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Women and Global Diplomacy: From Peace Movements to the United Nations

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Unlike the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, the League of Nations did not have a body specifically dedicated to women until 1937. However, even then, the League's inquiry into the status of women was fruitless, as WWII began before the commission finished collecting information. During most of the existence of the League, women were on the periphery. As with the question on the traffic of women, it was an issue which mostly involved women, but the body did not operate from a gendered perspective. This page highlights those issues which, like the trafficking of women and children, were addressed by the League as "social" concerns, but which today we would categorize as issues specific to women.

Suffrage

The formation of the League of Nations occurred at the height of an international demand for suffrage by both women and men. In fact, universal suffrage was one of the demands made in the "Women's Charter" which was presented to the League at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Suffrage alliances formed in many countries, and the International Women's Suffrage Alliance was created to push for suffrage in countries where the right had not yet been realized. Dame Margaret Corbett Ashby was a major figure in the suffrage movement. She was a founding member of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance, and served as the organization's president for many years. She was also an alternate delegate to the 1932 Disarmament Conference organized by the League of Nations.

Archival Sources:

International Women's Suffrage Alliance

Margaret Corbett-Ashby

Men's International Alliance for Women's Suffrage

Birth Control

Florence Guertin Tuttle, editor of The Birth Control Review of New York, wrote to Sir Eric Drummond in 1921 to explain the need for "population control" in certain parts of the world. She stated, "The great surplus population of Germany is admitted to be one of the contributory causes of the late war." She, along with others both inside and out of the League believed that there was a strong link between surplus population and the likelihood a country would go to war. However, Tuttle's idea of birth control was to suppress the growth of a specific population. She believed that birth control was most needed in places like Japan and India, where the population was exploding, and where they could "prevent the multiplication of the physically, mentally, and morally unfit."

Further, Tuttle sent Drummond a copy of Margaret Sanger's controversial book Woman and the New Race, in which the birth control advocate mixes population control with eugenics. Today, the book is regarded as a prejudiced argument for birth control in the name of population control.

Birth control sources in archives

Women police officers

Around 1930, countries from around the world began sending in reports on their respective women police officers in response to an enquiry by the Committee on the Traffic of Women Children. The Committee theorized that women police officers might be better suited to deal with other women and children, and thus could be of great use in combatting prostitution and other crimes of a "moral" nature. Many of the countries which responded described their female police officers similarly. Reports from Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom emphasized that women were not on an equal playing field with male police officers, and that women police were employed simply as a preventative measure. Some countries, however, also reported somewhat progressive treatment of female police, such as equal pay. In Denmark, women were empowered to make arrests in certain situations, and some women in the United States did undercover work.

Archival sources:

Employment of Women and Police

Women Police-Countries

Women Police-General

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