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Cold War Progressives

Cold War Progressives: Women's Interracial Organizing for Peace and Freedom

Jacqueline Castledine
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 232
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    Cold War Progressives
    Book Description:

    In recognizing the relation between gender, race, and class oppression, American women of the postwar Progressive Party made the claim that peace required not merely the absence of violence, but also the presence of social and political equality. For progressive women, peace was the essential thread that connected the various aspects of their activist agendas. This study maps the routes taken by postwar popular front women activists into peace and freedom movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Historian Jacqueline Castledine tells the story of their decades-long effort to keep their intertwined social and political causes from unraveling and to maintain the connections among peace, feminism, and racial equality._x000B__x000B_Postwar progressive women and their allies often saw themselves as members of a popular front promoting the rights of workers, women, and African Americans under the banner of peace. However, the Cold War indelibly shaped the contours of their activism. Following the Progressive Party's demise in the 1950s, these activists reentered social and political movements in the early 1960s and met the inescapable reality that their agenda was a casualty of the left-liberal political division of the early Cold War era. Many Americans now viewed peace as a leftist concern associated with Soviet sympathizers and civil rights as the favored cause of liberals. Faced with the dilemma of working to reunite these movements or choosing between them, some progressive women chose to lead such New Left organizations as the Jeannette Rankin Brigade while others became leaders of liberal "second wave" feminist movements._x000B__x000B_Whether they committed to affiliating with groups that emphasized one issue over others or attempted to found groups with broad popular-front type agendas, Progressive women brought to their later work an understanding of how race, class, and gender intersect in women's organizing. These women's stories demonstrate that the ultimate result of Cold War-era McCarthyism was not the defeat of women's activism, but rather its reconfiguration._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09443-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Peace, Freedom, and Abundance
    (pp. 1-12)

    In July 1972, the first regular issue of Ms. magazine premiered with a cover boldly announcing its commitment to the social and political empowerment of women.¹ Readers passing newsstands recognized comic book heroine Wonder Woman striding toward them, as scenes of a war-torn Asian battlefield sat to the right of her feet and a placid small-town American Main Street to the left. Lifted from the war landscape by her golden “lasso of truth” was a miniature Asian village that the Amazon figure towering above clutched in her right hand, having saved it from the ravages of war. The village was...

  6. Chapter 1 Gender, Politics, and the Emerging Cold War
    (pp. 13-43)

    In mid-July 1948, members of the Progressive Party met at their founding convention in Philadelphia to write a blueprint for postwar America. The delegates had already chosen their presidential contender; the party was formed to run Henry Wallace as a “peace candidate.” In Philadelphia they turned their attention to introducing voters to the party’s strain of leftist peace politics. The resulting platform, “Peace, Freedom, and Abundance,” vowed to return America to “the purpose of Franklin Roosevelt,” namely, overseeing a redistribution of the nation’s wealth through “progressive capitalism,” guaranteeing civil liberties and civil rights to all Americans, and “seek[ing] areas of...

  7. Chapter 2 Progressive Feminisms
    (pp. 44-66)

    As Progressive women headed out on the campaign trail in 1948, they faced a number of challenges. Not only did Women for Wallace activists have to contend with Cold War politics, including debates about the role of Communists in the Progressive Party, they also had to negotiate the competing rationales members claimed for women’s political engagement. The feminisms that took root in the PP were most often shaped by debates about the grounds on which Progressive women should demand their right to political participation. Divisions within the Congress of American Women and Women for Wallace organizations were determined by the...

  8. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  9. Chapter 3 Progressive Mothers
    (pp. 67-85)

    At the core of U.S. leftist women’s postwar activism stood a host of social justice causes, including civil rights and women’s equality, but central to it was peace. Response to their attempts to push the boundaries of good mothering to include such endeavors as political organizing, especially peace activism, that took them out of the home and challenged emerging Cold War liberal ideology suggests the difficulties they would face balancing the personal and the political in the immediate postwar era. The experiences of a cohort of Progressive Party organizers working across the nation at both national and local levels demonstrates...

  10. Chapter 4 “Battleships, Atom Bombs, and Lynch Ropes”
    (pp. 86-109)

    The founding of the Progressive Party in 1948 was a significant milestone in the lives of Eslanda Goode Robeson, Shirley Graham (Du Bois), and Charlotta Bass, helping to mark their evolution from social activists to public intellectuals. Their success in uniting race and gender emancipation ideologies and linking them to world peace with the support of mixed-sex, racially integrated organizations complicates critiques that nationalist movements have historically discouraged women’s attempts to address feminist concerns. Moreover, the work of these women in the Progressive Party and in organizations like the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and the Sojourners for Truth and...

  11. Chapter 5 Cold War Legacies
    (pp. 110-131)

    Through the organization’s eight years of existence, African American women remained active at both the highest levels of the Progressive Party and its base, where interracial grassroots networks attempted to bring the lofty ideals of national figures like Eslanda Goode Robeson, Shirley Graham Du Bois, and Charlotta Bass to life. The American Labor Party, which in 1948 served as the PP organization of New York, was one important vehicle for women fighting racism and U.S. militarism in their local communities. Historians who have documented the ALP’s important contributions to New York’s early civil rights campaigns often overlook the significance of...

  12. Chapter 6 From the Popular Front to a New Left
    (pp. 132-158)

    As the United States entered the 1960s, the nation’s political landscape appeared far different than at the dawn of the previous decade. On the home front, the Senate’s 1954 censure of Joseph McCarthy began a rapid political decline that resulted in his death from alcoholism three years later, representing to most Americans a symbolic defeat of the worst impulses of postwar anticommunism. U.S. foreign affairs also looked different, due in part to President Dwight Eisenhower’s efforts in negotiating global nuclear test–ban moratoriums. The slight thawing of Cold War tensions included discussion of a permanent test-ban treaty, raising the hopes...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-182)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-198)
  15. Index
    (pp. 199-209)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 210-215)