Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement

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Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women's rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domíngez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara González; from Chile, Marta Vergara; and from the United States, Doris Stevens. This Pan-American network drove a transnational movement that advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, and broader self-determination. Their painstaking efforts led to the enshrinement of women's rights in the United Nations Charter and the development of a framework for international human rights. But their work also revealed deep divides, with Latin American activists overcoming U.S. presumptions to feminist superiority. As Marino shows, these early fractures continue to influence divisions among today’s activists along class, racial, and national lines.

Marino's multinational and multilingual research yields a new narrative for the creation of global feminism. The leading women introduced here were forerunners in understanding the power relations at the heart of international affairs. Their drive to enshrine fundamental rights for women, children, and all people of the world stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when global thinking meets local action.

About the Author:

Katherine M. Marino is an assistant professor of History at UCLA. Her research and teaching interests include twentieth-century U.S. and Latin American history; histories of women, gender, sexuality, and race in the Americas; human rights; and transnational feminism. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Women's History, Gender & History, and Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies. Her book, Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement (UNC Press, 2019), is based on her dissertation that won the Organization of American Historians Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation on U.S. women's history. Her work has received support from national organizations, including the Mellon Foundation, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences where she was a Visiting Scholar in 2015-2016.


Anna K. Danziger Halperin is a lecturer in the Department of History at Columbia University. Her research focuses on comparative social policy, gender, and childhood. She is currently working on a book manuscript analyzing child care policy in Britain and the United States since the 1960s.

Gabriela Cano is a historian of twentieth century Mexico. She is 2018-2019 Edward Larocque Tinker Visiting Professor at Columbia University. She is based in Mexico City where she is Professor at El Colegio de México. Her publications focus on the history of gender and sexualities in Mexico. She has authored Se llamaba Elena Arizmendi (Tusquets, 2010) and coauthored Amalia de Castillo Ledón. Entre las letras, el poder y la diplomacia (Ciudad Victoria, 2016). She coedited Historia de las mujeres en España y América Latina (Madrid, Cátedra, 2006) Gender, power and politics in Modern Mexico (Duke University Press, 2006). Her research has appeared in journals and edited volumes published in Mexico, the United States, Spain and Brazil. Her current interests include the history of feminism as part of the broader history of Mexico and Latin America. She has served as director of the Gender Studies Program at El Colegio de México and has held visiting academic positions at Stanford University and Columbia University.

Rachel Nolan, lecturer at CSER and fellow at the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, received her PhD in History from New York University in 2018. She is a historian of modern Latin America, and is currently working on a book manuscript titled “Children for Export”: A History of International Adoption from Guatemala. Research has taken her to Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and around the U.S. This book project was funded by the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and ACLS/Mellon Foundation. Prior to becoming a historian, Dr. Nolan worked as a journalist. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, and El Faro, among other publications. In September 2019 she will begin work as Assistant Professor at Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies.