1st Edition

The Women’s International Democratic Federation, the Global South and the Cold War Defending the Rights of Women of the ‘Whole World’?

By Yulia Gradskova Copyright 2021
    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book examines the role of the Women's International Defense Federation (WIDF) in transnational women’s activism in the context of the Cold War, and in connection to the rights of women from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    Combining a global history and postcolonial theory approach, this monograph shines light on an underrepresented organisation and its important role in the Cold War, Twentieth Century women's rights and Soviet history. Questioning whether the organization acted for women’s causes or whether it was merely a Cold War political instrument, the book analyzes and problematizes the place that the WIDF had in the politics of the Soviet Union, examining the ideology and politics of the WIDF and state socialist propaganda regarding women's equality and rights. Using Soviet archival documents of the organizations, the book offers a new perspective on the complexities of the development of global women’s rights movement divided by the Cold War confrontations.

    This is an important study suitable for students and researchers in Women's and Gender History, Eastern European History and Gender Studies. 

    Chapter 1. A Forgotten Women’s Organization? The WIDF, in Between Women’s History and Cold War Studies

    Chapter 2. The WIDF, the Soviet State, and Cold War Battles

    Chapter 3. Protecting Peace, Mothers, and Children - WIDF’s Ideology and Activities in its First Decades

    Chapter 4. Anti-Colonialism, Anti-Racism and Social Rights – the WIDF Defends Women in the Global South

    Chapter 5. The State Socialist Model of Women’s Emancipation as an Example to Follow for the "Whole World"

    Chapter 6. Women from Asia, Africa and Latin America Make Themselves Visible in the WIDF

    Chapter 7. Activists from the Global South and the WIDF – A Biographical Perspective

    Chapter 8. The WIDF on the Eve of IWY and During the UN Decade for Women

    Chapter 9. The WIDF and the End of the Three Worlds: Concluding Remarks


    Yulia Gradskova is Associate Professor in History and works at the Department of History, Stockholm University, Sweden. Her research interests include Soviet and post-Soviet social and gender history, decolonial perspective on Soviet politics on emancipation of “woman of the East” and gender equality. Gradskova is the author of Soviet Politics of Emancipation of Ethnic Minority Women. Natsionalka (Springer, 2018) and co-editor of several books, including Gendering Postsocialism. Old Legacies and New Hierarchies (Routledge 2018, with Ildiko Asztalos Morell); Gender Equality on a Grand Tour. Politics and Institutions – the Nordic Council,  Sweden, Lithuania and Russia (Brill, 2017 – with E. Blomberg, Y. Waldemarson and A. Zvinkliene).

    "This timely book makes an important contribution not only to the history of the Women’s International Democratic Federation as an organisation and the issues it dealt with, but also to the study of post-war women’s rights movements in global and transnational perspective. It offers an interpretation of the dynamics of the Cold War that transcends superpower antagonism by focusing on grass roots campaigning and makes an important contribution to on-going debates about the impact of post-colonialism and anti-racism."

    • Melanie Ilic, Professor of Soviet History, University of Gloucestershire, and author of Soviet Women - Everyday Lives

    "In the throes of the Cold War, Second World and Third World women crafted an alternative to the Western vision for winning equality for "women of the whole world." Yulia Gradskova deftly unearths the story of their complex interactions in the largest transnational women’s organization on the global stage, showing how women from the Global South welded gender equality and human rights to anti-racism and anti-colonialism. It’s an inspiring story with unmistakable relevance for today."

    • Leila J. Rupp, Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement

    "Yulia Gradskova’s pioneering study offers fresh insights into the complex history of the WIDF, one of the world’s most important international women’s organizations. She sheds new light on the diverse motivations of individual members, motivations often quite independent from the official (and changing) goals of the organization. This book presents convincing evidence that the work of women activists from different continents represented more than simple reflections of Cold War ideologies."

    • Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, Associate Professor of History, University of Arizona, author of The Politics of Motherhood: Maternity and Women’s Rights in Twentieth Century Chile.

    "'Drawing on the archives of the Committee of Soviet Women, Gradskova offers a fresh perspective on the history of the Women's International Democratic Federation during the Cold War, and asks important questions about the role of "Moscow" in forging connections with women's movements in the global South."

    •  Celia Donert, University Lecturer in Central European History, University of Cambridge