Social Movements Abstracts
Social Movements, Collective Behavior, Social
Activism, Social Movements
A Durkheimian Theory of Social Movements - Segre, Sandro - This
essay formulates a Durkheimian rational choice and network theory of social movements. In
order to reach a social state of consciousness, individuals and their groups must maintain
multiplex ties within and across subunits, and have regular social gatherings endowed with
symbolic significance. Successful social movements also require that leaders strive to
preserve the movements' collective identity in opposition to the dominant culture, but at
the same time maintain significant social and cultural relationship with other groups.
This Durkheimian theory may account for the different outcomes of the Civil Rights
movement in the US, and Social Democracy in Imperial Germany.
Social Movements as Catalysts for Policy Change: The Case of Smoking and
Guns - Constance A. Nathanson - Johns Hopkins - Social movements organized around
perceived threats to health play a role in American life as advocates for change in health
policies and health behaviors. Article employs a framework drawn from social movement and
sociological theories to compare two such movements: the smoking/tobacco control movement
and the gun control movement. The article identifies specific social movement ideologies
and actions. The article concludes that the success of health-related social movements is
associated with (1) the articulation of a socially (as well as scientifically) credible
threat to the public's health, (2) the ability to mobilize a diverse organizational
constituency, and (3) the convergence of political opportunities with target
Historical Social Movements, Ecological Crisis and Other World Views
Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. 24, No. 1, 31-56 (2008) - Sing C. Chew
Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes have suggested that social movements of protest tend
to cluster during periods of economic downturns. With this in mind, can we examine world
history over the long-term to enable us to provide a more insightful understanding of the
transformative potential of social movements during times of socioeconomic, ecological and
political disruptions as Frank and Fuentes suggested over a decade ago? This article
examines the rise of two social movements that have emerged during different periods of
world history when the world system was/is in crisis: Christian monasticism and
Bioregionalism. Besides viewing Christian monasticism as a religious movement that arose
in reaction to the turbulent conditions towards the end of the Roman Empire, I want to
argue that Christian monasticism can also be conceived as a social institution formed in
reaction to the excessive consumption, economic exploitation and ecological crisis that
occurred prior to and during the Dark Ages of Antiquity. Almost 1,700 years later, our
current era of socioeconomic, political and ecological crises has also sparked movements
expounding alternative world-views and lifestyle options. One such anti-systemic movement
is Bioregionalism which is a direct contrast to our contemporary world-view that
underscores the themes of globalization, technologization of life and hyper consumption.
Therefore, along a similar vein to early Christian monasticism's reaction to
institutionalized religion then, Bioregionalism as a life-practice also plays a similar
role in the contemporary crisis era. Both of these social movements can be considered as
part of the family of social movements that have occurred in world history that Frank and
Fuentes (1989, 1990) have written about in the late 20th century.
Social Movements, Law, and Society: The Institutionalization of the Environmental Movement
Cary Coglianese - University of Pennsylvania Law School
John F. Kennedy School of Government Working Paper Series RWP01-046
Abstract: As conventionally understood, social movements, law reform, and society interact
in a unidirectional fashion. Social movements seek to secure law reform; in turn, changes
in the law bring about changes in society. While this conventional understanding may be
helpful for some purposes, it is an incomplete empirical account that can lead reformers
mistakenly to think that legal change is sufficient in order to achieve changed social
conditions. In fact, social movements, law, and society interact with each other in much
more complex, dynamic ways. Through an examination of the environmental movement in the
United States, I show how a successful social movement not only uses law reform to change
society, but how it also depends on changes in society to sustain its law reform efforts.
For the environmental movement, the public's consistent acceptance of environmental values
has helped sustain the laws brought about by the movement, even in the face of significant
resistance. Even though social movements use law reform to affect society, society in turn
affects the success of law reform. As a result, sustainable social movements will combine
efforts at legal change with efforts to change underlying social values.
Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment
Robert D. Benford - Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska
David A. Snow - Department of Sociology, University of Arizona
The recent proliferation of scholarship on collective action frames and framing processes
in relation to social movements indicates that framing processes have come to be regarded,
alongside resource mobilization and political opportunity processes, as a central dynamic
in understanding the character and course of social movements. This review examines the
analytic utility of the framing literature for understanding social movement dynamics. We
first review how collective action frames have been conceptualized, including their
characteristic and variable features. We then examine the literature related to framing
dynamics and processes.
Sovereignty, globalization and transnational social movements - Raimo Väyrynen
Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
Traditionally, sovereign states have been defined, in terms of their external and internal
dimensions, as mutually exclusive territorial jurisdictions. Economic globalization is
associated with the liberalization of the world economy, decreases in transaction costs,
the development of communication technologies, and the emergence of transnational social
and cultural spaces. These have eroded the divide between national and international
systems and fostered the dispersal of power in social networks. As a result, it is
unrealistic to define state sovereignty as a counterpose to the global system, as these
phenomena have become mutually embedded. States and their sovereignty are not disappearing
on the contrary, they may be gaining new tasks and resources but they cannot
exercise their agentive power as effectively as before. This means that the internal
dimension of state sovereignty has been transformed more thoroughly than the external one.
This is in part due to the growth and proliferation of transnational social movements.
Social Movements Research and the Movement of Movements: Studying Resistance
to Neoliberal Globalisation - By Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen, National University
of Ireland, Maynooth University of Nottingham (November 2007)
This article explores the state of research on the movement of movements
against neoliberal globalisation. Starting from a general consideration of the
significance of the movement and the difficulties inherent in studying it, it discusses
the literature on the movement from within social movement studies, and argues that the
response from social movement researchers falls short of what could be expected in terms
of adequacy to the movement and its own knowledge production. It explores some effects of
this failure and locates the reasons for it in the unacknowledged relationship between
social movements theorising and activist theorising. It concludes by stating the
importance of dialogue between activist and academic theorising and research in attempting
to understand the movement.
NGOs, Social Movements, External Funding and Dependency - Fernand Vincent
Fernand Vincent looks at issues related to the financing sources and how they relate to
the autonomy of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Is it possible for these
organizations to remain autonomous with regard to their objectives and strategies, when an
important percentage of their activities and functioning is financed by external sources?
What are the potential risks of these different external financial sources? What interest
is there for external partners in financing these activities? Or can one challenge a
system when one is dependent on it? He points out the differences between NGOs and
transnational social movements (TSMs) concerning both their financing sources and possible
Social Movements: An Analytical Exploration of Organizational Forms
Russell L. Curtis, Jr. ,Louis A. Zurcher, Jr.
A review of the literature on social movement organizations yields two key organizational
variables: 1) the nature of the goals (instrumental-specific or expressive-diffuse); 2)
the nature of membership requirements (exclusive or inclusive). These variables are cast
in a paradigm which includes as other conceptual components: the kinds of membership
incentives (solidary or purposive); the degree to which the social movement organization
is detached from its community of concern; the leadership styles (directing, persuading,
mixed); and the kinds of memberships (homogeneous; heterogeneous). The paradigm yields
nine possible types of social movement organizations which in turn can be divided into
congruent or non-congruent types. The paradigm is illustrated with data and observations
from studies of social movements.
DEMOCRATISATION AND THE DECLINE OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: THE EFFECTS OF REGIME CHANGE ON
COLLECTIVE ACTION IN EASTERN EUROPE, SOUTHERN EUROPE AND LATIN AMERICA - CHRISTOPHER G.
Urban and Regional Studies Unit, Department of Social and Public Policy, University of
Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NY, England
The paper explores how regime change affects social movements, drawing on studies of Latin
America, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe.
After discussing the concepts and method used, it is argued that social movements do exist
in authoritarian regimes, and hence the question of the effect of regime change upon them
can be posed. Contrary to the assumption that democratisation leads to the flourishing of
social movements as repression is removed and new channels of participation are opened up,
it is shown that in the immediate period between the end of an authoritarian regime and
the initiation of a democratic one the opposite effect may occur. This is because
liberalisation in authoritarian regimes can lead to a particularly high level of social
movement activity which cannot be sustained once more normal conditions apply.
GENDER AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS - Gender Processes in Women's Self-Help Movements
VERTA TAYLOR - Ohio State University
Mainstream theory and research in the field of social movements and political sociology
has, by and large, ignored the influence of gender on social protest. A growing body of
feminist research demonstrates that gender is an explanatory factor in the emergence,
nature, and outcomes of all social movements, even those that do not evoke the language of
gender conflict or explicitly embrace gender change. This article draws from a case study
of the postpartum depression self-help movement to outline the relationship between gender
and social movements. Linking theories of gender to mainstream theories on social
movements allows us to recognize gender as a key explanatory factor in social movements
and, in turn, to identify the role that social movements play in the social construction
What Are Social Movements and What Is Gendered About Women's Participation in Social
Movements? A Sociological Perspective - by Benita Roth and Marian Horan.
This project differs from others on this website in two ways: it is written from a
sociological rather than an historical perspective, and it discusses scholarly
interpretations rather than specific historical events. A theoretical discussion of social
movements can inform our historical understanding of specific historical examples of women
and social movements. This summary of sociological interpretations of social movements
will help visitors to the site bring larger theoretical questions to bear on the empirical
evidence contained in the site's other projects.
Health care reform and social movements in the United States. Hoffman B.
Department of History, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb 60115, USA. email@example.com
Because of the importance of grassroots social movements, or "change from
below," in the history of US reform, the relationship between social movements and
demands for universal health care is a critical one. National health reform campaigns in
the 20th century were initiated and run by elites more concerned with defending against
attacks from interest groups than with popular mobilization, and grassroots reformers in
the labor, civil rights, feminist, and AIDS activist movements have concentrated more on
immediate and incremental changes than on transforming the health care system itself.
However, grassroots health care demands have also contained the seeds of a wider critique
of the American health care system, leading some movements to adopt calls for universal
URBAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IN PORTUGAL, 19741976 - PEDRO
RAMOS PINTO, University of Manchester
This article examines the impact of the urban social movement active in Lisbon on the
Portuguese transition to democracy (19746). Academic and public discourse over the
last three decades has tended to characterize the movement either as an embryonic form of
a participatory society, or an illusion created by the manipulation of a minority of
activists. Conversely, this article argues that the movement was largely autonomous and
powerful enough to win valuable concessions for the urban poor, in the context of
increasing competition between political elites, although more moderate than many have
assumed. As the contending political forces fought for supremacy, the urban movement
became a coveted ally and potential source of legitimacy. With the political arena
becoming increasingly polarized during the course of 1975, movement supporters were faced
with a stark alternative between revolution and moderation.
From Wollstonecraft to Mill: What British and European Ideas and Social Movements
Influenced the Emergence of Feminism in the Atlantic World, 1792-1869?
Prepared under the direction of Nancy Hewitt, revised by Kitty Sklar.
Feminist ideas and social movements emerged in Europe, Great Britain, and the United
States in an international context that promoted the migration of people and ideas across
national boundaries. Between the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the
Rights of Women (1792) and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (1869), ideas,
social movements, and individual feminists migrated across land and sea, generating a
powerful new context for the advancement of women's rights. These documents illuminate
How Did Oberlin Women Students Draw on Their College Experience to Participate in
Antebellum Social Movements, 1831-1861?
by Professor Carol Lasser and Oberlin College Students.
Oberlin College, founded in 1833, opened to train teachers and preachers during the fervor
of the Second Great Awakening. Based on egalitarian principles, the college began
accepting students of color in 1835. It also became a center for antislavery activities.
Oberlin was a pioneer in coeducation, accepting female students from its beginning. The
female students at Oberlin embraced their gendered responsibilites for domestic virtue and
discovered an empowering call to action in their communities. The following documents
reveal how female students in the antebellum era drew on their college experience to
participate in local as well as national social movements.
How Did Sarah Bagley Contribute to the Ten-Hour Movement in Lowell and How Did Her Labor
Activism Flow into Other Reform Movements, 1836-1870?
by Teresa Murphy and Thomas Dublin.
Sarah Bagley was an outspoken advocate of shorter workdays for factory workers and
campaigned tirelessly to make ten hours of labor per day the maximum in Massachusetts. As
Bagley campaigned for this cause, she entered a much broader network of reformers. The
documents brought together in this project both illuminate Bagley's activism in the
ten-hour movement and demonstrate how early factory employment not only brought women's
work out of the home but it provided women a collective experience that supported their
participation in the world of broader social reform movements -- such as antislavery,
moral reform, peace, labor reform, and women's rights campaigns.
How Did Diverse Activists Shape the Dress Reform Movement, 1838-1881?
by Melissa Doak and Melissa Karetny.
This project focuses on three different strands of dress reform activity: the water
curists, the Oneida community, and woman's rights reformers. Each of these groups
attempted to reform women's dress for a variety of reasons. An examination of the three
currents in the dress reform movement allows for a complex picture of the varied reasons
why women attempted to break free of the restraints of nineteenth-century women's
How Did Lucretia Mott Combine Her Commitments to Antislavery and Women's Rights,
by Carol Faulkner and Beverly Wilson Palmer.
Lucretia Mott attended the 1840 London World Anti-Slavery Convention where she was denied
participation because of her gender. In the succeeding two decades Mott remained a leading
figure in Quaker abolitionist and women's rights activities. Her correspondence offers a
window on these interrelated reform activities in the antebellum decades and reveals the
interconnections between Quaker reformers in Great Britain and the United States.
Why Did Some Men Support the Women's Rights Movement in the 1850s, and How Did Their Ideas
Compare to those of Women in the Movement? - by Gretchen Becht and Kathryn Kish Sklar
This project focuses on the efforts of some of the nineteenth-century male supporters of
women's rights, examining the beliefs that led them to promote women's rights and
analyzing how their values compared to those of women reformers. The documents are
presented in three groups: the beginnings of the woman's rights movement; the beliefs of
male advocates of women's rights; and conflict within the movement.
How Did Women Participate in the Underground Railroad? - by Catherine Clinton.
Women were highly visible in the abolitionist movement for three decades before the
outbreak of the Civil War, and their activism has been well documented by historians. Less
well-known was their participation in the underground railroad, that clandestine network
of individuals that assisted runaway slaves gain their freedom in the North and Canada.
How Did Gender and Family Divisions among Shoeworkers Shape the 1860 New England Strike?
by Mary H. Blewett.
The adaptation in 1852 of the sewing machine to stitch light leather and its use in early
steam-powered factories resulted in the deterioration of the pre-industrial work of women
shoebinders who sewed by hand at home in rural New England and in shoe centers such as
Lynn, Massachusetts. Outworkers quickly identified and opposed the threats of
mechanization and centralization to their ability to earn wages and contribute to the
family wage economy. For other women, the emergence of mechanized stitching in small
factories offered a chance of full-time work outside the home at relatively high wages for
Why Did African-American Women Join the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1880-1900?
by Thomas Dublin and Angela Scheurer.
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was one of the first national women's reform
organizations that welcomed the reform efforts of middle-class African-American women.
This project explores the achievements of African-American women through the Union's
Colored Department between 1880 and 1900 and the tensions that emerged in an era which saw
declining opportunities for interracial work.
How Did a Multi-Racial Movement Develop in the Baltimore YWCA, 1883-1926?
by Kimberly Crandall Bowling and Kriste Lindenmeyer.
After the Civil War, industrialization and urbanization dramatically changed the United
States. New jobs in cities like Baltimore, and the promise of a better life drew many
people from the countryside. Additionally, rising rates of immigration during the late
nineteenth century further swelled urban populations. In these circumstances, many people
faced difficult problems in Baltimore and other cities. The demand for city services grew
with the rising population, much more rapidly than cities could supply these services.
Concerns for young, single women alone in cities led to the growth of the Young Women's
Christian Association movement.
How Did Gender and Class Shape the Age of Consent Campaign Within the Social Purity
Movement, 1886-1914? - by Melissa Doak, Rebecca Park and Eunice Lee.
"Age of consent" referred in the late nineteenth century to the legal age at
which a girl could consent to sexual relations. Men who engaged in sexual relations with
girls before they reached the legal age of consent could be found guilty of statuatory
rape. American reformers were shocked to discover that the laws of most states set the age
of consent at ten or twelve. Women reformers and social purists initiated a campaign in
1885 to petition legislators to raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen in all
states in the nation, although their ultimate goal was to raise the age to eighteen.
What were the Origins of International Women's Day, 1886-1920?
by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Lauren Kryzak.
International Women's Day originated in the first decade of the twentieth century,
building on traditions drawn from the eight-hour and woman's suffrage movements in the
United States as well as the organizing activities of the Socialist Party in the United
States and the Second International in Europe.
How Did Black and White Southern Women Campaign to End Lynching, 1890-1942?
by Thomas Dublin, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Karen Vill.
African-American women took the lead in the 1890s in vocally opposing lynching in the
South. The growth of an interracial movement after 1920 contributed to the organization of
white women in the Association of Southern Women to Prevent Lynching.
How Did Florence Kelley's Campaign against Sweatshops in Chicago in the 1890s Expand
Government Responsibility for Industrial Working Conditions?
by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Jamie Tyler.
With her arrival at Hull House in Chicago in 1891 Florence Kelley spearheaded a campaign
to regulate garment sweatshops and limit the hours of labor of women and children. The
documents in this project depict this reform effort and some of the opposition it
generated. Kelley served four years as Illinois's first Factory Inspector, though her work
was constrained by a ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court that declared the eight-hour
provision of the law unconstitutional.
How Did the First Jewish Women's Movement Draw on Progressive Women's Activism and Jewish
Traditions, 1893-1936? - by Joyce Antler, Nina Schwartz, and Claire Uziel.
The first Jewish women's movement in the United States began after the upsurge of eastern
European immigration to the United States in the 1880s and continued until around 1920.
Those who composed the movement were mostly middle- and upper-class women who had
emigrated from Germany and Central Europe. These women frequently referred to the triumphs
of biblical women to help persuade other Jewish women to join their movement, but the
Great Migration of 1881 was the primary factor that energized Jewish women to begin an
organized fight for social reform. Many of the affluent, German Jewish "uptown"
women who had immigrated during the first wave committed themselves to helping these
immigrants begin to make a life for themselves in America. Modeling themselves to a large
extent on the American settlement-house movement of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries and the actions of secular Progressive reformers, the leaders of this
first Jewish women's movement identified both with American Progressivism and Judaic
traditions. The women who participated in the movement worked in many ways to improve the
lives of the poor. As the movement grew, its focus shifted, from an early emphasis on
"charity and religion," to broad concerns for immigrants' Americanization, white
slave traffic, peace and arbitration, as well as protection for women's and children's
health and welfare. The achievements of the first Jewish women's movement were
substantial. While the women were unable to eradicate poverty and the myriad problems that
beset immigrant Jews, they were responsible for many achievements that provided the
foundation upon which future Jewish women's movements would build.
What Gender Perspectives Shaped the Emergence of the National Association of Colored
Women, 1895-1920? - by Thomas Dublin, with Franchesca Arias and Debora Carreras.
At the nadir of white-black relations in the United States, in the mid 1890s,
African-American women founded the National Association of Colored Women, in order to
promote self-improvement and to show what African Americans had the power to do. Drawing
on correspondence, speeches, and Association publications, this editorial project examines
how the Association's early leaders reflected and reshaped conceptions of gender within
the African-American community.
How Did the General Federation of Women's Clubs Shape Women's Involvement in the
Conservation Movement, 1900-1930? - by Kimberly A. Jarvis.
The American conservation movement, with its sense of public responsibility for the
protection of America's natural resources and beauty, reflected the social consciousness
of the Progressive Era. Middle- and upper-class white women, who participated in many
Progressive reform efforts, were important players in the conservation movement. Through
local, state, and national women's clubs, as well as through various conservation and
outdoor organizations, women became involved in conservation campaigns ranging from
planting trees to creating national parks. Women's conservation efforts sometimes drew on
popular support for protection of wildlife, natural resources, and places of natural
beauty, thereby offering a bridge between the male elite leaders of the conservation
movement and a wider audience. This project focuses specifically on the activities of
middle- and upper-class white female reformers. It addresses the question of how the
women's club movement encouraged and shaped women's involvement in the conservation
movement as well as the influence of women's networks on the success of conservation
campaigns between 1890 and 1930.
How Did the Debate about Widows' Pensions Shape Relief Programs for Single Mothers,
1900-1940? - by S. J. Kleinberg.
Public concern about the welfare of widows and orphans in the United States intensified
during the Progressive Era. Because changing social values heightened concern over child
welfare, reformers viewed widows' economic strategies as less acceptable in the industrial
society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than they had in the pre- or
early-industrial eras. Previously widows with young families to support had relied upon a
combination of their own and their children's labor. Fearing that children's lives would
be permanently blighted by premature labor or inadequate upbringing, social reformers
sought to keep them out of the labor force until they were fifteen or sixteen. They hoped
to accomplish this end both through labor laws banning the employment of young children
and the institution of widows' pensions, which would enable mothers to stay at home to
look after their families.
How Did Iowa Women Activists Lobby for the Passage of the Juvenile Court Law in 1904?
by Shannon O'Connor.
In 1904, Iowa passed their version of the juvenile court law. This legislation was similar
to legislation passed in several other states and was part of the national movement to
establish juvenile courts during the Progressive Era. The champion of the bill in Iowa was
Cora Bussey Hillis, an upper-middle class woman with years of organizing experience as an
active member in the National Congress of Mothers. The juvenile court bill was just one of
Hillis's reforms centered on children, but it was notable because the law demonstrated the
influence of organized women in progressive reform.
by Thomas Dublin, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Deirdre Doherty.
How Did the Perceived Threat of Socialism Shape the Relationship between Workers and their
Allies in the New York City Shirtwaist Strike, 1909-1910?
This project focuses on the relationships among strikers, the strike's wealthy women
supporters, and socialist activists during the 1909 New York garment workers strike,
commonly known as the "Uprising of Twenty Thousand." The project examines the
tensions between socialist women and wealthy allies over language, participation, and
credit. These documents illustrate cross-class alliances, as well as cross-class debates.
How Did Cross-Class Alliances Shape the 1910 Chicago Garment Workers' Strike?
by Karen Pastorello.
This project documents the activism of women strikers as they allied with the Chicago
reform community during the 1910 Chicago Garment Workers' Strike. The project highlights
the conditions of working-class immigrant women in progressive era Chicago, gendered and
ethnic relationships among strikers, and the cooperative alliance forged between working
women and Chicago alliesparticularly Hull House residents and Women's Trade Union
How Did Immigrant Textile Workers Struggle to Achieve an American Standard of Living? The
1912 Strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. - by Thomas Dublin and Kerri Harney.
In the early twentieth century, Lawrence, Massachusetts was the leading woolen textile
factory town in the nation. There, in January 1912, more than 20,000 factory
operatives--who were predominantly foreign-born--went on strike to protest wage cuts. This
project documents the role of women in the strike and shows how striking immigrant workers
struggled successfully against the combined forces of mill management, local police, and
How Did Belle La Follette Oppose Racial Segregation in Washington, D.C., 1913-1914?
by Nancy C. Unger.
Beginning in 1913, progressive reformer Belle Case La Follette wrote a series of articles
for the "women's page" of her family's magazine, denouncing the sudden racial
segregation in several departments of the federal government. Those articles reveal
progressive efforts to appeal specifically to women to combat injustice, and also
demonstrate the ability of women to voice important political opinions prior to suffrage.
How Did the Debate Between Margaret Sanger and Mary Ware Dennett Shape the Movement to
Legalize Birth Control, 1915-1924? - by Melissa Doak and Rachel Brugger.
The Comstock Law of 1873 essentially ended two centuries of free dissemination of
information about how to prevent pregnancy, but it met with relatively little opposition
until the second decade of the twentieth century, when reformers Mary Ware Dennett and
Margaret Sanger took up the "birth control" cause. The two women adopted
differing approaches to the birth control question, however. Although many activists who
fought for the legalization of contraception urged Sanger and Dennett to unite for the
good of the cause, the differences between the two women set the stage for a very
competitive and at times confrontational relationship.
How Did the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Campaign against Chemical
Warfare, 1915-1930? - by Allison Sobek.
The German's first use of poison gas in Belgium in 1915 set off a wave of protests against
the use of chemical weapons in warfare. After the war was over, the Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) mobilized to outlaw the use of chemical weapons in
future conflicts. Because many people believed that the next war would bring massive
civilian casualties from poison gas, WILPF tried to use that fear to rally support for a
broad disarmament program. Although these efforts failed to bring a halt to spiraling
armaments or ease world tensions, they did introduce women's social movements as important
actors in national and international politics. The fact that two of WILPF's founders, Jane
Addams and Emily Greene Balch, were later honored with Nobel Peace Prizes highlights the
group's importance in world affairs in the interwar years.
Why Did Congressional Lobbying Efforts Fail to Eliminate Contraception from Obscenity
Laws, 1916-1937? - by Melissa Doak and Kristy Horaz.
Mary Ware Dennett formed the Voluntary Parenthood League with two objectives in mind. One
was to remove language from the Comstock Act of 1873 that prohibited dissemination of
contraceptive literature and the other was to educate married couples in family planning.
Unlike Margaret Sanger, Dennett did not pursue support from the medical community and she
decided against arguing her case on the basis of morality. Instead, she sought legislation
that would guarantee women the right to make their own decisions regarding their
reproductive fate. But the opposition of Catholics and of the medical community led to the
defeat in 1925 of Dennett's proposed legislation, the Cummins-Vaile Bill. Ultimately a
1936 court decision legalized birth control, but within a context that ratified
physicians' monopoly in the field.
How Did Black Women in the NAACP Promote the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, 1918-1923?
by Angelica Mungarro, under the supervision of Karen Anderson.
During the early 1920s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) undertook a serious movement to promote anti-lynching legislation at the federal
level. African-American women spearheaded this effort by forming the Anti-Lynching
Crusaders and attempting to organize one million female activists to publicize the horrors
of lynching and donate to the cause. The following documents trace the origins of the
Anti-Lynching Crusaders and the intensive political activism of these women. Though
ultimately unsuccessful in promoting the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill, these women continued a
tradition of anti-lynching campaigning begun in the 1890s by Ida B. Wells-Barnett and
served as a forerunner to Jessie Daniel Ames's Association of Southern Women for the
Prevention of Lynching in the 1930s. (For more on this tradition, see another document
project on this website, "How Did Black and White Southern Women Campaign to End
How Did the National Woman's Party Address the Issue of the Enfranchisement of Black
Women, 1919-1924? - by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Jill Dias.
This project collects and interprets documents pertaining to the debate about the
enfranchisement of African American women after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution in 1920. It examines tensions in the interactions between advocates
for Black women and the most militant woman suffrage organization, the National Woman's
How Did Women Antifeminists Shape and Limit the Social Reform Movements of the 1920s?
by Kim Nielsen
In the 1920s feminist and progressive female reformers attempted to use their newly gained
electoral citizenship to advance a series of social welfare and reform measures. In the
same period female antifeminists garnered energy, political power and support to defeat
these measures and question the wisdom of female political involvement. They extended the
antiradicalism of the post-World War I Red Scare to characterize female reformers as
radicals. This project analyzes the methods, ideologies, and impact of antifeminists in
How Did Women Peace Activists Respond to "Red Scare" Attacks during the 1920s?
by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Helen Baker.
This project examines how the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
responded to anti-socialist intimidation during the 1920s. This second "red
scare" targeted the women's peace movement during a period of armaments buildup
following World War I. WILPF, although powerless to halt the persistent attacks, contested
them with dignity and restraint.
How Did Women Shape the Discourse and Further Interracial Cooperation in the Worldwide
Mass Movement to Free the Scottsboro Boys? - by Sara L. Creed and Hasia Diner.
This project explores the influence that women exerted in the mass movement for justice
and civil rights surrounding the 1930s trials of the Scottsboro Boys. Through original
documents, drawn largely from the resources of the Tamiment Library at New York
University, the project reveals how a variety of female voices, images, sympathies and
concerns contributed to and shaped the worldwide campaign that galvanized public opinion
and led to major legal victories for representation and due process for all Americans.
What Perspectives Did African American Advocates Bring to the Birth Control Movement and
How Did Those Perspectives Shape the History of the Harlem Branch Birth Control Clinic?
by Carole McCann.
On February 1, 1930, Margaret Sanger opened a branch office of her New York City birth
control clinic in the center of Harlem, at 2352 7th Avenue near 138th Street. For the next
five years, until 1935, the Harlem Branch of the Clinical Research Bureau offered African
American and white women clients gynecological examinations by a physician and
contraceptive instruction by a nurse. The Harlem Branch clinic also conducted educational
programs for the community and carried out fundraising activities to support the clinic's
expenses. From its inception, the clinic involved the collaborative efforts of both
African American and white birth control advocates. After the clinic opened, Sanger
assembled an Advisory Council of African American community leaders. Some of Harlem's most
prominent African American health professionals, clergy, and social activists participated
in the clinic's work. The documents in this project offer a window on the views and
actions of African American birth control advocates associated with the Harlem clinic.
Intertwined, and sometimes conflicting, elements of women's rights, economic security, and
racial progress laid the ground for cooperation and conflict between the Advisory Council
and Sanger and the white clinic staff. Both groups shared a concern about the high rates
of maternal and infant mortality, and both supported birth control as a basis for
promoting women's health and the health and well-being of their families.
How Did the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and Chinese Garment Workers Unite
to Organize the 1938 National Dollar Stores Strike?
by Thomas Dublin, with research assistance by John Qiu, Julie Joseph, and Michelle
Although the labor movement in California had demonized Chinese immigrant laborers,
countervailing pressures gave trade union leaders reasons for seeking to organize Chinese
workers. The continued existence of ill-paid Chinese contract shops in various trades
provided employers with alternative sources of supply. The very existence of a low-wage
Chinese sector in San Francisco manufacturing was a cause for concern among labor leaders
in the city and that concern grew in periods of high unemployment such as the Great
Depression. This document project explores a moment when the concerns of a national union,
the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and the aspirations of Chinese
women garment workers came together and resulted, first, in a significant organizing
campaign, and, second, in a successful strike against the largest garment manufacturer in
San Francisco's Chinatown. While the strike in the end was successful, it did not prove to
be a turning point for women garment workers in Chinatown. Still, the National Dollar
Stores strike marked an important transition in the labor history of Chinese and
Chinese-American women in the United States, demonstrating that Chinese women garment
workers would organize to improve wages and working conditions and establishing a link
between Chinese women garment workers and the nation's leading union in the women's
How Did Mexican Working Women Assert Their Labor and Constitutional Rights in the 1938 San
Antonio Pecan Shellers Strike? - by Thomas Dublin, Taina DelValle, and Rosalyn Perez.
In the depths of the Great Depression Mexican and Mexican American women went on strike in
San Antonio in 1938 opposing cuts in piece wages that threatened starvation. The city
government sided with pecan operators, repressing the strike ruthlessly by denying
strikers the right to assemble or picket peacefully. Middle-class support and public
exposure created pressure on the operators and contributed to a compromise settlement.
How Did the March on Washington Movement's Critique of American Democracy in the 1940s
Awaken African American Women to the Problem of Jane Crow? - by Cynthia Taylor.
This document project demonstrates the critical role women played in the 1940s March on
Washington Movement (MOWM) during its formative period. African American women activists
of the 1940s enthusiastically joined the MOWM because it promoted broad race-based
employment goals. Although women found a welcoming place within the MOWM to fight Jim
Crow, there was little room at this time for women to articulate their concerns about Jane
Crow within the movement or society at large. Various factors kept female march activists
from more fully developing an articulate feminist ideology in the 1940s: the effective and
charismatic leadership of A. Philip Randolph, the powerful economic message of the
Brotherhood that required the united support of the whole African American community, the
patriotic wartime environment, and the undiminished power of a Jim Crow system in American
society. Although the MOWM relied on women activists, it never developed a place for
women's activism. The documents in this project provide evidence for this thesis by
centering on the MOWM's Chicago Division, which attracted a significant number of
independent-minded African American women at the height of the movement's popularity in
1942 and 1943.
Twenty years later, as the African American community embraced another march on Washington
for economic and civil rights, former MOWM women activists such as Anna Arnold Hedgeman
and Pauli Murray, recognizing the tremendous contribution women activists had made in the
past, understood the 1963 march as the continuation of their efforts that had begun in the
1940s. In this new wave of civil rights activism, it was former MOWM women activists who
made sure that this time Jane Crow concerns would not take a back seat to efforts to
dismantle Jim Crow. The experience and knowledge they had gained over twenty years of
civil rights activism prepared African American women, especially Pauli Murray, to play a
prominent role in guaranteeing that women's rights would be included in the civil rights
agenda of the mid-1960s, most notably in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the federal
bureaucracy that was built to accommodate the new legislation.
How Did Suburban Development and Domesticity Shape Women's Activism in Queens, New York,
1945-1968? - by Sylvie Murray.
The experience of the immediate postwar generation of suburban, middle-class women has
long been characterized as monotonous, meaningless, and essentially private and
apolitical. The period was profoundly shaped by the resurgence of a family-centered
ideology, the migration of large number of young families to newly-developed suburbs, and
the traumatic international and national events related to the Cold War and to McCarthyist
repression at home. But while the anxieties generated by these events should not be
minimized, the peacefulness and quietude of the domestic environment can and have been
overstated. Drawing from a variety of sources--including Betty Friedan's unpublished
essays written in her early days as a free-lance magazine writer and Queens resident,
correspondence between Queens community activists and New York policy makers, and daily
and weekly newspaper accounts of local political battles--this project explores the rich
and complex experience of public and political involvement of a group of housewives in a
set of semi-suburban neighborhoods in Queens, New York City. Women were active at the
local level and took key leadership roles in community organizations. Their activism was
mostly (although not exclusively) related to issues close to home, such as children's and
neighborhoods' needs. But although battles to obtain sufficient school seats and
appropriate traffic regulation were central to the political lives of suburbanites--and
for good reason, since the neighborhoods in which a large number of families with young
children lived had been recently developed--issues of national and international
importance also mobilized local activists. With the children and neighborhood needs as an
excuse, to paraphrase Friedan, women of the 1950s generation shaped an important episode
in the history of women's activism.
How Did Ideologies of Gender and Professionalism Intersect in the History of Nursing in
By Patricia A. Schechter.
Throughout the history of nursing in the United States, nurses have been stratified by
educational level, licensure status, and specialty, hierarchies that have both drawn on
and reinforced status lines drawn by race, class, ethnicity, and citizenship. Yet at the
same time, women from many different walks of life have found in nursing and nurse
professionalism a powerful way to disrupt social hierarchy and achieve economic mobility,
personal satisfaction, and a fulfilling career. The struggles around these styles of
professionalism within nursing are visible in three distinct phases in Oregon. In the
first phase, elitist nurse leaders strove to reinforce hierarchy and exclusion in nursing
using class, status, and educational attainment in order to raise the social standing and
political effectiveness of nurses. In the second phase, between 1960 and 1980, the ONA
systematically integrated unionization into the mix of its mission. This effort strained
the simmering class and ideological tensions among Oregon nurses to the breaking point,
epitomized by the rejection of AFL-CIO affiliation at a stormy meeting of the ONA's House
of Delegates meeting in 1981. From the 1980s to the present, the rearticulation of nurse
solidarities along new lines of identification that include professional specialization,
race or ethnicity, and the bargaining unit has created a new mosaic whose pieces touch
each other at some level through the ONA but do not quite fit together in one vision yet.
The question here is how the thrust of professionalism--that is, the claiming and uses of
social power--could divide as much unite nurses.
How and Why Was Feminist Legal Strategy Transformed, 1960-1973? - by Serena Mayeri.
This document project explores how, during the 1960s, legal feminists overcame decades of
division to unite around a dual strategy for constitutional change that simultaneously
pursued judicial reinterpretation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the U.S. constitution and the passage of a federal Equal Rights Amendment.
Although feminists developed an effective plan for changing women's constitutional status
through litigation and advocacy, there were some downsides to achieving and implementing
this consensus, including a more narrow definition of legal equality within the feminist
community and the need to balance advocacy of the ERA with litigation that drew on the
equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
How Did State Commissions on the Status of Women Overcome Historic Antagonisms between
Equal Rights and Labor Feminists to Create a New Feminist Mainstream, 1963-1973?
by Kathleen A. Laughlin.
The Equal Rights Amendment divided organized feminism from the 1920s until the modern
women's movement in the 1960s. This project explores how the deliberations of state
commissions on the status of women in the 1960s provided a mechanism to overcome historic
antagonisms between equal rights and labor feminists. The following documents show that
even though the equal rights feminist National Federation of Business and Professional
Women's Clubs was largely responsible for the formation of status of women commissions,
these broad-based deliberative bodies composed of members selected, in most cases by
governors, also included male and female labor feminists. Consequently, women and men from
both sides of the ERA controversy participated on commissions charged to investigate the
status of women and to formulate policies to improve their social, civil, and economic
status. The deliberations of ongoing state commissions were eventually influenced by the
strategies and goals of the modern women's movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
How Did Catholic Women Participate in the Rebirth of American Feminism? - by Mary Henold.
In the second half of the twentieth century, thousands of American Catholic women
participated in the movement for women's rights and women's liberation. By the 1970s, many
of these feminist women of faith chose to direct their activism through specifically
Catholic feminist organizations which together formed a distinctive Catholic feminist
movement in the United States. This project examines historical documents from this
movement. In addition to illustrating the unique contributions of Catholic feminists to
"second-wave" feminism, these documents reveal women's efforts to reconcile dual
commitments to feminist ideals and Catholic faith tradition.
How Did Diverse Activists in the Second Wave of the Women's Movement Shape Emerging Public
Policy on Sexual Harassment? - by Carrie N. Baker.
A close look at the history of the emergence of sexual harassment activism reveals a
diverse group of people involved in conceptualizing and theorizing sexual harassment, and
creating legal prohibitions against it. African-American women, blue-collar women, as well
as middle-class white women participated in different ways to create a powerful movement
that changed the social landscape of U.S. workplaces and schools. Activists against sexual
harassment approached the problem on three fronts. First, individual women around the
country began filing lawsuits in the early 1970s. Second, the organized women's movement
began to raise awareness about sexual harassment through speak-outs, surveys, and media
work. Third, individuals, representatives of feminist organizations, union activists, and
government officials lobbied Congress for changes in public policy. At the intersection of
these three strands of activism emerged increased awareness of sexual harassment,
government policies to discourage it, and legal prohibitions against it.
How Did Working-Class Feminists Meet the Challenges of Working across Differences? The
National Congress of Neighborhood Women, 1974-2006 - by Tamar Carroll.
Founded in 1974, the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW) promised to unite
"neighborhood women" in order to help them improve their lives and communities.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, the NCNW succeeded in bringing together poor and
working-class women from many different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Because of its
diverse membership and its coalition-based organizing strategy, the NCNW offers an
excellent study of the ways in which feminists grappled with differences. Since the
mid-1970s, the NCNW has worked with professional women allies to create varied programs,
while fighting to maintain its working-class values of connectedness to community and its
commitment to practicing participatory democracy.
Taken together, the documents in this collection provide a powerful example of how
working-class women were able to form cross-racial partnerships to work for women's
empowerment and the betterment of their communities. The striking success of the group's
leadership support process in helping women to recognize the sources of oppression in
their lives and to feel connected to others with similar struggles suggests that
consciousness-raising is a necessary strategy for social change. The achievements of the
NCNW college program and Project Open Doors reveal that social programs conceived of and
run by participants themselves are better able to meet the needs of poor and working-class
women and to foster enduring positive change on both an individual and collective level.
The NCNW's strategy of partnering with grassroots groups nationally and internationally is
key to contesting the increasingly widespread privatization of social policy under the
global movement of neoliberalism.
How Did the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977 Shape a Feminist Agenda for the
Future? - by Kathryn Kish Sklar with research assistance by Sandra Henderson.
The National Women's Conference at Houston in November 1977 marked a high point in the
influence of second-wave feminist ideas on policy formulation. Congresswomen elected
during the wave of 1970s feminism, especially Bella Abzug, obtained the passage of federal
legislation that funded the Conference. Grassroots women's organizations met at the state
level and adopted a National Plan of Action to improve the lives of women. The Houston
Conference subsequently approved the plan. Yet at the same moment these women were able to
mobilize and use government to achieve feminist goals, opponents united to fight against
feminist causes. Phyllis Schlafly and others attacked the Houston conference and its
agenda and created the basis for a new anti-feminist constituency in American public life.
How Did Chinese Women Garment Workers in New York City Forge a Successful Class-Based
Coalition during the 1982 Contract Dispute? - by Xiaolan Bao.
In the summer of 1982, more than twenty thousand Chinese garment workers, most of whom
were women, turned out to join two union rallies. With an unified effort they successfully
pressured their employers to sign a union contract. Never before had so many people,
especially so many women, turned out over a labor dispute in New York's Chinatown. The
conflict between Chinese employers and workers revealed the limits of ethnic solidarity
and forcefully demonstrated workers' collective strength by bringing to the forefront
class issues in the community. The strike had a lasting impact on the thousands of women
workers who participated in it. With the experience they gained from the strike, women
workers continued to press for change by working in the union or joining community-based
labor organizations that served as pressure groups to defend their interests. Rather than
acting individually, as most of them did before the strike, women in the Chinese garment
industry learned to work together. The 1982 strike thus marks the beginning of a new
chapter in the history of the labor movement in the Chinese community and in the garment
industry of New York City.
How Have Recent Social Movements Shaped Civil Rights Legislation for Women? The 1994
Violence Against Women Act - by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Suzanne Lustig.
In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which responded to the
inadequacies of state justice systems in dealing with violent crimes against women. This
project focuses on a key aspect of the act--Title III--the civil rights provision that
gave women victims of violence access to federal courts. Title III was created to
establish a remedy for female victims of violence analogous to civil rights suits for
injury motivated by race.