International Women’s Year

Our latest Review of the Week explores the lasting impact of the 1975 "International Women's Year" event

International Women’s Year: the greatest consciousness-raising event in history

Olcott, Jocelyn Oxford, 2017
334p bibl index, 9780195327687 $34.95, 9780199716647

International Women’s Year: the greatest consciousness-raising event in history book cover

This essential book, meticulously researched and elegantly written, captures a key historical moment in the development of transnational feminism. Olcott (Duke) recounts the politics that led to the creation of the 1975 “International Women’s Year” in a way that reclaims the significance of the now-vanished “Second World” of the Cold War era. This “Eastern bloc” claimed for itself a special role in advocating more than merely civic and political rights, while “Western” voices found the association with socialism threatening, mobilized actors from the developing world, and managed the first conference in Mexico City in a structure designed to encourage contacts and debates that crossed not only national but class borders. Undoing the dominant narrative of this UN event as a “failure,” Olcott shows the continuation of such conferences up to Beijing to be a crucial success constructed in and through this first event. By following the money and exploring contestation as well as celebration, the study illuminates the complexity of NGO-ization for feminist movements. Necessary for every serious research library, but great reading for any student of transnational history, feminism, or non-governmental organizations.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Reviewer: M. M. Ferree, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies
Choice Issue: Jan 2018