New publication by Susan Zimmermann

November 16, 2017

Equality of Women's Economic Status? A Major Bone of Contention in the International Gender Politics Emerging During the Interwar Period

This study brings together the often disparate scholarship on the League of Nations and the ILO. It follows the interactions between the League, women internationalists, and the ILO, which evolved around the question of woman-specific labor legislation and the equality of women's status. These interactions resulted in a broadening mandate of international gender policies while deepening the institutional and legal distinction between women's ‘political and civil’ as opposed to their ‘economic’ status. The ILO insisted on certain forms of women-specific labor regulation as a means of conjoining progressive gender and class politics, and was anxious to ensure its competence in all matters concerning women's economic status. The gender equality doctrine gaining ground in the League was rooted in a liberal-feminist paradigm which rejected the association of gender politics with such class concerns, and indeed aimed to force back the ILO's politics of gender-specific international labor standards. As a result of the widening divide between the women's policies of the League and the ILO, the international networks of labor women reduced their engagement with women's activism at the League. The developments of the 1930s deepened the tension between liberal feminism and feminisms engaging with class inequalities, and would have problematic long-term consequences for international gender politics.