The Origins of Cold War Feminism During the Korean War

TitleThe Origins of Cold War Feminism During the Korean War
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsKim, Suzy
JournalGender & History
Date Published06/2019

While historians of the Cold War in the United States have argued that both feminism and pacifism receded in the 1950s with the rise of domesticity and McCarthyism, the Korean War galvanised international women to support and promote women's rights and launch the first global peace campaign during the Cold War. Cold War historiography has skewed understanding of the international history of the women's movement and dismissed serious efforts against the Korean War as ‘bogus peace ventures’. Situating North Korean women within the international women's peace movement, this article excavates buried histories of Cold War sutures to show how leftist women tried to bridge the Cold War divide through maternal strategies. Doing so challenges the ‘containment’ thesis on the retrenchment of radical movements during the early Cold War to show the dynamic possibility opened up by the Cold War and offers an alternative transnational history of the Korean War that includes women as peace makers. The Korean War is most commonly framed as a ‘proxy war’ in Western diplomatic and military histories even when its origins as a civil war are acknowledged, waged on the whole by male politicians and soldiers. When women enter the picture at all, it is usually as victims, survivors or sometimes fighters, but rarely does this change the overall history of the war itself. It has come to be known in the United States as a ‘forgotten war’ for the allegedly muted response it received during and since.

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