Challenges to Cold War orthodoxy: Women and peace, 1945-1963

Susan Frances Dion, Marquette University

Abstract

This study contributes to our understanding of both the diversity of women's experience and the peace movement during the postwar period 1945 through 1963 by focusing on the work of women's peace organizations. The organizations examined include the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Jane Addams Peace Association, Art for World Friendship, Women's Committee to Oppose Conscription, World Organization of Mothers of All Nations, World Association of Mothers for Peace, Women United for the United Nations, and Women Strike for Peace. The women peace activists challenged Cold War orthodoxies on several fronts. As women, their public activism defied the restrictive and repressive ideology of the feminine mystique. As critics of American foreign policy, they decried the narrowness of decision-making based upon Cold War fears. As dissenters during the height of domestic McCarthyism, they condemned the rigid definitions of Americanism and the suppression of civil liberties. As peace activists, the women brought a distinct perspective on numerous interrelated peace issues. Their multiplicity of platforms included the opposition to capital punishment, continued peacetime conscription, NATO, the nuclear arms race, and war toys for children. They were in support of a strong United Nations, a nuclear test ban, expansion of international human rights, the renewed American civil rights movement, and the abolition of HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities). The women were harassed because of their vocal activism, their dissenting opinions, and their nonconformance to prescribed gender roles. For example, several groups and individuals were under the surveillance of the FBI. Others were subpoenaed before HUAC. Many were accused of being Red, un-American, and unwomanly. Each group had to confront internal and external disruptions created by the suspicions of the time. Despite the difficulties of working in the hostile Cold War climate, a women's peace movement did persevere. As such, they served as a counterpoint to the feminine mystique, and acted as a vanguard to the intense activism of the later 1960s through their witness for peace.

Recommended Citation

Susan Frances Dion, "Challenges to Cold War orthodoxy: Women and peace, 1945-1963" (January 1, 1991). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9226215.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9226215

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