Antiradicalism, Antifeminism, and the First Red Scare
“In Un-American Womanhood, Nielsen brilliantly illustrates the conflict over gender ideologies that split America in the 1920s. . . . Nielsen uncovered amazing evidence of a massive right wing conspiracy against the women’s movement in the 1920s, supported by the American Legion and a War Department determined to prevent further reductions in military spending. In this time when a president jails citizens without charge or trial and political appointees secure their power by spreading unreasonable fear and suspicion, few histories are as timely as Un-American Womanhood. Nielsen’s slim volume is a remarkable achievement.” —NWSA Journal
“In analyzing the Red Scare in the context of gender, Nielsen makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the post-World War I decade. Nielsen provides a wealth of material on the conservative groups and individuals who kept up a relentless campaign against the ‘women’s lobby’ and its reform agenda. Un-American Womanhood is extremely well researched and will definitely have a broad appeal to scholars, who will find it an excellent example of how important it is to incorporate gender into our understanding of ‘political’ history.” —Lynn Dumenil, Occidental College
“Un-American Womanhood tells an intriguing tale in which antiradicalism and antistatism were integral to the antifeminism of those organizing against a women’s politics expressed in a postwar peace activism, the building of a ‘maternalist’ welfare state, and the pursuit of women’s collective influence in the public realm. It is a finely placed study for engaging the historical literature in multiple fields of women’s history, peace history, and political history, including the history of American conservatism. Nielsen’s work is relevant to contemporary concerns about antifeminism and gender conservatism.” —Elizabeth Faue, Wayne State University
Un-American Womanhood studies the Red Scare of the 1920s through the lens of gender. Kim Nielsen describes the methods antifeminists used to subdue feminism and other movements they viewed as radical. By tapping into widespread anxieties about Bolshevism and the expansion of the state, antifeminist women fought against certain social welfare programs such as the Sheppard-Towner Act and the Children’s Bureau and resisted efforts to legitimize the female citizen as an autonomous political figure. The book also considers the seeming contradictions of outspoken antifeminists who broke with traditional gender norms to assume forceful and public roles in their efforts to denounce feminism.
Kim Nielsen is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Change
and Development at the University of Wisconsin.
224 pp. 6 x 9 15 illustrations
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