In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Feminism

  • Introduction
  • Primary Source Material
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  • Educational Reform
  • Intellectual History

Atlantic History Feminism
Ann Taylor Allen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 January 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0179


Although women, as individuals and in groups, have protested against the various forms of subordination they experienced at many times in history, organized feminist movements date only to the late 18th century, the era of revolutions in several parts of the Atlantic world. This bibliography will cover the years from the late 18th until the early 20th century—a period when feminist organizations on both sides of the Atlantic created a dense network of contacts. These took many different forms: individual visits, international conferences, letters, periodicals, pamphlets, and many other publications. Although most feminist organizations identified themselves primarily with individual nations, they derived energy and inspiration from international contacts that provided support, resources, and opportunities for self-expression that were often not available at home. A great variety of literature attests to the interest that these movements have attracted among historians, particularly in recent years. This bibliography focuses on international contacts within the Atlantic world. The internal history of national feminist movements will not be included, as this would be far too broad a scope for a single bibliography. Here, we define “feminists”—a term that was not in common use until the 20th century—as persons, male, or female, who recognized and opposed the subordination of women as a group to men as a group and who worked for the rights and welfare of women. The emphasis here will be on organized movements, but contacts among individual activists will also be included. Particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, these activists emphasized not only the rights, but also what they considered the responsibilities, of women in many areas of social reform: the abolition of slavery, the restriction of alcohol consumption, and assistance to vulnerable women and children, to name only a few such areas. Such reform movements were closely linked to feminism because they demonstrated women’s ability and determination to broaden their sphere of action, to work effectively outside the home, and to pursue what they identified as “women’s mission” in the public sphere. The dense international and transatlantic networks formed by women social reformers also transmitted feminist ideas and programs. In this bibliography, the term “Atlantic” will designate territories bordering on the Atlantic Ocean, including North and Latin America, Europe, and Africa. The terms international, transnational, and transatlantic will be used in a general sense to refer to contacts among people or organizations from two or more of these areas.

General Overviews

Because international feminism in the Atlantic world is such an extensive subject, no general works as yet cover the entire field. However, Banks 1981 and Offen 2000 provide broad surveys of international feminisms in specific areas. Banks 1981 and Rowbotham 1997 (cited under 1850–1930s: British–American Contacts) survey British and American women’s history with an emphasis on feminist movements. Offen 2000 gives a comprehensive history of European feminism that likewise includes accounts of transatlantic ties. This literature is strongest on ties between Europe and America.

  • Banks, Olive. Faces of Feminism. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981.

    An early attempt to survey the relationship between British and American feminist movements in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Offen, Karen. European Feminisms, 1700–1950: A Political History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

    A comprehensive work on feminisms in Europe that also includes some material on international and transatlantic connections and on such international organizations as the League of Nations and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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