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Feminism for the Americas

The Making of an International Human Rights Movement

By Katherine M. Marino

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 28 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4969-6
    Published: March 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4970-2
    Published: February 2019

Gender and American Culture

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This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women's rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domíngez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara González; from Chile, Marta Vergara; and from the United States, Doris Stevens. This Pan-American network drove a transnational movement that advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, and broader self-determination. Their painstaking efforts led to the enshrinement of women's rights in the United Nations Charter and the development of a framework for international human rights. But their work also revealed deep divides, with Latin American activists overcoming U.S. presumptions to feminist superiority. As Marino shows, these early fractures continue to influence divisions among today’s activists along class, racial, and national lines.

Marino's multinational and multilingual research yields a new narrative for the creation of global feminism. The leading women introduced here were forerunners in understanding the power relations at the heart of international affairs. Their drive to enshrine fundamental rights for women, children, and all people of the world stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when global thinking meets local action.

About the Author

Katherine M. Marino is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
For more information about Katherine M. Marino, visit the Author Page.


"Would make a welcome addition to courses on feminist theory and women's roles in the Americas, and it should encourage scholars to dig deeper into the lives and works of feminists who were on the frontlines without necessarily publishing books or articles about feminism."--Library Journal, starred review

“In this valuable contribution to the historiography of social movements in the Americas, Marino chronicles the impact of the women’s movement of leaders from six countries--Uruguay, Brazil, Panama, Cuba, the US, and Chile--in the interwar years . . . Marino successfully demonstrates that this was a vital period in Pan-American relations.”--Choice Reviews

“A brilliant and ambitious new account of the origins of global feminism . . . . Feminism for the Americas reconstructs a radical, transnational, and influential movement for women’s equality and social justice.”--International Feminist Journal of Politics

“Marino’s historical analysis is timely and necessary, for it renders accessible this neglected arena of the complex struggle for women’s rights in the Western Hemisphere.”--Latino Book Review

"This book supersedes all previous treatments of Pan-American feminism between the 1920s and the 1950s as well as those of the international work of the National Woman's Party of the United States. It will also force critical revisions in understanding how human rights and women’s rights were articulated in the United Nations Charter. Marino's stupendous research on two continents in three languages has uncovered and enabled her to write an entirely new portrayal of work for and against equal rights treaties by feminists of the Americas. She goes behind the scenes of international meetings and conferences to provide gripping and shrewd portraits of six leading women's lives and political evolution. We hear their voices; we feel we understand their emotions as well as their political stances; the narrative advances dramatically as personalities and politics alternately converge and conflict. This is the most convincing case I have ever seen for decentering the United States in histories of transnational or international work, in order to tell the full story."--Nancy F. Cott, author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation

"Katherine Marino’s brilliant history of feminismo americano gives Latin American women their rightful place in the history of the transnational women’s movement. Crafting an engrossing narrative of individual lives and collective action based on exhaustive multinational research, Marino details the ways Latin American feminists fought on the global stage for economic and social, as well as legal, equality throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and made women’s rights human rights long before Hillary Rodham Clinton was born."--Leila Rupp, author of Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement

Multimedia & Links


Marino talks to Lilian Calles Barger for the New Books Network podcast. (6/24/2019, running time 54:22)