One nation, one world: American clubwomen and the politics of internationalism, 1945--1961
Olsen, Margaret Nunnelley
Matusow, Allen J.
Doctor of Philosophy
Between 1945 and 1961, U.S. clubwomen launched a series of civic campaigns to educate Americans about the United Nations. Drawing on their older traditions of domesticating politics, conservative and liberal clubwomen from around the nation became community-level foreign affairs interpreters. This project explores the ways the foreign affairs activism of four organizations---the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Women United for the United Nations, and the Minute Women of the U.S.A.---contributed to the popular resonance of foreign affairs in the postwar period and nurtured a growing political divide among American clubwomen. Postwar clubwomen across the political spectrum promoted the idea that women could shape their nation's foreign policy by learning about international affairs. In the process, these women developed competing visions for America's relationship to the world, which they advocated in their community education campaigns. These rival campaigns injected the UN into the everyday lives of American citizens and pitted clubwomen against one another, training a generation of club activists. Beginning with clubwomen's initial support for the United Nations, this project traces the changes in their foreign affairs perspectives and programs over the postwar period. Confronted with the Cold War and the anticolonial movement, conservative clubwomen increasingly billed the UN as a threat to America and sought to police the boundary between the domestic and the foreign, while liberal clubwomen embraced the connection between the two and labeled the UN an agent of both American foreign policy and global peace. Changes in American society, especially the civil rights movement, bled into discussions of foreign affairs, encouraging conservative women to blame internationalism for what they viewed as unwelcome shifts in the status quo and liberal clubs to segregate their foreign affairs work increasingly from controversial domestic reform campaigns. Ultimately, some clubwomen adopted a centrist liberal perspective and some joined a conservative political counterculture. In both cases, foreign affairs work served as postwar clubwomen's political training ground. By positing international awareness as a viable civic project, American women's clubs made the United Nations central to postwar political culture and to their own political identities.
American history; Women's studies; Political science; International law; International relations