"A woman's place is in the Cold War" : American women's organizations and international relations 1945-1965
The aim of this thesis is to explore the activities of American women's associations in the international realm. In the years immediately following the Second World War, American women saw both an opportunity and an obligation to become active in the international sphere. With obstacles and prejudices preventing their inclusion in mainstream political and diplomatic circles, many American women channelled their interest and activities in the international realm through the medium of voluntary women's organizations. These organizations participated in a number of programmes which sought to export the American way of life, and women's place within it, to overseas markets. Whilst many of these programmes were a product of American women's authentic desire to assist women in other nations, many originated with and were directed by the US government. The work of American women's organizations in international relations were an important component of two government strategies. Firstly, they were a response to the enthusiasm and encouragement of the US government for the involvement of the private sector in Cold War propaganda. Secondly, the efforts of the US government to reach and influence group identities (such as women) in the international realm was aided by the co-operation of American representatives of that group. In co-operating with their government, American women's organizations were engaged in a constant process of negotiation between their 'natural' and international role as women and their role as Americans. The task of defining and exporting the interests and identities of American women to a world audience was both the result of direct government involvement and the willingness of leaders of American women's organizations to serve national interests. Government involvement ranged from help arranging the details of overseas tours to full-scale funding for a women's organization to combat Communist propaganda. The co-operation of voluntary organizations with the government challenges traditional divisions between the private and public realm, which have in the past contributed to a historiography which has placed undue emphasis on American women's commitment to the domestic ideology of the post-war years, at the expense of an accurate assessment of their role in American foreign relations.