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Anti communism

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Women, the Left, and Anti-Communism in the Cold War

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Anti communism

  1. 1. Women, the Left, and Anti- Communism in the Cold War
  2. 2. Mire Koikari article • Notion that empowering women was crucial to the establishment of democracy in Japan – Idea that patriarchal and authoritarian cultures bred fascism/imperialism – Need “reconstruction” on the level of the family, civil society (as well as govt.) • Exporting of “American” gender ideals becomes linked to assertion of US power abroad: how should we view this?
  3. 3. Beate Sirota Gordon • Born in Vienna into a Jewish family; grew up in expat community in Japan – Fluent in Japanese and many other languages • Left for US in 1939; attended Mills college • 1st American woman to go to postwar Japan – At 22, began working for Gen. McArthur – Given responsibility for writing the articles on women in the new constitution
  4. 4. Beate Sirota Gordon
  5. 5. Articles in Japanese constitution • Article 14: ”All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” • Article 24: “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”
  6. 6. Miss Chinatown USA • Began in the 1950s as an attempt to distance Chinese- Americans from Red China • Emphasis on assimilation – Chinese women no longer sequestered • 1960s critique: women objectified as “china dolls” – Reinforced of Western standards of beauty
  7. 7. Historians’ views of women/gender in the Cold War • Old interpretation 1930s-1960s “doldrum” years – Organized feminism in remission – Emphasis on discontinuity between periods of activism in the 1920s and 1970s • Liberal feminism re-emerges with publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique • Newer views – Focus on attention to women’s issues by labor unions and the Communist Party – Greater emphasis on continuity; broader definition of “feminism” • New attention to the fact that Betty Friedan had been a journalist in the late 1940s and early 50s for the labor press
  8. 8. Congress of American Women • Popular front organization founded in 1946 – US Branch of the Soviet-sponsored Women’s International Democratic Federation • Founded in Paris as part of anti-fascist, pro-Soviet Left – Slogan: “Ten women anywhere can organize anything.” – After just a year had 250,000 members • Argued for continuing wartime price controls, child care centers • Pro-labor; pro-peace, anti-racism • Opposed the Truman Doctrine
  9. 9. Congress of American Women • Oct. 1949 HUAC report declared the group “anti- American” and “pro-Soviet” • 1950: Ordered by the US Justice Department to register as a foreign agent • Disbanded in 1950 • Diverse constituency; included African Americans • Members included Eleanor Flexner and Gerda Lerner, one of the first women historians
  10. 10. From the HUAC Report ”The purpose of these organizations is not to deal primarily with women’s problems, as such, but rather to serve as a specialized arm fo Soviet political warfare in the current ‘peace’ campaign to disarm and demobilize the United States and democratic nations generally, in order to render them helpless in the face of the Communist drive for world conquest. While professedly American in name, the Congress of American Women has been anti-American and pro-Soviet since its inception. In fact, the Congress of American Women, as well as its parent body, the Women’s International Democratic Federation, has consistently denounced and opposed all recognized non-Communist women’s organizations both here and abroad.”
  11. 11. Historical Context • Growing hostility toward Mexican-Americans; anxiety about illegal border-crossings – Culminated in “Operation Wetback” (1954) • Taft-Hartley Act (1947) – Greatly restricted union activities – Gave the US Attorney General power to obtain an 80- day injunction if a strike “imperiled the national health or safety” • Anti-communism/McCarthyism – Hollywood blacklist
  12. 12. Empire Zinc strike • 1950-51 Strike against Empire Zinc Mine in Grant County, NM – Mexican-American Local 890 of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (the “Mine- Mill”) • Expelled from the CIO in 1950 because of charges of Communist influence – Workers’ complaints focused on two-tiered system • Mexican-American faced worse working conditions; lower pay than their Anglo counterparts; substandard housing • June 1951: Injunction forbidding the striking miners from returning to picket line
  13. 13. Women and the strike • Women took over the strike for 6 months – Added own demands: indoor plumbing; better living conditions • In the meantime, men had to deal with the kids/home – Came to better understanding of women’s work • January 1952: company negotiators agreed to most of the workers’ demands • Film is explicitly feminist
  14. 14. Hollywood Blacklist • 1947: HUAC hearings – House Un-American Activities Committee • Salt of the Earth team had all been blacklisted – Hebert Biberman, director • One of the Hollywood Ten • Refused to name names; spent time in jail – Michael Wilson • Screenwriter – Paul Jarrico • Screenwriter/producer
  15. 15. Persecution during/after filming • Filming began in 1953 • Congressmen denounced as “weapon from Russia” • FBI investigated funding • Police hounded cast and crew • Union Hall mysteriously burned • Rosaura Revueltas (plays Esperanza) deported before filming ended • Thoroughly suppressed on release in the US – But screened in Europe, Soviet Union, China

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