Societies in search of change



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1914-Present Document 1

Latin America:

Keen and Hayes. Cuban Revolution. A History of Latin America.

Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.

SOCIETIES IN SEARCH OF CHANGE

Social relations changed slowly in Latin America. Inequalities based on ethnicity continued in some places. Women had entered the labor force in large numbers but began to gain the vote only aftel'1929. However their status was in many ways closer to that of women in Western Europe than to those of Asia or Africa. Population growth, urbanization, and the migration of workers continued to challenge the region as both politicians and artists tried to identify and confront persistent problems.

Despite the structural, political, and international conditions that have frustrated Latin American attempts at profound reform, there have been great changes during the 20th century. Problems of ethnicity, gender, and class continue to influence many of these societies. The movement of populations and their settlement has also been a major feature of the century. These aspects of social life are just two of the continuing historical processes of Latin America.

Social and gender relations have changed during the century. We have already seen how countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia sought to enfranchise their Indian populations during this century in different ways and with differing degrees of success. National ideologies and actual practice often are not the same, and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity continues in many places. To be called Indian is still an insult in many places in Latin America. Although ethnic and cultural mixture characterizes many Latin American populations and makes Indian and African elements important features of national identity, relations with Indian populations often continue to be marked by exploitation and discrimination in nations as diverse as Brazil, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

Slow Change in Women's Roles

The role of women has changed slowly. After World War I, women in Latin America continued to live under inequalities in the workplace and in politics. Women were denied the right to vote anywhere in Latin America until Ecuador enfranchised women in 1929 and Brazil and Cuba did the same in 1932. Throughout most of the region, those examples were not followed until the 1940s and 1950s. In some nations, the traditional associations of women with religion and the Catholic Church in Hispanic life made reformers and revolutionaries fear that women would become a conservative force in national politics. This attitude, combined with traditional male attitudes that women should be concerned only with home and family, led to a continued exclusion of women from political life. In response, women formed various associations and clubs and began to push for the vote and other issues of interest to them.

Feminist organizations, suffrage movements, and international pressures eventually combined to bring about change. In Argentina, 15 bills for female suffrage were introduced in the senate before the vote was won in 1945. Sometimes the victory was a matter of political expediency for those in power: In the Dominican Republic and some other countries, the enfranchisement of women was a strategy used by conservative groups to add more conservative voters to the electorate in an effort to hold off political change. In Argentina, recently enfranchised women became a major pillar of the Peronist regime, although that regime suppressed female political opponents such as Victoria Ocampo, editor of the important literary magazine Sur.

Women eventually discovered that the ability to vote did not in itself guarantee political rights or the ability to have their specific issues heard. After achieving the vote, women tended to join the national political parties, where traditional prejudices against women in public life limited their ability to influence political programs. In Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, for example, the integration of women into national political programs has been slow, and women have not participated in proportion to their numbers. In a few cases, however, such as in the election of Peron in Argentina in 1946 and Eduardo Frei in Chile in 1964, or in the popular opposition to Salvador Salvador Allende, Chili in 1972.

Some of the earliest examples of mobilization of women and their integration into the national labor force of various Latin American nations came in the period just before World War I and continued there after. The classic roles of women as homemakers, mothers, and agricultural workers were expanded as women entered the industrial labor force in growing numbers. By 1911 in Argentina, for example, women made up almost 80 percent of the textile and clothing industry's workers. But women found that their salaries often were below those of comparable male workers and that their jobs, regardless of the skill levels demanded, were considered unskilled and thus less well paid. Under these conditions, women, like other workers, joined the anarchist, socialist, and other labor unions and organizations.

Labor organizations are only a small part of the story of women in the labor force. In countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, women working in the markets control much small-scale commerce and have become increasingly active politically. In the growing service sectors, women have also become an important part of the labor force. Shifts in attitudes about women's roles have come more slowly than political and economic changes. Even in revolutionary Cuba, where a Law of the Family guaranteed equal rights and responsibilities within the home, enforcement has been difficult.

By the mid-1990s, the position of women in Latin America was closer to that in Western Europe and North America than to the other areas of the world. Women made up 9 percent of the legislators in Latin America, a percentage higher than in any other region of the world. They also held 9 percent of the cabinet posts, standing second only to North America's 12 percent. In terms of demographic patterns, health, education, and place in the work force, the comparative position of women reinforced Latin America's intermediate position between the developed nations and the Third World.

Cuba

In 1920, Alfredo Zayas, a former liberal who had participated in an unsuccessful revolt in 1917, won the presidency with conservative support. Troubled over the crash of sugar prices in the second half of 1920 and the resulting political unrest in Cuba, President Warren Harding sent General Enoch Crowder to Cuba in January 1921 as his special representative. In effect, Crowder ruled Cuba from his headquarters on board the battleship Minnesota until 1923, when he became United States ambassador.

In the last two years of the Zayas administration, Cuban nationalism revived. Crowder's blatant meddling in Cuban politics and the postwar collapse of Cuban sugar revealed the disastrous consequences of foreign domination and monoculture. Searching for solutions to these problems, Cuban university students, one-quarter of whom were women, entered the political arena in the postwar period. Believing that to change society they must change the university, they directed their first attacks against inept and corrupt professors and administrators; In 1922 students at the University of Havana demonstrated for reforms along the lines of the recent university reform in Argentina. Students would henceforth play an important role in Cuban politics until the fall of Batista In 1959.

Women also played Increasingly Influential roles in Cuba. Economic growth, especially in household services, textiles, and the tobacco and sugar-refining industries, created greater employment for women outside the home. But as they moved "from the house to the streets," in the words of historian Lynn Stoner, women brought to their public activities a communal consciousness forged in family life. Even the Women's Club, organized in 1917 and composed primarily of upper- and middle-class women, insisted that the state, the pater familias of Cuban society, should regulate domestic-social relations consistent with the common welfare. It therefore supported woman suffrage, equal pay for equal work, greater access to education, and civil equality.

Castro spent nineteen months in prison on the Isle of Pines. During this period, the leadership of the 26th of July Movement fell largely to women compatriots like Haydee Santamaria, a founding member of the 1952 anti-Batista resistance, and Melba Hernandez, the intrepid lawyer who had defended Castro at trial. They forged political alliances with other anti-Batista groups like the Association of United Cuban Women, led by Gloria Cuadras, and the Women's Marti Civic Front, organized by Carmen Castro Porta, whose anti-dictatorial activities were rooted in struggles against the Machado regime in the 1920’s.

Together, they built a network of urban and rural women who served the revolution as lawyers, interpreters, medical aides, grassroots organizers, educators, spies, messengers, and armed combatants, In addition to Cella Sanchez, perhaps Cuba's best-known woman guerilla, the revolution also spawned a female combat unit known as the "Mariana Grajales” Brigade, in honor of the "heroic mother” of the Afro-Cuban independence fighter, Antonio Maceo.

By 1955, these women had produced and distributed some ten thousand copies of Castro's History Will Absolve Me, which enhanced his reputation. Batista's general amnesty freed him in 1955, and shortly thereafter he went to Mexico to organize a new attack on the dictatorship.

By mid-1957, violence, especially in Havana, had become endemic as various groups, most unaffiliated with Castro's 26th of July Movement, attacked the regime and met with brutal retaliation. Even women revolutionaries, insulated from earlier repression by the regime's sexism, began to experience wholesale arrests, torture, and imprisonment. But they maintained a sense of humor; when their lawyer. Margo Aniceto Rodriguez, was also imprisoned for denouncing Batista's terrorism, other jailed rebels joked that "Margo is such a good lawyer that, if she cannot free us, she at least comes to stay with us in prison."

1914-Present Document 2

Cuba

Keen and Hayes. Cuban Revolution. A History of Latin America.

Despite its mixed economic record, the revolution's achievements in the areas of employment, equitable distribution of income, public health, and education were remarkable. Until the onset of the 1990 economic crisis, which caused many factories to shut down due to lack of fuel, Cuba had the lowest rate of joblessness in Latin America. But even workers who were laid off because of plant closings continued to receive 60 percent of their wages. Inequalities In the standard of living were dramatically reduced from the days of Batista. The working classes in particular benefited from government policies; rents were controlled, limited to no more than 10 percent of income, as were rationed food prices (but the government tolerated an open market in farm products). Eighty percent of Cubans owned their own homes. Agricultural workers on state farms and cooperatives got furnished houses with televisions and community recreational centers. Cuban city streets had virtually no beggars and sidewalk vendors, which set them apart from their Latin American counterparts. Education and health care were free and equally accessible to all.

The revolution had always promised equality and social justice, but these were special goals of the Cuban Women's Federation (FMC), organized in 1960 under Vilma Espin's leadership. The FMC played a crucial role early in the development of revolutionary social services: literacy crusades reduced illiteracy from 24 to 4 percent; a national child-care system freed women, Irrespective of class, to pursue their own careers; an innovative rural education program taught vocational skills and provided peasant women with modern health-care information; and schools for maids and prostitutes discouraged exploitation of women and retrained them as professionals in socially productive activities.

Since then, the FMC, Latin America's largest women's organization with a membership of 3 million has continued to influence Cuban policy regarding health care, education, women's employment, daycare, sexual discrimination, and family life. For example, it secured passage of the 1975 Family Code, which recognized the equal right of both spouses to education and career, required them to share in household duties and child care, and established divorce as a legal remedy for any spouse whose mate refused to comply. Although a 1988 survey showed that men worked only 4.52 hours per week at home while women worked 22.28 hours, it also revealed the law's potential: most respondents acknowledged that this inequity was diminishing steadily.

The extremely difficult economic situation produced by the collapse of the socialist economic community and the tightened U.S. embargo temporarily reversed the trend of steadily improving social conditions and produced a decline in living standards. During this "special period," most Cubans lived on a drab diet of white rice and red beans, supplemented by some vegetables and fruit an occasional chicken, and what they could purchase on the open market. The food rationing system, however, prevented the emergence of the massive hunger and malnutrition so common in the rest of Latin America.

Children continued to be special objects of the government's solicitude. Children aged seven and under and pregnant women received a daily distribution of milk. Cuba's infant mortality in 1993, 9.4 per 1,000 live births, was among the lowest in the world and almost equal with that (9.1) of the United States. Despite the growth of hardships and resulting slippage in living standards, Cuba continued to lead all other Latin American countries in the quality of life it provides its children. A 1993 study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) noted that, among other things, Cuban children had a greater chance at survival, with 12 deaths per 1,000 children up to the age of five. The average for Central America and the Caribbean was forty-seven and for South America fifty-four. The most recent estimate of life expectancy in Cuba, 75.9 years, compared to average life expectancy of 58.2 years in the underdeveloped world. Cuba had the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio in Latin America. According to a 1990 study in the Latin American Research Review, Cuba had "transformed itself into a world-class health-care provider, an extraordinary achievement." Sophisticated medical procedures performed in Cuba included heart transplants, heart-lung transplants, and microsurgery. The educational budget amounted to 7 percent of the nation's GNP, the highest in Latin America. The population had an average of a ninth-grade education, and illiteracy was wiped out. Undoubtedly, most Cubans benefited from the revolution, which explains their extraordinary support for it, almost forty years later in the midst of its deepest economic crisis. According to an independent 1994 poll, commissioned by the Miami Herald and conducted by a Costa Rican affiliate of the Gallup Organization, 69 percent of Cubans identified themselves as revolutionaries, socialists, or communists and 58 percent believed the revolution had produced more achievements than failures.

1914-Present Document 3

Gender in the U.S. 1950’s and 1960’s (Cold War)

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.

When Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon squared off in the kitchen debate in Moscow, their argument underscored the importance of women and domesticity as a means of understanding the differences between their respective societies and by extension, between all capitalist and communist societies. Citizens of the United States, like Nixon, celebrated the wondrous home appliances that made the lives of housewives and mothers so comfortable and that distinguished these U.S. women from their toiling Soviet counterparts. Clinging to the notion that U.S. women best served their families and their nation by staying home and rearing patriotic children, social and political leaders in the United States believed that families provided the best defense against communist infiltration in their nation. Women did not need to work, as they did in the Soviet Union, because their husbands earned enough to support the family in suburban splendor and because a mother's most important job was keeping the family happy and loyal. 

Cold war concerns about the spread of communism reached into the domestic sphere, particularly in the United States. Politicians, F.B.I. agents, educators, and social commentators warned of communist spies trying to undermine the institutions of U.S. life, and Senator Joseph McCarthy (1909-1957) became infamous in the early 1950s for his unsuccessful quest to expose communists in the U.S. government. Supporting any radical or liberal cause, or behaving in any odd way, nonetheless subjected citizens of the United States to suspicions about their loyalty. Thousands of citizens, especially those who were or once had been members of the Communist Party, lost their jobs and reputations after being deemed risks to their nation's security. Conformity to a socially sanctioned way of life thus became the norm during the early, most frightening years of the cold war. Staying safely protected in family life meant avoiding suspicion and ignoring some of the more anxious elements of the cold war as waged by the United States-the atomic peril in particular. Some scholars have dubbed this U.S. retreat to the home and family "domestic containment," indicating its similarity to the U.S. foreign policy of the containment of international communism.

While the burden of domestic containment fell on all members of the family, women were most affected by its restraints. Married women in the United States actually worked in larger numbers during the cold war than during World War II, and many began to resent having to feel shame or guilt at not living up to the domestic ideals being showcased on the new and widely viewed television shows that sustained the U.S. public during the cold war. Not all women aspired to be June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963 TV show), and female discontent with postwar domesticity in the United States helped to fuel the modem feminist movement. Aligning themselves to some extent with women in societies like the Soviet Union and taking inspiration from women in Asia and Africa who fought for their independence from the colonial powers---and often won legal equality as a result--U.S. women rejected cold war norms and agitated for their own equal rights.

Building on the dissatisfaction that had surfaced after World II with the often forcible return to the home from war work, women in European and North American societies expressed a newfound understanding of their oppression at the hands of men. French writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) wrote The Second Sex in 1949, denouncing the second-class status of women. In 1963 U.S. author Betty Friedan (1921-) published The Feminine Mystique, laying bare the severe unhappiness of women who presumably enjoyed the best life the Cold War United States could provide. Feminists provided just one signal that not all was well within the capitalist orbit, as African-Americans and university students around the world also contested elements of cold war life. When student radicals began to object to U.S. policies in Vietnam, for example, rioting and demonstrating from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, it became clear that a consensus about Cold War policies had broken down. Women activists started to adopt the very language and terms of both Marxism and anti-colonialism in their own quest for equality and independence. They referred to women as an "oppressed class" and argued against male “colonization" of female bodies and for "women's liberation." Support for domestic containment, and containment itself, wavered.


1914-Present Document 4

The Women's Revolution in Western Europe and the U.S.

Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, a Global Experience. 4th ed. 2008.

A key facet of postwar change involved women and the family; again, both Western Europe and the United States participated in this upheaval. Although family ideals persisted in contradictory ways, with workers urging that "a loving family is the finest thing, something to work for, to look to and to look after," the realities of family life changed in contradictory ways. Family leisure activities expanded. Extended family contacts were facilitated by telephones and automobiles. More years of schooling increased the importance of peer groups for children, and the authority of parents declined.

The clearest innovation in family life came through the new working patterns of women. World War II brought more factory and clerical jobs for women, as World War I had done. After a few years of downward adjustment, the trends continued. From the early 1950s onward, the number of working women, particularly married women, rose steadily in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. Women's earlier educational gains had improved their work qualifications; the growing number of service jobs created a need for additional workers. Many women also sought entry into the labor force as a means of adding to personal or family income, affording some of the consumer items now becoming feasible but not yet easy to buy or fulfilling themselves personally in a society that associated worth with work and earnings.

The growing employment of women brought the female segment of the labor force up to 44 percent of the total in most western countries by the 1970s. To be sure, full job equality was not achieved. Most women were concentrated in clerical jobs rather than spread through the occupational spectrum, despite a growing minority of middle-class women who were entering professional and management ranks. Clearly, however, the trends of the 19th century Industrial Revolution, which had kept women and family separate from work outside the home, had yielded to a dramatic new pattern.

Other new rights for women accompanied this shift. Where women had lacked the vote before, as in France, they now got it. Women made gains in higher education, although again full equality remained elusive. Family rights improved, at least in the judgment of most women's advocates. Access to divorce increased, which many observers viewed as particularly important to women. Abortion law eased, though more slowly in countries of Catholic background than in Britain or Scandinavia; it became increasingly easy for women to regulate their reproduction. The development of new birth control methods, such as the contraceptive pill, introduced in 1960, and growing knowledge and acceptability of birth control, decreased unwanted pregnancies. Sex and procreation became increasingly separate considerations. Although women continued to differ from men in sexual outlook and behavior, for example, more than twice as many French women as men hoped to link sex, marriage, and romantic love, according to 1960s polls, more women than before tended to define sex in terms of pleasure.

Predictably, changes in the family, including the roles of women, raised new issues and redefined ideals of companionship. The first issue involved children. A brief increase in the Western birth rate ended in the early 1960s, and a rapid decline ensued. By the 1990s countries such as Italy and Greece were no longer maintaining population levels except by immigration. The greater number of employed women and the desire to use income for high consumer standards worked against having children, or very many children, particularly in the middle class. Increasingly, children were sent, often at an early age, to day care centers, one of the amenities provided by the European welfare state. At the same time, however, some observers worried that Western society was becoming indifferent to children in an eagerness for adult work and consumer achievements. For example, between the 1950s and 1980s American adults shifted their assessment of family satisfaction away from parenthood by concentrating on shared enjoyments between husbands and wives.

Family stability also showed new cracks. Pressures to readjust family roles, women working outside the family context, and growing legal freedom for women caused men and women alike to turn more readily to divorce. In 1961, 9 percent of all British marriages ended in divorce; by 1965, the figure was 16 percent and rising. By the late 1970s, one-third of all British marriages ended in divorce; and the U.S. rate was even higher.

A new surge of feminist protest showed the strains caused by women's new activities amid continued limitations. The growing divorce rate produced an increase of female poverty. New work roles revealed the persistent earnings gap between men and women.

A new feminism began to take shape with the publication in 1949 of The Second Sex by French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir. Betty Friedan popularized and Americanized this thinking with her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, a college graduate who had worked in psychology before marrying, had moved to the suburbs and raised three children in the 1950s. Her role left her deeply dissatisfied, and she urged women's work and equality, writing for women's magazines and interviewing many women equally frustrated with the suburban dream. Divorced in 1969, Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Efforts of this sort, throughout the West, launched a new wave of women's rights agitation after three decades of calm. Compared to earlier efforts, the new feminism tended to emphasize a more literal equality that would play down special domestic roles and qualities

Thus, even as social class tensions declined in the West, compared with the century of industrialization, new divisions became important. Gender conflict was an obvious new issue, but so was the gap between racial minorities, new or old, and established white populations.

1914-Present Document 5

Mobilizing Women in the Soviet Union

McKay et al., A History of World Societies, Vol. II, 4th ed.

The radical transformation of Soviet society had a profound impact on women's lives. Marxists had traditionally believed that both capitalism and the middle-class husband exploited women. The Russian Revolution of 1917 immediately proclaimed complete equality of rights for women. In the 1920s divorce and abortion were made easily available, and women were urged to work outside the home and liberate themselves sexually. The most prominent Bolshevik feminist, Alexandra Kollontai, went so far as to declare that the sex act had no more significance than "drinking a glass of water." This observation drew a sharp rebuke from the rather prudish Lenin, who said that "no sane man would lie down to drink from a puddle in the gutter or even drink from a dirty glass.” After Stalin came to power, sexual and familial liberation was played down, and the most lasting changes for women involved work and education.

These changes were truly revolutionary. Young women were constantly told that they had to be fully equal to men, that they could and should do anything men could do. Peasant women in Russia had long experienced the equality of backbreaking physical labor in the countryside, and they continued to enjoy that equality on collective farms. With the advent of the five-year plans, millions of women also began to toil in factories and in heavy construction, building dams, roads, and steel mills in summer heat and winter frost. Yet most of the opportunities open to men through education were also open to women. Determined women pursued their studies and entered the ranks of the better-paid specialists in industry and science. Medicine practically became a woman's profession. By 1950, 75 percent of all doctors in the Soviet Union were women.

Thus Stalinist society gave women great opportunities but demanded great sacrifices as well. The vast majority of women simply had to work outside the home. Wages were so low that it was almost impossible for a family or couple to live only on the husband's earnings. Moreover, the full-time working woman had a heavy burden of household tasks in her off hours, for most Soviet men in the 1930s still considered the home and the children the woman's responsibility. Men continued to monopolize the best jobs. Finally, rapid change and economic hardship led to many broken families, creating further physical, emotional, and mental strains for women. In any event, the often neglected human resource of women was ruthlessly mobilized in Stalinist society. This, too, was an aspect of the Soviet totalitarian state.

1914-Present Document 6

Women in Asian and African Nationalist Movements

Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.

One important but .often neglected dimension of the liberation struggles that Asian and African peoples waged against their colonial overlords was the emergence of educated, articulate and politically active women in most colonial societies. The educational opportunities provided by the European colonizers often played as vital a role as they had in the formation of male leadership in nationalist movements. Missionary girls' schools were confined in the early stages of European involvement in Africa and Asia to the daughters of low-class or marginal social groups. But by the end of the 19th century they had became respectable for women from the growing Westernized business and professional classes. In £act, in many cases same degree of Western education was essential if Westernized men were to find wives with whom they could share their career concerns and intellectual pursuits.

The seemingly insurmountable barriers that separated Westernized Asian and African men from their traditional-and thus usually without formal education-wives became a stock theme in the novels and short stories of the early nationalist era. This concern was perhaps best exemplified by the works of Rabindranath Tagore. The problem was felt so acutely by the first generation of Indian nationalist leaders that many took up the task of teaching their wives English and Western philosophy and literature at home. Thus, for many upper-class Asian and African women, colonization proved a liberating force. This trend was often offset by the male-centric nature of colonial education and the domestic focus of the curriculum in women's schools.

Although women played little role in the early, elitist stages of Asian and African nationalist movements, they often became more and more prominent as the early study clubs and political associations reached out to build a mass base. In India, women who had been exposed to Western education and European ways, such as Tagore's famous heroine in the novel The Home and the World, came out of seclusion and took up supporting roles, although they were still usually behind the scenes. Gandhi's campaign to supplant imported, machine-made British cloth with homespun Indian cloth, for example, owed much of its success to female spinners and weavers. As nationalist leaders moved their anti-colonial campaigns into the streets, women became involved in mass demonstrations. Throughout the 1920s arid 1930s, Indian women braved the lathi, or billy club, assaults of the Indian police; suffered the indignities of imprisonment; and launched their own newspapers and lecture campaigns to mobilize female support for the nationalist struggle.

In Egypt, the British made special note of the powerful effect that the participation of both veiled women and more Westernized upper-class women had on mass demonstrations in 1919 and the early 1920s. These outpourings of popular support did much to give credibility to the Wafd's demands for British withdrawal. In both India and Egypt, female nationalists addressed special appeals to British and American suffragists to support their struggles for political and social liberation. In India in particular, their causes were advanced by feminists such as the English champion of Hinduism, Annie Besant, who became a major figure in the nationalist movement both before and after World War I.

When African nationalism became popularly supported after World War II, women, particularly the outspoken and fearless market women in west Africa, emerged as a major political force. In settler colonies such as Algeria and Kenya, where violent revolt proved necessary to bring down deeply entrenched colonial regimes, women took on the dangerous tasks of messengers bomb carriers, and guerrilla fighters. As Frantz Fanon argued decades ago, and as was later beautifully dramatized in the film The Battle of Algiers, this transformation was particularly painful for women who had been in seclusion right up to the time of the revolutionary upsurge. The cutting of their hair, as well as the wearing of lipstick and Western clothes, often alienated them from their own fathers and brothers, who equated such practices with prostitution.

In many cases, women's participation in struggles for the political liberation of their people was paralleled by campaigns for female rights in societies dominated by men. Upper-class Egyptian women founded newspapers and educational associations that pushed for a higher marriage age, educational opportunities for women, and an end to seclusion and veiling. Indian women took up many of these causes and also developed programs to improve hygiene and employment opportunities for lower-caste women. These early efforts, as well as the prominent place of women in nationalist struggles, had much to do with the granting of basic civil rights to women. These included suffrage and legal equality that were key features of the constitutions of many newly independent Asian and African nations. The majority of women in the new states of Africa and Asia have yet to enjoy most of these rights. Yet their inclusion in constitutions and post-independence laws provides crucial backing for the struggles for women's liberation in the nations of the postcolonial world.

1914-Present Document 7

Women's Subordination and the Nature of Feminist Struggles in the Postcolonial Era

Africa and Asia

Stearns, Peter. World Civilizations, 3rd edition. 2000.

The example of both the Western democracies and the communist republics of eastern Europe, where women had won the right to vote in the early and mid-20th century, encouraged the founders of the emerging nations to write female suffrage into their constitutions. The very active part women played in many nationalist struggles was perhaps even more critical to their earning the right to vote and run for political office. Women's activism also produced some semblance of equality in legal rights, education, and occupational opportunities under the laws of many new nations.

However, the equality that was proclaimed on paper often bore little resemblance to the actual lights that most African and Asian women could exercise. It also had little bearing on the conditions under which they lived their daily lives. Despite the media attention given to women such as Indira Gandhi, Corazon Aquino, and Benazir Bhutto, who have emerged in the decades since independence as national leaders, political life in most African and Asian countries continues to be dominated by men. The overwhelming majority of elected officials and government administrators, particularly at the upper levels of state bureaucracies, are men. Because they usually are less well educated than their husbands, women in societies where genuine elections are held often do not exercise their right to vote, or they simply vote for the party and candidates favored by their spouses.

Even the rise to power of individual women such as Indira Gandhi, who proved to be one of the most resolute and powerful of all Third World leaders, is deceptive. In every case, female heads of state in the Third World entered politics and initially won political support because they were connected to powerful men. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister; Corazon Aquino's husband was the martyred leader of the Filipino opposition to Ferdinand Marcos; and Benazir Bhutto's father was a domineering Pakistani prime minister who had been toppled by a military coup and was executed in the late 1970s. Lacking these sorts of connections, most African and Asian women have been at best relegated to peripheral political positions and at worst are allowed no participation in the political process.

The limited gains made by African or Asian women in the political sphere are paralleled by the second-class position to which most are consigned in many societies. In some respects, their handicaps are comparable to those that constrict women in the industrialized democracies and communist nations. But the obstacles to female self-fulfillment, and in many cases mere survival, in emerging nations are usually much more blatant and fundamental than the restrictions women have to contend with in developed societies. To begin with, early marriage ages for women and large families are still the norm in most African or Asian societies. This means that women spend their youthful and middle-age years having children. There is little time to think of higher education or a. career.

Because of the low level of sanitation in many African and Asian societies and the scarcity of food in many, all but elite and upper middle-class women experience chronic anxiety about such basic issues as adequate nutrition for their children and their susceptibility to disease. The persistence of male-centric customs directly affects the health and life expectancy of women themselves. For example, the Indian tradition that dictates that women first serve their husbands and sons and then eat what is left has obvious disadvantages. The quantity and nutritional content of the leftovers is likely to be lower than of the original meals, and in tropical environments flies and other disease bearing insects are more likely to have fouled the food.

The demographic consequences of these social patterns can be dramatic. In the 1970s, for example, it was estimated that as much as 20 percent of the female population of India was malnourished and that another 30 percent had a diet that was well below acceptable United Nations levels. In sharp contrast to the industrial societies of Japan, the United States and Europe where women outnumber (because on the average they outlive) men, in India there are only 930 females for every 1000 males.

Although the highly secular property and divorce laws many new states passed after independence have given women much greater legal protection, many of these measures are ignored in practice. Very often, African and Asian women have neither the education nor the resources to exercise their legal rights. The spread of religious revivalism in many cases has further eroded these rights, even though advocates of a return to tradition often argue that practices such as veiling and stoning for women (but not men) caught in adultery actually enhance their dignity and status. Most Asian and African women continue to be dominated by male family members, are much more limited than men in their career opportunities, and are likely to be less well fed, educated, and healthy than men at comparable social levels.

1914-Present Document 8

The Contemporary World in the United States

Macridis, Roy & Hulliung, Mark, "Contemporary Political Ideologies," 1996

Radek, Kimberly M. “Women in Literature” 2001.

Spodek, Howard "The World's History," vol 2. 1998


The women of the 20th century following in the foot step of their feminist ancestors continuing the fight for the total realization of the goals of the right to vote, to archive equality in property rights, access to education, access to jobs and fair pay, divorce, and children's custody.

So throughout the 20th century women continued fighting to archive equality in the work place. In 1933 the National Industrial Recovery Act, which designed measure to expand employment opportunities and safeguard jobs, was passed and with it women benefit from wage raise, shortest working hours, and a number of employment opportunities. However the fight continued since this provision only applied to the areas of trade and industry, so women working as clerks or domestic where not cover.

      The political arena is the one area, where we see a little bit of discontinuity between the feminist of the 19th and 20th century. In the 1920, women finally archive one of their most desire goals, the right to vote.

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 fueled the feminist movement, which had been nearly dormant after 1920, and women began to demand change in politics, education, and business, and brought the gender role debate into the national conscience.

      Women saw a great payoff when the National Labor Relations Board was founded, since it gave women workers, especially textile workers, the right to deal as a collective for better wages, and working conditions. An even better reward for this continuous fight was the Equal Pay Act, which established equal pay for men and women for the same kind of job, and prohibited discrimination practices against women. This act was further broader with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which expressly prohibited all discrimination on the bases of race, and sex. Finally the years and years of fighting were paying off. These laws where not just word in papers, they were enforced by institution like the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, in the case of The Civil Act of 1964.

      In addition to fighting for equality in the working place, feminist in the 20th century were fighting for women's education. Women could become lawyers and doctors, but these professions were not always socially acceptable. The fear of social exclusion pushed women to concentrate in professions that were socially acceptable like teaching, and nursing. For those women who chose to be doctors or lawyers, even after they got their degrees there was no guarantee that they would be able to practice in their field. In some occasions, women where not recognized by institution and associations like the BAR association as professionals, so they could not get a license and practice. So, just like in the work place, 20th century women continued to fight for equality when it came to education. In 1966 women created the National Organization for women (NOW), along with the Women's Bipartisan Causcus in 1971. These groups where dedicated to promote information, and mobilize voters to demand equal education opportunities for women. These efforts did not fall in deaf ears. In 1972, the Education Act was created. This act prohibited sex discrimination in education. Finally the courts, number one enemy of feminists, let down their guards, and became increasingly sympathetic toward women's issues, and began to strike down discriminatory legislation and practices.

    By the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, there were male movement groups as well as female ones, because men were beginning to realize how restricted they had been by these rigid gender roles. Men were being pressured to spend more time at work, even if they wanted to be at home and/or family-centered. The gender debate became a media event, as talk shows, newspapers, and magazines debated the issues, wondering, for instance, if men could cry, and if they could, should it be allowed? Men were supposed to be logical and unemotional, after all, not emotional, could men’s emotionalism be a sign of femininity? Within this climate the ERA was reintroduced, having been proposed initially in 1923 and then abandoned when that activist force died after women felt equal when they gained the right to vote. The ERA would mandate that equality of rights under the law should not be abridged by the US or any state on account of sex. In that social climate, the ERA was quickly ratified by 28 states in 1972.

By 1973, however, the climate was changing again, as political conservatives, devoted to the traditional status quo and believing that the state of the nation was reflected in the condition of the family, began to devote themselves to its defeat. Phyllis Schlafly, a respected female lawyer organized the “Stop the ERA” group and traveled around the country—willing to sacrifice her family’s moral health, apparently, for the larger threat of a national crisis of potentially motherless families--organizing and propagandizing about the negative effects of passing ERA. As a political tactician and strategist, she was brilliant. She convinced people that its passage would result in men and women serving side by side in war together, using the same public restrooms, and allowing homosexuals into the classroom with young children. Although she had no statistical facts to back up these fears, she was persuasive enough. In order to pass, the ERA needed 38 states to ratify it. By 1975, only 35 had. By 1982 it was a dead issue: the time limit expired.

During the 20th century women wanted to be able to decide when to have children, or if to have children at all. With the sexual liberation of women, for the first time there was talk about birth control, and abortion. For the first time women would have a choice, in what happened with their bodies. An example of this is the case Roe V. Wade (1973), where a state's anti abortion law was declare unconstitutional.

The 1990s have been characterized by great changes in gender definitions. Worldwide, we have seen Israeli women accepted as soldiers in their armies; in fact, much like ancient Egypt, both men and women are compelled to serve. However, in Afghanistan, we saw the religious fundamentalist group, the Taliban, seize control and compel educated women into leaving their professions and wearing the veil, much like ancient Assyrian women, whenever they have to be out in public. They are being denied access to medical treatment, as well, since it is inappropriate for the male doctors to examine other men’s wives or daughters.

In the 1990s, American women learned that they can rise to leadership roles, but surveys show that it requires more effort, that they have to be exceptionally better, and that they must devote a great deal more time, than men. In addition, conservative groups like the Promise Keepers formed, and conservative movement picked up, as more people are striving for the ideal of family values. The 1990s showed that race and gender are still problems in the society during the 1991 Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings, a political fiasco so large that for the first time women were more likely to vote as a block, and their efforts helped to removing President Bush and elect more female representatives to government positions than ever before.

  Women were somewhat active in the political arena. For example, in the US, in state legislatures, the number of women in 1989 was about 20% compare to an 8% in 1975. In Illinois, Carol Mosely Braun was elected Illinois’s first black female senator. That attitude toward the importance of equality, however, did not last, as she was defeated in 1998 by an arch-conservative devoted to family values. We have had women nominated for the position of Vice-President - Geraldine Ferrero in 1984, and even women that ran for president - Pat Schroder, congresswomen from Colorado, in 1988 and Hilary Clinton in 2008.



1914-Present Document 9

Contemporary Women's Traditions and Feminist Challenges

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.

The status of women began changing after World War II. Women gained more economic, political, social, and sexual rights in highly industrialized states than in developing nations, but nowhere have they achieved full equality with men. While women have increasingly challenged cultural norms requiring their subordination to men and confinement in the family, attainment of basic rights for women has been slow. Agitation for gender equality is often linked to women's access to employment, and the industrialized nations have the largest percentage of working women. Women constitute 40 to 50 percent of the workforce in industrial societies, compared to only 20 percent in developing countries. In Islamic societies 10 percent or less of the workforce is composed of women. In all countries women work primarily in low-paying jobs designated as female; that is, teaching, service, and clerical jobs. Forty percent of all farmers are women, many at the subsistence level. Rural African women, for example, do most of the continent's subsistence farming and produce more than 70 percent of Africa's food. Whether they are industrial, service, or agricultural workers, women earn less than men earn for the same work and are generally kept out of the highest paid professional careers.

The discrimination women faced in the workplace was a major stimulus for the feminist movement in industrialized nations. Women in most of these nations had gained the right to vote after the Great War, but they found that political rights did not guarantee economic or sexual equality. After World War II, when more and more women went to work, women started to protest job discrimination, pay differentials between women and men, and their lack of legal equality. In the 1960s these complaints expanded into a full-blown feminist movement that critiqued all aspects of gender inequality. In the United States, for example, the civil rights movement that demanded equality for African-Americans influenced the women's movement and provided a training ground for women activists.

Women started to expose the ways in which a biologically determined understanding of gender led to their oppression. In addition to demanding equality in the workplace, women demanded full control over their bodies and their reproductive systems. Access to birth control and abortion became as essential to women's liberation as economic equality and independence. Only with birth control measures would women be able to determine whether or when to have children and thus avoid the notion that "biology is destiny." The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of both race and sex, and the introduction of the birth control pill in the 1960s and legal protection of abortion in the 1970s provided a measure of sexual freedom. The gender equality that an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would have secured never materialized, however, as the amendment failed to achieve ratification before the 1982 deadline.

Some socialist or communist societies transformed their legal systems to ensure basic equality. Legally, the position of women most closely matched that of men in communist or formerly communist countries like the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China. "Women hold up half the sky," Mao Zedong had declared and this eloquent acknowledgment of women's role translated into a commitment to fairness. The communist dedication to women's rights led to improvement in the legal status of Chinese women once the communists gained power in China. In 1950 communist leaders passed the so-called marriage law, which declared a "new democratic marriage system, which, is based on free choice of partners, on monogamy, on equal rights for both sexes, and on protection of the lawful interests of women and children," The law abolished patriarchal practices like child betrothal and upheld equal rights for men and women in the areas of work, property ownership, and inheritance,

Critics argue that despite such laws China's women have never gained true equality. Certainly few women have gained high status in the Communist Party's leadership. And while most women in China have full-time jobs outside the home, they do not receive wages equal to those of men. They do most of the work at home as well. Nevertheless, they are able to enter most professions, although most Chinese women engage in menial work. Long-standing Confucian values continue to degrade the status of women, especially in rural areas. Parents almost universally prefer boys over girls, One unintended consequence of China's population policies, which limits couples to one child, is the mysterious statistical disappearance of a large number of baby girls. Demographers estimate that annually more than one-half million female births go unrecorded in government statistics. Although no one can with certainty account for the "missing" girls, some population experts speculate that a continued strong preference for male children causes parents to send baby girls away for adoption or to be raised secretly, or in some cases to single them out for infanticide.

Although girls and women in industrial and communist nations are guaranteed basic if not fully equal legal rights, and are educated in roughly the same numbers as boys and men, women in other areas of the world have long been denied access to education. Expected to stay at home, girls and women have high illiteracy rates in these societies. In Arab and Muslim lands, women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate, and in some places nine of ten women are illiterate. This situation is beginning to change. Fifty years ago most women in these societies were illiterate, but in the last twenty years girls have begun to catch up with boys in education.

The same cannot be said for girls and women in India. In the 1980s only 25 percent of Indian women were literate, and women remained largely confined to the home. The percentage of women in the workforce declined to 12 percent, and the birth rate remained high despite birth control measures. This condition has ensured a life of domesticity for many Indian women. The issue that has most dramatically illustrated the perilous status of women in south Asia, though, is the prevalence of dowry deaths. What makes the birth of girl children in India so burdensome is the custom of paying dowries (gifts of money or goods) to the husband and his family upon a woman's marriage, a requirement that is difficult for many Indian families to meet. If the husband and his family perceive the dowry as inadequate, if the husband wants a new wife without returning his first wife's dowry, or even if the wife has simply annoyed the husband or her in-laws, the wife is doused with kerosene and set on fire-so that her death can be explained as a cooking accident. Some seven hundred official cases of dowry deaths were reported in Delhi alone in 1983.

This form of domestic abuse has not been restricted to India and Hindu women, but has spread through south Asia. In Pakistan more than five hundred husbands set fire to their wives between 1994 and 1997. The motives for burnings go beyond dowry, as husbands have set fire to wives who overcooked or over-salted the men's food. The victims themselves, some of whom survive, voice perhaps the saddest aspect of this treatment: resignation to their fate. One Pakistani survivor noted, "It's my fate. From childhood, I have seen nothing but suffering." These attitudes may be changing, though, as Indian and Pakistani women activists challenge these practices and establish shelters for women threatened with burning.

Around the world most women have the right to vote. They do not, however, exert political power commensurate with their numbers. Some women have nonetheless attained high political offices or impressive leadership positions. The same south Asia that revealed so many continued barriers to women's rights on a day-to-day basis also elevated numerous women to positions of power, breaking down other political barriers. Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) and Benazir Bhuto (1953-2008) led India and Pakistan as effective politicians, having been raised by fathers who themselves were prominent in politics. In 1994 Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (1945-) became the first female president of Sri Lanka. Both of her parents had previously served as prime ministers, her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916-) became the first elected woman prime minister in 1960. As president, Kumaratunga appointed her mother to serve a third term as prime minister.

In Myanmar (formerly Burma), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-) has emerged as a leader, again deriving her political authority from her father Aung San, assassinated in 1947. Assuming the leadership of the democracy after her return from exile in 1988, Suu Kyi called for a nonviolent revolution against Myanmar's "fascist government." The government placed her under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, during which time she created a new political institution, the "gateside meeting," speaking to her followers from behind the gates of her home. In the 1990 elections Suu Kyi and her party won a landslide victory, but they were not allowed to come to power. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in 1991, she could not accept the award personally because she was under house arrest.

Women demonstrated their leadership abilities in a variety of ways. They became highly visible political figures, as in south Asia, or they more anonymously joined organizations or participated in activities designed to further the cause of women's rights. The United Nations launched a Decade for Women program in 1975, and since then global conferences on the status of women have been held regularly, attracting large crowds. Even in Iran, where the Islamic revolution severely limited opportunities for women, internal forces could radically transform the image and role of women. Today revolutionary patrols walk the streets of Tehran making sure that women conform to the society's rule of dress and behavior, but during the war with Iraq, Iranian women themselves became revolutionary, picking up guns and receiving weapons training. They protected their national borders while defying gender boundaries.

1914-Present Document 11

Gender and the World Wars

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.



World War I

As conscription took men out of the labor force, wartime leaders exhorted women to fill the gaps in the workforce. Thus as men marched out to war, women marched off to work. A combination of patriotism and high wages drew women into formerly "male" jobs. The lives of women changed as they bobbed their hair and left home or domestic service for the workplace. Some took over the management of farms and businesses left by their husbands who went off to fight. Others found jobs as postal workers and police officers. Behind the battle lines, women were most visible as nurses, doctors, and communications clerks.

Perhaps the most crucial work performed by women during the war was the making of shells. Several million women, and sometimes children, put in long, hard hours in munitions factories. This work exposed them to severe dangers. The first came simply from explosions, as keeping sparks away from highly volatile materials was impossible. Many women died in these incidents, although government censorship during the war made it difficult to know how many women perished in this fashion. The other, more insidious danger came from working with TNT explosives. Although the authorities claimed that this work was not dangerous, exposure to TNT caused severe poisoning, depending on the length of exposure. Even before serious illnesses manifested themselves, TNT poisoning marked its victims by turning their skin yellow and their hair orange. The accepted though ineffectual remedy for TNT poisoning was rest, good food, and plenty of fresh milk.

Middle- and upper-class women often reported that the war was a liberating experience, freeing them from older attitudes that had limited both their work and their personal life. At the very least, the employment of upper-class women spawned a degree of deliverance from parental control and gave women a sense of mission. They knew that they were important to the war effort. The impact of the Great War on the lives of working-class women, by contrast, was relatively minor. Many working-class women in cities had long been accustomed to earning wages, and for them war work proved less than liberating. Most of the belligerent governments promised equal pay for equal work, but in most instances this promise remained unfulfilled though women's industrial wages rose during the war, measurable gaps always remained between the incomes of men and women. In the end massive female employment was a transitory phenomenon. With few exceptions the Great War only briefly suspended traditional patterns of work outside the home. Nevertheless, the extension of voting rights to women shortly after the war, at least in Britain (1918, for women thirty years and older), Germany (1919), and Austria (1919), was in part due to the role women assumed during the Great War. Later in the century, war and revolution continued to serve as at least temporary liberating forces for women, as in Russia (1917) and China (1949) where new communist governments discouraged the patriarchal family system and supported sexual equality, including birth control.


1914-Present Document 12

Depression, Despair and Government Action

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.

By 1933 unemployment in industrial societies reached thirty million, more than five times higher than in 1929. Men lost their jobs because of economic contraction, and a combination of economic trends and deliberate government policy caused women to lose theirs as well. Unemployment initially affected women less directly than men because employers preferred women workers who were paid two-thirds or three-quarters the wages of men doing the same work. But before long, governments enacted policies to reduce female employment, especially for married women. The notion that a woman's place was in the home was widespread. Thus in 1931 a British royal commission on unemployment insurance declared that "in the case of married women as a class, industrial employment cannot be regarded as the normal condition." More candid yet was the French Nobel Prize-winning physician Charles Richet (1850-1935), who insisted that removing women from the workforce would not only solve the problem of male unemployment but also increase the nation's dangerously low birthrate.

The Great Depression caused enormous personal suffering. The stark, gloomy statistics documenting the failure of economies the world over do not convey the anguish and despair of those who lost their jobs, savings, and homes, and often their dignity and hope as well. For millions of people the struggle for food, clothing, and shelter grew desperate. Shantytowns appeared overnight in urban areas, and breadlines stretched for blocks. Marriage, childbearing, and divorce rates declined, but suicide rates rose. The acute physical and social problems of those at the bottom of the economic ladder often magnified social divisions and class hatreds. Workers and farmers especially came to despise the wealthy, whom, despite their own reduced incomes, remained shielded from the worst impact of the economic downturn and continued to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Adolescents completing their schooling faced an almost nonexistent job market.


1914-Present Document 13

Nazi Germany

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.

The worldwide upheavals taking place in this era affected women as well as men, although the status of women in this era of revolutionary change depended on where they lived. While Shanfei in China found more opportunities open to her, women in Nazi Germany did not. In Nazi ideology men and women inhabited distinct and separate spheres, with women relegated primarily to the roles of wife and mother. The new regime exerted considerable effort to mesh ideology with reality. Alarmed by declining birthrates, the Nazis launched a campaign to increase births. Through tax credits, special child allowances, and marriage loans, the authorities tried to encourage marriage and, they hoped, procreation-among young people. Legal experts rewrote divorce laws so that a husband could get a divorce decree solely on the grounds that he considered his wife sterile. At the same time, the regime outlawed abortions, closed birth control centers, restricted birth control devices, and made it difficult to obtain information about family planning. The Nazis also became enamored with a relatively inexpensive form of propaganda: pronatalist (to increase births) propaganda. They set in motion a veritable cult of motherhood. Annually on 12 August, the birth date of Hitler's mother, women who bore many children received the Honor Cross of the German Mother in three classes: bronze for those with more than four children, silver for those with more than six, and gold for those with more than eight. By August 1939 some three million women carried this prestigious award, which many Germans cynically called the "rabbit decoration." In the long term, however, any efforts by the Nazis to increase the fecundity of German women failed, and the birthrate remained below replacement level. German families were simply unwilling to change their reproductive preferences, which called for fewer children.

1914-Present Document 14

World War II

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.



Women and the War

Observing the extent to which British women mobilized for war, the U.S. ambassador to London noted, "This war, more than any other war in history, is a woman's war." A poster encouraging U.S. women to join the WAVES (Women Appointed for Volunteer Emergency Service in the navy) mirrored the thought "It's A Woman's War Too!" While hundreds of thousands of women in Great Britain and the United States joined the armed forces or entered war industries, women around the world were affected by the war in a variety of ways. A number of nations barred women from engaging in combat or even carrying weapons, including Great Britain and the United States, but Soviet and Chinese women took up arms, as did female members of resistance groups. In fact, women often excelled at resistance work precisely because they were women, they were less suspect in the eyes of occupying security forces and less subject to searches. Nazi forces did not discriminate, though, when rounding up Jews for transport and extermination: Jewish women and girls died alongside Jewish men and boys.

Women who joined military services or took jobs on factory assembly lines gained an independence and confidence that had previously been denied them, but so too did women who were forced to act as heads of household in the absence of husbands killed or away at war, captured as prisoners of war, or languishing in labor camps. Women's roles changed during the war, often in dramatic ways, but those new roles proved to be temporary. After the war women warriors and workers were expected to return home and assume their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

In the meantime, though, women made the most of their opportunities. In Britain alone, women served as noncombatant pilots, wrestled with the huge balloons and their tethering lines designed to snag Nazi aircraft from the skies, drove ambulances and transport vehicles, and labored in the fields to produce foodstuffs. More than half a million women joined British military services, and approximately 350,000 women did the same in the United, States.


1914-Present Document 15

The Rape of Nanjing (China)

Bentley, Jerry. Traditions and Encounters. 1999.

During the invasion of China, Japanese forces used methods of warfare that led to mass death and suffering on a new, almost unimaginable level. Chinese civilians were among the first to feel the effects of aerial bombing of urban centers; the people of Shanghai died in the tens of thousands when Japanese bombers attacked the city to soften Chinese resistance. What became known as the Rape of Nanjing demonstrated the horror of the war as well, as the residents of Nanjing became victims of Japanese troops inflamed by war passion and a sense of racial superiority. Over the course of two months, Japanese soldiers raped seven thousand women, murdered hundreds of thousands of unarmed soldiers and civilians, and burned one-third of the homes in Nanjing. Some four hundred thousand Chinese lost their lives as Japanese soldiers used them for bayonet practice and machine-gunned them into open pits. 
The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as three hundred thousand women aged fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels called "comfort houses" or "consolation centers." The army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria, as well as from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Fully 80 percent of the women came from Korea.

Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the "comfort women" had to cater to between twenty and thirty men each day. Stationed in war zones, they often confronted the same risks as soldiers, and many became casualties of war. Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases. At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation. The impetus behind the establishment of comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing, where the mass rape of Chinese women had taken place. In trying to avoid such atrocities, though, the Japanese army only created another horror of war. Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and had to hide their past or face shunning by their own families. They found little comfort or peace after the war.


1914-Present Document 16
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