging nations to write
female suffrage into their constitutions. The very active part women played in many nationalist struggles was
perhaps even more critical to their earning the right to vote and run for political office. Women's activism also
produced some semblance of equality in legal rights, education, and occupational opportunities under the laws of
many new nations.
However, the equality that was proclaimed on paper often bore little resemblance to the actual lights that most
African and Asian women could exercise. It also had little bearing on the conditions under which they lived their
daily lives. Despite the media attention given to women such as Indira Gandhi, Corazon Aquino, and Benazir
Bhutto, who have emerged in the decades since independence as national leaders, political life in most African and
Asian countries continues to be dominated by men. The overwhelming majority of elected officials and
government administrators, particularly at the upper levels of state bureaucracies, are men. Because they usually
are less well educated than their husbands, women in societies where genuine elections are held often do not
exercise their right to vote, or they simply vote for the party and candidates favored by their spouses.
Even the rise to power of individual women such as Indira Gandhi, who proved to be one of the most resolute
and powerful of all Third World leaders, is deceptive. In every case, female heads of state in the Third World
entered politics and initially won political support because they were connected to powerful men. Indira Gandhi
was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister; Corazon Aquino's husband was the martyred
leader of the Filipino opposition to Ferdinand Marcos; and Benazir Bhutto's father was a domineering Pakistani
prime minister who had been toppled by a military coup and was executed in the late 1970s. Lacking these sorts of
connections, most African and Asian women have been at best relegated to peripheral political positions and at
worst are allowed no participation in the political process.
The limited gains made by African or Asian women in the political sphere are paralleled by the second-class
position to which most are consigned in many societies. In some respects, their handicaps are comparable to those
that constrict women in the industrialized democracies and communist nations. But the obstacles to female selffulfillment, and in many cases mere survival, in emerging nations are usually much more blatant and fundamental
than the restrictions women have to contend with in developed societies. To begin with, early marriage ages for
women and large families are still the norm in most African or Asian societies. This means that women spend their
youthful and middle-age years having children. There is little time to think of higher education or a. career.
Because of the low level of sanitation in many African and Asian societies and the scarcity of food in many,
all but elite and upper middle-class women experience chronic anxiety about such basic issues as adequate
nutrition for their children and their susceptibility to disease. The persistence of male-centric customs directly
affects the health and life expectancy of women themselves. For example, the Indian tradition that dictates that
women first serve their husbands and sons and then eat what is left has obvious disadvantages. The quantity and
nutritional content of the leftovers is likely to be lower than of the original meals, and in tropical environments flies
and other disease bearing insects are more likely to have fouled the food.
The demographic consequences of these social patterns can be dramatic. In the 1970s, for example, it was
estimated that as much as 20 percent of the female population of India was malnourished and that another 30
percent had a diet that was well below acceptable United Nations levels. In sharp contrast to the industrial societies
of Japan, the United States and Europe where women outnumber (because on the average they outlive) men, in
India there are only 930 females for every 1000 males.
Although the highly secular property and divorce laws many new states passed after independence have given
women much greater legal protection, many of these measures are ignored in practice. Very often, African and
Asian women have neither the education nor the resources to exercise their legal rights. The spread of religious
revivalism in many cases has further eroded these rights, even though advocates of a return to tradition often argue
that practices such as veiling and stoning for women (but not men) caught in adultery actually enhance their dignity
and status. Most Asian and African women continue to be dominated by male family members, are much more
limited than men in their career opportunities, and are likely to be less well fed, educated, and healthy than men at
comparable social levels.
1914-Present Document 8
The Contemporary World in the United States
Macridis, Roy & Hulliung, Mark, "Contemporary Political Ideologies," 1996
Radek, Kimberly M. “Women in Literature” 2001.
Spodek, Howard "The World's History," vol 2. 1998
The women of the 20th century following in the foot step of their feminist ancestors continuing the
fight for the total realization of the goals of the right to vote, to archive equality in property rights,
access to education, access to jobs and fair pay, divorce, and children's custody.
So throughout the 20th century women continued fighting to archive equality in the work
place. In 1933 the National Industrial Recovery Act, which designed measure to expand employment
opportunities and safeguard jobs, was passed and with it women benefit from wage raise, shortest
working hours, and a number of employment opportunities. However the fight continued since this
provision only applied to the areas of trade and industry, so women working as clerks or domestic
where not cover.
The political arena is the one area, where we see a little bit of discontinuity between the feminist
of the 19th and 20th century. In the 1920, women finally archive one of their most desire goals, the
right to vote.
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 fueled the feminist movement, which had
been nearly dormant after 1920, and women began to demand change in politics, education, and
business, and brought the gender role debate into the national conscience.
Women saw a great payoff when the National Labor Relations Board was founded, since it gave
women workers, especially textile workers, the right to deal as a collective for better wages, and
working conditions. An even better reward for this continuous fight was the Equal Pay Act, which
established equal pay for men and women for the same kind of job, and prohibited discrimination
practices against women. This act was further broader with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which
expressly prohibited all discrimination on the bases of race, and sex. Finally the years and years of
fighting were paying off. These laws where not just word in papers, they were enforced by
institution like the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, in the case of The Civil Act of
In addition to fighting for equality in the working place, feminist in the 20th century were
fighting for women's education. Women could become lawyers and doctors, but these professions
were not always socially acceptable. The fear of social exclusion pushed women to concentrate in
professions that were socially acceptable like teaching, and nursing. For those women who chose to
be doctors or lawyers, even after they got their degrees there was no guarantee that they would be
able to practice in their field. In some occasions, women where not recognized by institution and
associations like the BAR association as professionals, so they could not get a license and practice.
So, just like in the work place, 20th century women continued to fight for equality when it came to
education. In 1966 women created the National Organization for women (NOW), along with the
Women's Bipartisan Causcus in 1971. These groups where dedicated to promote information, and
mobilize voters to demand equal education opportunities for women. These efforts did not fall in
deaf ears. In 1972, the Education Act was created. This act prohibited sex discrimination in
education. Finally the courts, number one enemy of feminists, let down their guards, and became
increasingly sympathetic toward women's issues, and began to strike down discriminatory legislation
and practices.
By the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, there were male movement groups as well as female
ones, because men were beginning to realize how restricted they had been by these rigid gender
roles. Men were being pressured to spend more time at work, even if they wanted to be at home
and/or family-centered. The gender debate became a media event, as talk shows, newspapers, and
magazines debated the issues, wondering, for instance, if men could cry, and if they could, should it
be allowed? Men were supposed to be logical and unemotional, after all, not emotional, could men’s
emotionalism be a sign of femininity? Within this climate the ERA was reintroduced, having been
proposed initially in 1923 and then abandoned when that activist force died after women felt equal
when they gained the right to vote. The ERA would mandate that equality of rights under the law
should not be abridged by the US or any state on account of sex. In that social climate, the ERA was
quickly ratified by 28 states in 1972.
By 1973, however, the climate was changing again, as political conservatives, devoted to the
traditional status quo and believing that the state of the nation was reflected in the condition of the
family, began to devote themselves to its defeat. Phyllis Schlafly, a respected female lawyer
organized the “Stop the ERA” group and traveled around the country—willing to sacrifice her
family’s moral health, apparently, for the larger threat of a national crisis of potentially motherless
families--organizing and propagandizing about the negative effects of passing ERA. As a political
tactician and strategist, she was brilliant. She convinced people that its passage would result in men
and women serving side by side in war together, using the same public restrooms, and allowing
homosexuals into the classroom with young children. Although she had no statistical facts to back
up these fears, she was persuasive enough. In order to pass, the ERA needed 38 states to ratify it. By
1975, only 35 had. By 1982 it was a dead issue: the time limit expired.
During the 20th century women wanted to be able to decide when to have children, or if to
have children at all. With the sexual liberation of women, for the first time there was talk about birth
control, and abortion. For the first time women would have a choice, in what happened with their
bodies. An example of this is the case Roe V. Wade (1973), where a state's anti abortion law was
declare unconstitutional.
The 1990s have been characterized by great changes in gender definitions. Worldwide, we
have seen Israeli women accepted as soldiers in their armies; in fact, much like ancient Egypt, both
men and women are compelled to serve. However, in Afghanistan, we saw the religious
fundamentalist group, the Taliban, seize control and compel educated women into leaving their
professions and wearing the veil, much like ancient Assyrian women, whenever they have to be out
in public. They are being denied access to medical treatment, as well, since it is inappropriate for
the male doctors to examine other men’s wives or daughters.
In the 1990s, American women learned that they can rise to leadership roles, but surveys
show that it requires more effort, that they have to be exceptionally better, and that they must devote
a great deal more time, than men. In addition, conservative groups like the Promise Keepers formed,
and conservative movement picked up, as more people are striving for the ideal of family values.
The 1990s showed that race and gender are still problems in the society during the 1991 Anita Hill
and Clarence Thomas hearings, a political fiasco so large that for the first time women were more
likely to vote as a block, and their efforts helped to removing President Bush and elect more female
representatives to government positions than ever before.
Women were somewhat active in the political arena. For example, in the US, in state
legislatures, the number of women in 1989 was about 20% compare to an 8% in 1975. In Illinois,
Carol Mosely Braun was elected Illinois’s first black female senator. That attitude toward the
importance of equality, however, did not last, as she was defeated in 1998 by an arch-conservative
devoted to family values. We have had women nominated for the position of Vice-President Geraldine Ferrero in 1984, and even women that ran for president - Pat Schroder, congresswomen
from Colorado, in 1988 and Hilary Clinton in 2008.
1914-Present Document 9
Contemporary Women's Traditions and Feminist Challenges
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
The status of women began changing after World War II. Women gained more economic, political, social,
and sexual rights in highly industrialized states than in developing nations, but nowhere have they achieved
full equality with men. While women have increasingly challenged cultural norms requiring their
subordination to men and confinement in the family, attainment of basic rights for women has been slow.
Agitation for gender equality is often linked to women's access to employment, and the industrialized nations
have the largest percentage of working women. Women constitute 40 to 50 percent of the workforce in
industrial societies, compared to only 20 percent in developing countries. In Islamic societies 10 percent or
less of the workforce is composed of women. In all countries women work primarily in low-paying jobs
designated as female; that is, teaching, service, and clerical jobs. Forty percent of all farmers are women,
many at the subsistence level. Rural African women, for example, do most of the continent's subsistence
farming and produce more than 70 percent of Africa's food. Whether they are industrial, service, or agricultural workers, women earn less than men earn for the same work and are generally kept out of the highest
paid professional careers.
The discrimination women faced in the workplace was a major stimulus for the feminist movement in
industrialized nations. Women in most of these nations had gained the right to vote after the Great War, but
they found that political rights did not guarantee economic or sexual equality. After World War II, when more
and more women went to work, women started to protest job discrimination, pay differentials between
women and men, and their lack of legal equality. In the 1960s these complaints expanded into a full-blown
feminist movement that critiqued all aspects of gender inequality. In the United States, for example, the civil
rights movement that demanded equality for African-Americans influenced the women's movement and
provided a training ground for women activists.
Women started to expose the ways in which a biologically determined understanding of gender led to their
oppression. In addition to demanding equality in the workplace, women demanded full control over their
bodies and their reproductive systems. Access to birth control and abortion became as essential to women's
liberation as economic equality and independence. Only with birth control measures would women be able to
determine whether or when to have children and thus avoid the notion that "biology is destiny." The U.S.
Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of both race and sex, and the introduction of
the birth control pill in the 1960s and legal protection of abortion in the 1970s provided a measure of sexual
freedom. The gender equality that an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would have secured never
materialized, however, as the amendment failed to achieve ratification before the 1982 deadline.
Some socialist or communist societies transformed their legal systems to ensure basic equality. Legally,
the position of women most closely matched that of men in communist or formerly communist countries like
the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China. "Women hold up half the sky," Mao Zedong had declared and this eloquent acknowledgment of women's role translated into a commitment to fairness. The communist dedication
to women's rights led to
improvement in the legal status of
communists gained power in China.
In 1950 communist leaders passed
the so-called marriage law, which
declared a "new democratic
marriage system, which, is based
on free choice of partners, on
monogamy, on equal rights for both
sexes, and on protection of the
lawful interests of women and
children," The law abolished
patriarchal practices like child betrothal and upheld equal rights for
men and women in the areas of work, property ownership, and inheritance,
Critics argue that despite such laws China's women have never gained true equality. Certainly few women
have gained high status in the Communist Party's leadership. And while most women in China have full-time
jobs outside the home, they do not receive wages equal to those of men. They do most of the work at home as
well. Nevertheless, they are able to enter most professions, although most Chinese women engage in menial
work. Long-standing Confucian values continue to degrade the status of women, especially in rural areas.
Parents almost universally prefer boys over girls, One unintended consequence of China's population policies,
which limits couples to one child, is the mysterious statistical disappearance of a large number of baby girls.
Demographers estimate that annually more than one-half million female births go unrecorded in government
statistics. Although no one can with certainty account for the "missing" girls, some population experts
speculate that a continued strong preference for male children causes parents to send baby girls away for
adoption or to be raised secretly, or in some cases to single them out for infanticide.
Although girls and women in industrial and communist nations are guaranteed basic if not fully equal
legal rights, and are educated in roughly the same numbers as boys and men, women in other areas of the
world have long been denied access to education. Expected to stay at home, girls and women have high
illiteracy rates in these societies. In Arab and Muslim lands, women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate,
and in some places nine of ten women are illiterate. This situation is beginning to change. Fifty years ago
most women in these societies were illiterate, but in the last twenty years girls have begun to catch up with
boys in education.
The same cannot be said for girls and women in India. In the 1980s only 25 percent of Indian women were
literate, and women remained largely confined to the home. The percentage of women in the workforce
declined to 12 percent, and the birth rate remained high despite birth control measures. This condition has
ensured a life of domesticity for many Indian women. The issue that has most dramatically illustrated the
perilous status of women in south Asia, though, is the prevalence of dowry deaths. What makes the birth of
girl children in India so burdensome is the custom of paying dowries (gifts of money or goods) to the husband
and his family upon a woman's marriage, a requirement that is difficult for many Indian families to meet. If
the husband and his family perceive the dowry as inadequate, if the husband wants a new wife without
returning his first wife's dowry, or even if the wife has simply annoyed the husband or her in-laws, the wife is
doused with kerosene and set on fire-so that her death can be explained as a cooking accident. Some seven
hundred official cases of dowry deaths were reported in Delhi alone in 1983.
This form of domestic abuse has not been restricted to India and Hindu women, but has spread through
south Asia. In Pakistan more than five hundred husbands set fire to their wives between 1994 and 1997. The
motives for burnings go beyond dowry, as husbands have set fire to wives who overcooked or over-salted the
men's food. The victims themselves, some of whom survive, voice perhaps the saddest aspect of this
treatment: resignation to their fate. One Pakistani survivor noted, "It's my fate. From childhood, I have seen
nothing but suffering." These attitudes may be changing, though, as Indian and Pakistani women activists
challenge these practices and establish shelters for women threatened with burning.
Around the world most women have the right to vote. They do not, however, exert political power
commensurate with their numbers. Some women have nonetheless attained high political offices or
impressive leadership positions. The same south Asia that revealed so many continued barriers to women's
rights on a day-to-day basis also elevated numerous women to positions of power, breaking down other
political barriers. Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) and Benazir Bhuto (1953-2008) led India and Pakistan as
effective politicians, having been raised by fathers who themselves were prominent in politics. In 1994
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (1945-) became the first female president of Sri Lanka. Both of her
parents had previously served as prime ministers, her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916-) became the first
elected woman prime minister in 1960. As president, Kumaratunga appointed her mother to serve a third term
as prime minister.
In Myanmar (formerly Burma), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-) has emerged as a leader, again deriving
her political authority from her father Aung San, assassinated in 1947. Assuming the leadership of the
democracy after her return from exile in 1988, Suu Kyi called for a nonviolent revolution against Myanmar's
"fascist government." The government placed her under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, during which time
she created a new political institution, the "gateside meeting," speaking to her followers from behind the gates
of her home. In the 1990 elections Suu Kyi and her party won a landslide victory, but they were not allowed
to come to power. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in 1991, she could not accept the award
personally because she was under house arrest.
Women demonstrated their leadership abilities in a variety of ways. They became highly visible political
figures, as in south Asia, or they more anonymously joined organizations or participated in activities designed
to further the cause of women's rights. The United Nations launched a Decade for Women program in 1975,
and since then global conferences on the status of women have been held regularly, attracting large crowds.
Even in Iran, where the Islamic revolution severely limited opportunities for women, internal forces could
radically transform the image and role of women. Today revolutionary patrols walk the streets of Tehran
making sure that women conform to the society's rule of dress and behavior, but during the war with Iraq,
Iranian women themselves became revolutionary, picking up guns and receiving weapons training. They
protected their national borders while defying gender boundaries.
1914-Present Document 11
Gender and the World Wars
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
World War I
As conscription took men out of the labor force, wartime leaders exhorted women to fill the gaps
in the workforce. Thus as men marched out to war, women marched off to work. A combination of
patriotism and high wages drew women into formerly "male" jobs. The lives of women changed as
they bobbed their hair and left home or domestic service for the workplace. Some took over the
management of farms and businesses left by their husbands who went off to fight. Others found jobs
as postal workers and police officers. Behind the battle lines, women were most visible as nurses,
doctors, and communications clerks.
Perhaps the most crucial work performed by women during the war was the making of shells.
Several million women, and sometimes children, put in long, hard hours in munitions factories. This
work exposed them to severe dangers. The first came simply from explosions, as keeping sparks
away from highly volatile materials was impossible. Many women died in these incidents, although
government censorship during the war made it difficult to know how many women perished in this
fashion. The other, more insidious danger came from working with TNT explosives. Although the
authorities claimed that this work was not dangerous, exposure to TNT caused severe poisoning, depending on the length of exposure. Even before serious illnesses manifested themselves, TNT
poisoning marked its victims by turning their skin yellow and their hair orange. The accepted though
ineffectual remedy for TNT poisoning was rest, good food, and plenty of fresh milk.
Middle- and upper-class women often reported that the war was a liberating experience, freeing
them from older attitudes that had limited both their work and their personal life. At the very least,
the employment of upper-class women spawned a degree of deliverance from parental control and
gave women a sense of mission. They knew that they were important to the war effort. The impact of
the Great War on the lives of working-class women, by contrast, was relatively minor. Many
working-class women in cities had long been accustomed to earning wages, and for them war work
proved less than liberating. Most of the belligerent governments promised equal pay for equal work,
but in most instances this promise remained unfulfilled though women's industrial wages rose during
the war, measurable gaps always remained between the incomes of men and women. In the end
massive female employment was a transitory phenomenon. With few exceptions the Great War only
briefly suspended traditional patterns of work outside the home. Nevertheless, the extension of
voting rights to women shortly after the war, at least in Britain (1918, for women thirty years and
older), Germany (1919), and Austria (1919), was in part due to the role women assumed during the
Great War. Later in the century, war and revolution continued to serve as at least temporary
liberating forces for women, as in Russia (1917) and China (1949) where new communist
governments discouraged the patriarchal family system and supported sexual equality, including
birth control.
1914-Present Document 12
Depression, Despair and Government Action
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
By 1933 unemployment in industrial societies reached thirty million, more than five times higher
than in 1929. Men lost their jobs because of economic contraction, and a combination of economic
trends and deliberate government policy caused women to lose theirs as well. Unemployment
initially affected women less directly than men because employers preferred women workers who
were paid two-thirds or three-quarters the wages of men doing the same work. But before long,
governments enacted policies to reduce female employment, especially for married women. The
notion that a woman's place was in the home was widespread. Thus in 1931 a British royal
commission on unemployment insurance declared that "in the case of married women as a class,
industrial employment cannot be regarded as the normal condition." More candid yet was the French
Nobel Prize-winning physician Charles Richet (1850-1935), who insisted that removing women
from the workforce would not only solve the problem of male unemployment but also increase the
nation's dangerously low birthrate.
The Great Depression caused enormous personal suffering. The stark, gloomy statistics
documenting the failure of economies the world over do not convey the anguish and despair of those
who lost their jobs, savings, and homes, and often their dignity and hope as well. For millions of
people the struggle for food, clothing, and shelter grew desperate. Shantytowns appeared overnight
in urban areas, and breadlines stretched for blocks. Marriage, childbearing, and divorce rates
declined, but suicide rates rose. The acute physical and social problems of those at the bottom of the
economic ladder often magnified social divisions and class hatreds. Workers and farmers especially
came to despise the wealthy, whom, despite their own reduced incomes, remained shielded from the
worst impact of the economic downturn and continued to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Adolescents
completing their schooling faced an almost nonexistent job market.
1914-Present Document 13
Nazi Germany
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
The worldwide upheavals taking place in this era affected women as well as men, although the
status of women in this era of revolutionary change depended on where they lived. While Shanfei in
China found more opportunities open to her, women in Nazi Germany did not. In Nazi ideology men
and women inhabited distinct and separate spheres, with women relegated primarily to the roles of
wife and mother. The new regime exerted considerable effort to mesh ideology with reality. Alarmed
by declining birthrates, the Nazis launched a campaign to increase births. Through tax credits,
special child allowances, and marriage loans, the authorities tried to encourage marriage and, they
hoped, procreation-among young people. Legal experts rewrote divorce laws so that a husband could
get a divorce decree solely on the grounds that he considered his wife sterile. At the same time, the
regime outlawed abortions, closed birth control centers, restricted birth control devices, and made it
difficult to obtain information about family planning. The Nazis also became enamored with a
relatively inexpensive form of propaganda:
pronatalist (to increase births) propaganda.
They set in motion a veritable cult of
motherhood. Annually on 12 August, the
birth date of Hitler's mother, women who
bore many children received the Honor Cross
of the German Mother in three classes:
bronze for those with more than four
children, silver for those with more than six,
and gold for those with more than eight. By
August 1939 some three million women
carried this prestigious award, which many
Germans cynically called the "rabbit
decoration." In the long term, however, any
efforts by the Nazis to increase the fecundity
of German women failed, and the birthrate
remained below replacement level. German
families were simply unwilling to change
their reproductive preferences, which called
for fewer children.
1914-Present Document 14
World War II
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
Women and the War
Observing the extent to which British women mobilized for war, the U.S. ambassador to London
noted, "This war, more than any other war in history, is a woman's war." A poster encouraging U.S.
women to join the WAVES (Women
Appointed for Volunteer Emergency
Service in the navy) mirrored the thought
"It's A Woman's War Too!" While
hundreds of thousands of women in Great
Britain and the United States joined the
armed forces or entered war industries,
women around the world were affected by
the war in a variety of ways. A number of
nations barred women from engaging in
combat or even carrying weapons,
including Great Britain and the United
States, but Soviet and Chinese women
took up arms, as did female members of
resistance groups. In fact, women often
excelled at resistance work precisely
because they were women, they were less
suspect in the eyes of occupying security
forces and less subject to searches. Nazi
forces did not discriminate, though, when
rounding up Jews for transport and
extermination: Jewish women and girls
died alongside Jewish men and boys.
Women who joined military services or
took jobs on factory assembly lines gained
an independence and confidence that had
previously been denied them, but so too
did women who were forced to act as
heads of household in the absence of
husbands killed or away at war, captured
as prisoners of war, or languishing in labor
camps. Women's roles changed during the
war, often in dramatic ways, but those
new roles proved to be temporary. After
the war women warriors and workers were expected to return home and assume their traditional
roles as wives and mothers.
In the meantime, though, women made the most of their opportunities. In Britain alone, women
served as noncombatant pilots, wrestled with the huge balloons and their tethering lines designed to
snag Nazi aircraft from the skies, drove ambulances and transport vehicles, and labored in the fields
to produce foodstuffs. More than half a million women joined British military services, and
approximately 350,000 women did the same in the United, States.
1914-Present Document 15
The Rape of Nanjing (China)
Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.
During the invasion of China, Japanese forces used methods of warfare that led to mass death and
suffering on a new, almost unimaginable level. Chinese civilians were among the first to feel the
effects of aerial bombing of urban centers; the people of Shanghai died in the tens of thousands
when Japanese bombers attacked the city to soften Chinese resistance. What became known as the
Rape of Nanjing demonstrated the horror of the war as well, as the residents of Nanjing became
victims of Japanese troops inflamed by war passion and a sense of racial superiority. Over the course
of two months, Japanese soldiers raped seven thousand women, murdered hundreds of thousands of
unarmed soldiers and civilians, and burned one-third of the homes in Nanjing. Some four hundred
thousand Chinese lost their lives as Japanese soldiers used them for bayonet practice and machinegunned them into open pits.
The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as three hundred
thousand women aged fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels called "comfort houses" or
"consolation centers." The army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor, and
the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria, as well as from
occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Fully 80 percent of the
women came from Korea.
Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the "comfort women" had to cater to between
twenty and thirty men each day. Stationed in war zones, they often confronted the same risks as
soldiers, and many became casualties of war. Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if
they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases. At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large
numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation. The impetus behind the establishment of
comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing, where the mass rape of
Chinese women had taken place. In trying to avoid such atrocities, though, the Japanese army only
created another horror of war. Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and
had to hide their past or face shunning by their own families. They found little comfort or peace after
the war.
1914-Present Document 16
1943 Guide to Hiring Women (U.S.)
The following is an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine. This was written for male supervisors
of women in the work force during World War II.
"Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women
Employees: There's no longer any question whether transit
companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The
draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important
things now are to select the most efficient women available and
how to use them to the best advantage.
Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:
1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense
of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be
flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still
have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public
2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have
worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women
who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting
themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's
always well to impress upon older women the importance of
friendliness and courtesy.
3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered
and efficient than their underweight sisters.
4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This
step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any
female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.
5. Stress at the outset the importance of time the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on
schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.
6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the
management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when
they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.
7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are
inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.
8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine
psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and
wash her hands several times a day.
9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh
words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.
10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may
swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.
11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too
much in keeping women happy."
1914-Present Document 17
The Middle East
Hegland, Mary E. Women in World History: Volume 2: Readings from 1500 to the Present. Edited by: Sarah Shaver
Hughes; Brady Hughes
Women in Turkey discarded their veils, voted, and ran for political office nearly a generation before
those in Egypt. Educated feminists, active backers of the nationalist Young Turks who overthrew the
Ottoman monarchy, entered professions after 1908. Halide Edip removed her veil in a 1919
nationalist demonstration in Istanbul. In the 1920s, when Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) denounced
women's veiling (as well as men's traditional robes and fez) as "uncivilized," a new woman's identity
was put at the forefront of the Turkish Republic's secular politics. Rejecting the Shar'ia meant
banning polygamy, giving women equal rights to initiate divorce and to custody of their children,
and allowing them to inherit equally with men. The Women's League of Turkey envisioned
"revolutionary women" being educated, voting, and serving in the army. They won suffrage rights in
1934, and by 1937, the eighteen women elected to the legislature constituted nearly 5 percent of its
membership. Tansu Ciller became Turkey's prime minister in 1993 and, after her 1996 defeat, remained at the head of the True Path Party; yet only one other woman, sat in the legislature during
Ciller's ministry.
In 1990, 40 percent of women over twenty-five remained illiterate, although Turkey's elite women
held exceptionally high proportions of university professorships in engineering, science, and
mathematics. The military, the dominant force behind the scenes in contemporary Turkish politics,
remained exclusively male.
1914-Present Document 18
Women and the Iranian Revolution of 1978
Hegland, Mary E. Women in World History: Volume 2: Readings from 1500 to the Present. Edited by: Sarah Shaver
Hughes; Brady Hughes
Among Islamic countries, Iran is the foremost example of dramatic reversal since 1979 of women's
equalitarian gains. Conservative Iranian religious leaders of the revolution sought to repudiate the rights
women had gained over a century. In a country where the state provides modern education and health
care, where the economic system requires professional workers, and where women had experienced
many rights, the political struggle over whether women would be subjected to male patriarchy in the
name of religious fundamentalism has been particularly stark.
Twentieth-century emancipation of women in Iran under the Pahlavi monarchy compared more closely
to that of women in the Turkish republic than to the conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia or Jordan.
The first public elementary school for girls opened in 1918, and expanded separate public secondary
education for young women opened admission to Teheran University to them in the late 1930s. By then,
the marriage age had been raised to fifteen for women and eighteen for men. When Reza Shah abruptly
banned the veil in 1936, he ordered police to deal harshly with modest women who insisted on covering
their heads and to protect unveiled women from harassment. The political repercussions from both men
and women who preferred to remain veiled forced the shah to allow the return of the veil in 1941. For
Iranians, this struggle identified Westernization and foreign domination with unveiling and greater rights
for women.
Nevertheless, the Pahlavi dynasty pursued its policy of secularization and economic development,
cooperating with European and United States governments while seizing a larger share of profits from its
oil industry. In 1963, women received the vote, and soon afterward divorce laws were reformed. The
prosperity from increasing oil revenues opened jobs for women at all levels, including professional.
Women's literacy had reached 56 percent in urban areas and 17 percent in rural areas by the mid-1970s.
Although feminists publicized these gains and lobbied for more, many women, especially outside the
cities, were unaware of most of these changes.
In 1978, demonstrations and strikes led by the religious leaders supporting Ayatollah Ruholla
Khomeni broke out against the shah's government. The revolution reflected the disgust Iranians felt
toward the monarchy, its identification with Westernization policies, its corruption, and its brutal
suppression of dissent. Women actively participated and suffered imprisonment, torture, and death along
with men. The next year, the shah fled, to be replaced with a committee of mullahs (local religious
leaders) who proclaimed an Islamic republic. Attempting to restore a non-Western, traditional society
meant repressing all opposition and replacing secular legal codes with the Shar'ia. Religious
conservatives demanded the most ancient punishments, including stoning for prostitution and adultery.
The veil became a center of contention. Mary E. Hegland, who was living in a village, recounts an
incident that illustrates how revolutionary fervor spread:
“In March of 1979, the welder...who lived in the village and had taken a village woman as a second wife
was visited by his cousin, her fiancé, and another young man. The young woman was very properly
seated in the back of the car and wore a chadur (a black veil covering the entire body except the face, the
hands and the feet), while the two young men sat in the front. When the young people got out of the car
at the village gate, people stopped them and accused the young woman of being a "madam." The three
were able to reach the welder's home, although they were taunted along the way. A group of some thirty
men and boys gathered outside of the courtyard, shouting and swearing at the welder's village wife and
claiming that she was lying, that the young woman was a prostitute and not the welder's cousin. The
couple had to get the police in a neighboring village to confirm the truth of their statements. Incidents
like this brought out large demonstrations of women in response to initial moves of revolutionaries to
force them to wear the chadur.”
Once the Islamic Republic was firmly established, the government began to rewrite the laws and rules
relating to women's recently acquired rights. The new regime tried to force women out of the job market
in a variety of ways, including early retirement of government women employees, closing of childcare
centers, segregating women and enforcing full Islamic cover (hejab-e islami) in offices and public
places, and closing nearly 140 university fields of study to women. But the problems arising from the
enforcement of the veil and other Islamic tenets in the streets and homes showed clearly that there were
limits in Iran to what a fundamentalist regime could do. Women fought seriously for their rights, making
the strict enforcement of government intent costly. The regime succeeded in putting women back in the
veil in public places, but not in re-socializing them into fundamentalist norms. As the economy suffered
after the revolution, women worked in villages and cities, often harder than men, to make ends meet. As
the revolutionary elan subsided, women reasserted themselves in other domains: in the arts, in literature,
in education and in politics, creating an atmosphere of tension and contradiction that has propelled the
issue of women's status to the center of the debate on the creation of an Islamic society in Iran. Needless
to say, loss of government support has cost Iranian women dearly. In addition to the economic, social
and cultural problems shared by all, women also lost significant ground in the struggle for gender
Almost immediately, the social and economic consequences of the disastrous war with Iraq between
1980 and 1988 forced some concessions to women. With a large portion of the adult male population in
the armed forces, women had to replace men in the workforce. Moreover, high war casualties created a
surplus of women and left numerous young widows with small children creating a serious obstacle to the
mullahs' aim of having every women married and confined to raising children.
In 1980, a new parliament was elected with four women deputies in a membership of 270. A woman
deputy's bill to permit women in the civil service and in government-owned companies to work half-time
with the permission of their superiors gained the support of the government. Women employees were
needed in wartime. Other inducements to mothers' employment included three months of maternity
leave, plus further leave to breast-feed infant children. Later, the Ministry of Education introduced a bill
to extend maternity leave for teachers to twelve months in order to persuade more women to teach. They
were needed because the government was encouraging girls to attend sex-segregated elementary schools,
to reduce the still high rate of illiteracy. The female deputies protested that all women should have a
year's maternity leave, and the bill failed"
In November 1990, the Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, publicly recognized that women's
sexuality was important, a rare acknowledgment for an Islamic leader. He advocated temporary marriage
for war widows. Shiite theologians have long accepted temporary marriages. Shahla Haeri explains the
“In its present form, temporary marriage is a form of contract in which a man (married or unmarried) and
an unmarried woman (virgin, divorced, or widowed) agree, often privately and verbally, to marry each
other for a limited period of time, varying anywhere from one hour to 99 years. The couple also agree on
a specific amount of bride-price, to be given to the woman. Unlike permanent marriage, temporary
marriage does not oblige a husband to provide financial support for his temporary wife. A Shii Muslim
man is allowed to make several contracts of temporary marriage at the same time. Women, however,
may not marry either temporarily or permanently more than one man at a time.
At the end of the mutually agreed period the couple part company without a divorce ceremony. After
the dissolution of the marriage, no matter how short, the temporary wife must observe a period of sexual
abstinence in order to prevent problems in identifying a potential child's legitimate father. The children
of such unions are accorded full legitimacy, and, theoretically, have equal status to their half-siblings
born of a permanent marriage. Although children inherit from their parents, temporary spouses do not
inherit from each other. . . .”
The Shii ulema [religious leaders] perceive temporary marriage as distinct from prostitution. For
them, temporary marriage is legally sanctioned and religiously blessed, while prostitution is legally
forbidden and therefore challenges the social order.
1914-Present Document 19
Sharon L. Sievers. "Women in China, Japan, and Korea," in Restoring Women to History: Teaching Packets for Integrating Women 's History
into Courses on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, edited by Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Margaret Strobel
(Bloomington, IN: Organization of American Historians, 1988), 101-2.
"Women Hold Up Half of the Heavens"
In Mao's struggles to renew the revolutionary fervor of the Chinese people, his wife, Jiang Qing
played an increasingly prominent role. Mao's reliance on her was consistent with the commitment to the liberation of Chinese women he had acted upon throughout his political career. As a
young man he had been deeply moved by a newspaper story about a young girl who had
committed suicide rather than be forced by her family to submit to the marriage they had
arranged for her with a rich but very old man. From that point onward, women's issues and
women's support for the communist movement became important parts of Mao's revolutionary
strategy. Here he was drawing on a well established revolutionary tradition, for women had been
very active in the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-19th century, the Boxer revolt in 1900, and the
1911 revolution that had toppled the Manchu regime. One of the key causes taken up by the May
Fourth intellectuals, who had a great impact on the youthful Mao Zedong, was women's rights.
Their efforts put an end to foot-binding. They also did much to advance campaigns to end female
seclusion, win legal rights for women, and open educational and career opportunities to them.
The attempts by the Nationalists in the late 1920s and 1930s to reverse many of the gains
made by women in the early revolution brought many women into the communist camp. Led by
Chiang's wife, Madam Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist counteroffensive (like comparable
movements in the fascist countries of Europe at the time) tried to return Chinese women to the
home and hearth. Madam Chiang proclaimed a special Good Mother's Day and declared that for
women, "virtue was more important than learning." She taught that it was immoral for a wife to
criticize her husband (an ethical precept she herself ignored regularly).
The nationalism campaign to restore Chinese women to their traditional domestic roles and
dependence on men contrasted sharply with the communists' extensive employment of women to
advance the revolutionary cause. Women served as teachers, nurses, spies, truck drivers, and
laborers on projects ranging from growing food to building machine-gun bunkers. Although the
party preferred to use them in these support roles, in moments of crisis women became soldiers
on the front lines. Many won distinction for their bravery under fire. Some rose to become cadre
leaders, and many were prominent in the anti-landlord campaigns and agrarian reform. Their
contribution to the victory of the revolutionary cause bore out Mao's early dictum that the
energies and talents of women had to be harnessed to the national cause because "women hold
up half of the heavens."
As was the case in many other African and Asian countries, the victory of the revolution
brought women legal equality with men; in itself a revolutionary development in a society such
as China's. For example, women were given the right to choose their marriage partners without
familial interference. But arranged marriages persist today, especially in rural areas, and the need
to have party approval for all marriages is a new form of control. Since 1949, women have also
been expected to work outside the home. Their opportunities for education and professional
careers have improved greatly. As in other socialist states, however, openings for employment
outside the home have proved to be a burden for Chinese women. Until the late 1970s, traditional
attitudes toward child-rearing and home care prevailed. As a result, women were required not
only to hold down a regular job but also to raise a family, cook meals, clean, and shop, all
without the benefit of the modern appliances available in Western societies. Although many
women held cadre posts at the middle and lower levels of the party and bureaucracy, the upper
echelons of both were overwhelmingly controlled by men.
As in other developing societies, the short-lived but impressive power amassed by Mao's
wife, Jiang Qing, in the early 1970s runs counter to the overall predominance of men in politics
and the military. Like her counterparts elsewhere in Africa and Asia, Jiang Qing got to the top
because she was married to Mao. She exercised power mainly in his name and was toppled soon
after his death when she tried to rule in her own right. Women have come far in China, but as is
the case in most other societies in both the developed and developing worlds; they have not
attained full equality with men in terms of career opportunities, social status, or political power.
Even more than in the nationalist movements in colonized areas such as India and Egypt,
women were drawn in large numbers into revolutionary struggles in areas such as China and
Vietnam. The breakdown of the political and social systems weakened the legal and family
restrictions that had subordinated women and limited their career choices. The collapse of the
Confucian order also ushered in decades of severe crisis and brutal conflict in which women's
survival depended on their assumption of radically new roles and their active involvement in revolutionary activities. The following quotations are taken from Vietnamese and Chinese
revolutionary writings and interviews with women involved in revolutionary movements in each
country. They express the women's goals, their struggle to be taken seriously in the
uncharacteristic political roles they had assumed, and some of the many ways women found selfrespect and redress for their grievances as a result of the changes wrought by the spread of the
new social order.
"Women must first of all be masters of themselves. They must strive to become skilled workers
... and, at the same time, they must strictly observe family planning. Another major question is
the responsibility of husbands to help their wives look after children and other housework.”
“We intellectuals had had little contact with the peasants and when we first walked through the
village in our Chinese gowns or skirts the people would just stare at us and talk behind our
backs. When the village head beat gongs to call out the women to the meeting we were holding
for them, only men and old women came, but no young ones. Later we found out that the
landlords and rich peasants had spread slanders among the masses saying ‘They are a pack of
wild women. Their words are not for young brides to hear’."
“Brave wives and daughters-in-law, untrammelled by the presence of their menfolk, could voice
their own bitterness encourage their poor sisters to do likewise, and thus eventually bring to the
village-wide gatherings the strength of "half of China" as the more enlightened women, very
much in earnest, like to call themselves. By "speaking pains to recall pains," the women found
that they had as many if not more grievances than the men, and that given a chance to speak in
public, they were as good at it as their fathers and husbands.”
“In Chingtsun the work team found a woman whose husband thought her ugly and wanted to
divorce her. She was very depressed until she learned that under me Draft Law [of the
Communist party] she could have her own share of land. Then she cheered up immediately. "If
he divorces me, never mind," she said. "I'll get my share and the children will get theirs. We can
live a good life without him."
A commitment to women's emancipation was an essential part of the reform program of Chinese
intellectuals from their first efforts in the late nineteenth century. Various laws were passed by
administrations before 1949, but few had a perceptible effect. Even the Qing Empress Cixi
issued a decree in 1902 against footbinding. Many men joined organizations protesting it and
signed oaths not to marry anyone with bound feet. Nevertheless, the practice continued, and
footbinding was prohibited again by the revolutionary government in 1911. Gradually, the
practice became less common in cities, but legal bans were not enforced in rural areas, where the
majority of Chinese women lived. Many of the leaders of the successful communist revolution,
including Mao Zedong, supported women's issues even before they became communists.
In 1923, the revolutionary nationalist party, the Guomindang (KMT), and the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP) formed an alliance. The Guomindang issued major demands in 1924
and 1926 for equality between the sexes, permission for women to inherit property, free
marriages and divorces, and labor laws to provide the same pay for the same work by men and
Women were significant supporters of these activities: they were killed in demonstrations and
fought as soldiers in battles against the warlords. They also organized women's committees in
cities and rural areas to educate women. In 1927, the Guomindang viciously attacked the CCP.
Sharon Sievers explains what happened to radical women:
“In the attacks that drove the CCP from the cities, left KMT [Guomindang] and CCP women
were special targets. The White Terror that began in Hankow in 1927 singled out any women
with bobbed hair and shot them for their supposed radicalism; in Canton, young women thought
to be members of the CCP were wrapped in gasoline-soaked blankets and burned alive; and
everywhere the White Terror prevailed women were physically mutilated (often their breasts
were hacked off) and raped before they were finally killed by KMT agents and troops.
After 1928, the KMT ... began redefining women's roles... KMT philosophers offered a
formula of legal reform, Confucian morality blended with Christian individualism, and a return
to the virtues of the family. . . .”
The KMT's most significant effort to legislate equality came in the 1930 Civil Code, a
document that gave important legal rights to women in the family, while preserving the patriliny.
Women, under the new code, were supposed to be able to choose their own husbands, apply for
divorce, and to inherit property; adultery was a punishable offense, not only for women, but for
men as well. New factory legislation protected women from work that might be physically
harmful and theoretically paved the way for equal pay for equal work. Male educators and
members of the KMT now proclaimed Chinese women emancipated.
The Guomindang women's policy under the leadership of Soong Mei Ling (Mme. Chiang
Kai-shek) emphasized patriarchy and male supremacy and urged women to work in welfare
activities, hygiene, child care, and relief efforts. Coeducation in colleges had been attained in the
1920s, and the graduates found job opportunities expanding. Women in urban areas made
considerable progress in the 1930s and 1940s. Modern marriages were increasingly contracted
among the upper and middle classes. Women, no longer in seclusion, entered the social scene
wearing French perfume, permanent waves, high-heeled shoes, silk stockings, and even the onepiece bathing suit.
After the White Terror, those women who sought greater equality and the end of patriarchy
often chose to work with the communists. Forced out of the cities, the CCP concentrated on
building bases and armies of peasants in rural areas. It promised a thorough reorganization of
society, including women's equality, after the triumph of its revolution. Mao Zedong's 1927
statement (the "four thick ropes") summed up party analysis that women, like men, were subject
to the three oppressive systems of political authority, clan authority, and religious authority but
that women also had one more: domination by men. However, the party did not try to transform
patriarchal peasant culture and ordered women members to support the civil war with the
By 1958, the government needed women's labor as it tried to increase production of steel,
electricity, and coal significantly in a campaign called the Great Leap Forward. In the same year,
collectivization of agriculture put large numbers of workers in unified organizations, the communes; each had on average about twenty-five thousand people, though some were more than
twice as large. Both men and women farmers of each commune were mobilized in production
brigades and teams. Jan Myrdal interviewed Li Kuei-ying, who was an official in the Liu Ling
People's Commune:
“In the winter of 1959-60 we had a discussion about our work among the women. I sent a
proposal in to the committee of the party association for setting up a special women's committee
for our work among the women. I told them that, in my opinion, so far I had been the only one
working on the women, and that we could not let so important a matter be dealt with like that. . .
. The party association decided to set up a labor group for work with women. Ma Ping and I were
elected Liu Ling's representatives in the group. This group now has regular meetings. It has
representatives from the various villages [in the commune], and we now plan our work among
the women properly.
I was head of the women's organization in Liu Ling from 1955 to 1961. It wasn't a real
organization. It automatically comprised all the women in the village. It was one way of
activating the women in social work and getting them to develop and accept responsibility and
get up at the different meetings and give their opinion. We abolished it in 1961 because. . . we
had quite enough women then who realized that women can be in the ordinary organizations and
speak at their meetings. Instead, we formed a women's work group. I was chosen leader of this.
We work directly in production.
But the party group for women's work still functions. It has five different tasks: (1) To
organize women to take an active part in production; (2) To spread literacy among women and
get them to study and to take an interest in social questions; (3) To help them do their domestic
work effectively and economically, to help them when any economic problem arises in their
family; (4) To teach them personal and public hygiene; (5) To give help and advice over
marriage or other problems of wedded life. . . .
That was when Tuan Fu-yin's eighteen-year-old daughter, Tuan Ai-chen, fell in love with a
boy from Seven-mile Village. But her parents refused to let her marry. They said that the boy
was poor and that they wanted her to marry someone better off. One evening Tuan Ai-chen came
to me and wept and complained. I went with her to her cave and talked to her parents. I said to
them: "You have no right to prevent your daughter from marrying, you know that, don't you?
Purchase marriage is not allowed in the new society. It is a crime to sell your daughter these
days. Before you could sell your daughter like a cow, but you can't do that any longer." I told
them about the things that used to happen in the old days, about girls drowning themselves in
wells, of girls hanging themselves and that sort of thing, about all the unhappiness purchase
marriage caused. At first, Tuan Fu-yin tried to stand up to me. He said: "I had to pay dearly for
my wife. Now I have been giving this girl food and clothes. I have brought her up and she just
goes off. It isn't right. I just lose and lose all the time. I must get something back of all the money
I have laid out on her. If she can't fall in love with a man who can pay back what she cost, then it
isn't right for her to marry."
I talked a long time with them that evening, and in the end I said: "You don't live badly in the
new society. If you ever have difficulties, your daughter and son-in-law will help you. They are
not rich, but they won't refuse to help you." Then they replied: "We must think about it." The
next time I went there, only the girl's mother was at home. She had thought about it and she now
told me her own story. . . . She said: "I was sold to Tuan Fu-yin when I was a little girl. I was
sold in the same way you sell a goat. But my parents got a lot for me. Tuan's father had to take
out a loan. That made them nasty to me. I was forced to work hard so as to make the loan worth
while. They were all nagging at me. I can remember how much I used to cry. Now that I think of
that, I don’t want my daughter to marry someone she can't like." Then she wept. Tuan Fu-yin
didn't say anything more.
The Great Leap Forward was an economic disaster, but it did help women. Their labor outside
the family was publicly encouraged, including the establishment of communal child care and
kitchens to reduce their domestic work. A national public health system that brought medical
care to the countryside benefited women. Women began doing men's tasks, although their pay
was less. But even as work was redistributed between women and men, gender remained
paramount, for tasks were still defined as feminine or masculine.
By the late 1980s, Chinese women had made real advances over their position before 1949.
Yet equality still eluded them. Seventy percent of women worked at least part-time, but most
jobs were low-paid, without benefits or chances for advancement. Following Mao Zedong's
death in 1976, de-collectivization in agriculture meant that many decisions passed from
commune officials to families, where men retained authority, and income was paid to the senior
male. Sidelines such as pig or chicken raising; which women had pursued to increase income,
became the prerogative of men once market enterprises were encouraged by the state.
Arranged marriages were seldom found in the cities, but in rural areas, which had 70 percent
of the population, they were on the rise. Wedding costs rose also, with the groom's family paying
amounts of as much as ten times a person's average annual income. Such investments suggested
that a wife was valued, but also too valuable to lose. Divorces initiated by the wife were possible,
but the courts made them difficult to obtain.
The state's promotion of economic growth through private initiatives imperiled women in
China when, instead of demanding that wives provide productive labor for the nation, it urged
wives to reduce male unemployment by returning to their homes and the care of their own
families. In 1979, the option of motherhood was sharply restricted, however, by the government's
population-control policy, which permitted the birth of only one child to each family.
City dwellers, with crowded homes and hectic lives, accepted their loss of choice in the
national interest more willingly than farm women. Resistance in the rural areas led both to
female infanticide and to official compromise allowing women a second pregnancy if the first
child was a daughter. After forty years of communism, the ancient Confucian joy in the birth of a
son and despair at the birth of a daughter had not quite disappeared in the countryside. Though
daughters were valued more than sons in the cities by the late 1980s, rural families still wanted a
son to support parents in old age, inherit the land, and maintain the family name.
When the communists won the civil war and took over the government, many inside and
outside China expected that the liberation of women so long promised would occur. While China
remained closed to the West in the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed as though women might "Hold
Up Half the Sky." By the late 1970s, feminist scholarship of anthropologists and sociologists
provided disappointing evidence of partial accomplishments and of failures. In China, as in other
Marxist revolutions after World War II (including Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, and
Mozambique) true emancipation and social equality remained elusive. Scholars disagree on
whether the cause of the unfulfilled socialist promises was the insincerity of men who dominated
revolutionary leadership or the pervasive resistance of conservative rural populations.
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