Women from the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe—what used to be called the Second World—once dominated women’s activism at the United Nations, but their contributions have been largely forgotten or deemed insignificant in comparison with those of Western feminists. In Second World, Second Sex Kristen Ghodsee rescues some of this lost history by tracing the activism of Eastern European and African women during the 1975 United Nations International Year of Women and the subsequent Decade for Women (1976-1985). Focusing on case studies of state socialist Bulgaria and non-aligned but socialist-leaning Zambia, Ghodsee examines the feminist networks that developed between the Second and Third Worlds and shows how alliances between socialist women challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement. Drawing on interviews and archival research across three continents, Ghodsee argues that international ideological competition between capitalism and socialism profoundly shaped the world women inhabit today.
“Powerfully rethinking a range of twentieth-century women's activism that has been reviled or denounced out of hand, Kristen Ghodsee refuses to position communist and socialist women's movements solely in relation to those in the West. She asks us to begin from another history, another frame of reference, and other political grounds—a difficult, sometimes uncomfortable, and ultimately valuable task. This is a brilliant, funny, surprising, and moving book.”
(Elisabeth Armstrong, author of Gender and Neoliberalism: The All India Democratic Women’s Association and Globalization Politics)
“In this ambitious and fascinating book Kristen Ghodsee makes visible and celebrates the communist, socialist, and non-Western women who played a central role in the UN's Decade for Women. With vivid, engaging, and rewarding writing, Ghodsee offers a compelling narrative and collection of stories that will be of great interest to scholars of women's activism during the Cold War.”
(Maria Bucur, John W. Hill Chair of European History and Professor of History and Gender Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington)