Please respond to both of the following two (2) questions (minimum 250 words)
1) Farish Noor compares historical records that might appear contradictory: some boastfully acknowledge colonial violence, while others hide it. According to Farish Noor, why did the authors of these texts boast of, or hide, colonial violence? 
2) Mann mentions that a “domestic racism” and an “international racism” are connected (p.468). What does this mean? How did this connection influence suffragists’ views of imperialism? Be sure to include views from at least two of Mann’s three camps.
Sociological Inquiry
, Vol. 78, No. 4, November 2008, 461– 489
© 2008 Alpha Kappa Delta
DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2008.00257.x
Blackwell Publishing IncMalden, USASOINSociological Inquiry0038-02451475-682X©2008 Alpha Kappa DeltaXXXOriginal ArticlesFEMINISM AND IMPERIALISM, 1890–1920SUSAN A. MANN
Feminism and Imperialism, 1890–1920: Our
Anti-Imperialist Sisters—Missing in Action from
American Feminist Sociology*
Susan A. Mann,
University of New Orleans
This article retrieves part of our historical past to address two omissions in American
feminist sociology on the subject of global imperialism. The first section addresses the
inadequate attention feminist sociologists have paid to how major leaders of the
women’s movement responded to U.S. overseas expansion in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries. It documents how these early feminists had both progressive
and reactionary responses to the anti-imperialist struggles of their era. Particular emphasis
is given to how issues of race, class, and gender were interwoven in their discourses on
The second section focuses on how the writings of the most famous woman theorist
and critic of imperialism during this era—Rosa Luxemburg—are virtually ignored in
U.S. portrayals of feminist sociology and women founders of sociology. To address this
omission, Luxemburg’s theory of imperialism is examined, as well as how it has
influenced contemporary global feminist works. A critical analysis of these Luxemburg-
inspired works considers their implications for understanding global imperialism today.
In this way, the past is used to clarify the present.
Beginning in the 1960s, reclaiming our historical past has been a major
activity and accomplishment of the feminist movement in the United States.
This excavation of earlier feminist writings and activism not only served to
legitimize feminism as a serious and ongoing political struggle, but it also
unearthed the subjugated knowledges of those whose theory and practice had
been buried, silenced, or deemed less credible by more androcentric historical
narratives. To the credit of those who have reclaimed our past, great efforts have
been made to discover the diverse standpoints, visions, and voices of our feminist
predecessors. By doing so, we have learned much about the relationship
between women’s oppression and other systemic forms of oppression that
affected U.S. women, such as racism, classism, and heterosexism (Cott 1987;
Giddings 1984; Lerner 1993; Rossi 1974).
However, even with this greater emphasis on diversity, our gaze has been
too inward and United States-centered. This myopic, nation-centered gaze has
deflected attention from the international issues that confronted feminists in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the United States emerged as
a global, imperialist power. Indeed, it is rare to find references in feminist
sociology to their views on imperialism despite the fact that many suffragists
entered the debates about U.S. overseas expansion during this era. This omission
is surprising given that so many feminists of the 1960s and 1970s who began
excavating our predecessors’ history cut their political teeth during the anti-
Vietnam war movement and had a profound interest in the issues of militarism
and imperialism. It is even more surprising today given the heated national
debates over our current military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as
the seismic impacts that globalization and U.S. imperialism have had on our
contemporary lives. While feminist sociology has witnessed a considerable
increase in global and postcolonial analyses over the last two decades, rarely
have we looked back to see what we can learn from our past. Consequently, the
first section of this article addresses how leaders of the U.S. women’s movement
responded to global imperialism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. It should be noted that these women did not use the term “feminist”
in this era,
but referred to themselves as suffragists or women’s righters. However,
I will interweave the more manageable term “feminist” with suffragist throughout.
The second section discusses how U.S. portrayals of both feminist theory
and women founders of sociological theory have ignored the contributions of
the major woman theorist and critic of imperialism during this era—the European
feminist, Rosa Luxemburg. While Luxemburg’s work is better known in the
subfield of social change and development, it is rarely found in any feminist
discussions of the women founders of sociology even though other European
women with far less theoretical acumen are mentioned, such as Harriet
Martineau whose major claim to sociological fame was translating Auguste
Comte’s work (Finlay 2007; Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley 1998; Ritzer
In turn, on examining the indexes of 20 feminist theory textbooks and
anthologies used in the United States today, I found only brief mention of
Luxemburg’s work (Caulfield 1984; Landry and MacLean 1993). In short, like
those U.S. suffragists who took an anti-imperialist stance, Luxemburg is virtually
missing in action (MIA) from U.S. feminist sociology. To address this omission,
I discuss how Luxemburg’s work on imperialism was not only influential during
her era but also continues to influence global feminist writings today.
This study specifically focuses on the period from 1890 to 1920. Hence, it
does not address the earlier U.S. imperialist and settler colonialist ventures
entailed in the annexation of Mexican lands or the appropriation of the lands of
Native Americans. However, this period witnessed some important changes
both within the U.S. women’s movement and in the responses of U.S. citizens to
a new form of U.S. imperialism—global imperialism. At the beginning of the
1890s the two major suffrage organizations in the United States combined to
form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in an
effort to provide a more powerful, united front to win suffrage for American
women. This decade also witnessed the rise of U.S. overseas expansion and the
formation of the American Anti-Imperialist League. This organization was
established specifically to oppose the U.S. annexation of the Philippines, but
more generally opposed U.S. imperialism on economic, legal, and moral
grounds. The ending date of 1920 witnessed the demise of the Anti-Imperialist
League which formally disbanded in 1921, as well as the victory of women’s
suffrage through the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Over these same three decades, Rosa Luxemburg wrote her major works on
imperialism. I begin by grounding this study in the social and historical context
of the era.
The Rise of U.S. Global Imperialism
The Spanish-American War is generally considered to be the watershed in
American history that marked the translation of the United States’ growing
industrial might into military and political power on a global scale. From the
last decade of the nineteenth century to the First World War, the United States
took possession of Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Samoa. It
also established protectorates over Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican
Republic and mounted armed interventions in China, Haiti, and Nicaragua
(Fain 2003).
The emergence of the United States as a global imperial power in the Far
East and Latin America was closely related to the spectacular growth of both
the American economy and the federal government in the last quarter of the
nineteenth century. These changes not only ushered in a modern, industrial
economy but also a centralized nation state. Between Reconstruction and World
War I, the American economy was transformed from one based largely on family-
owned and operated businesses and farms to one dominated by large-scale,
capitalist enterprises.
In key respects, American overseas expansion was rooted in periodic crises
of overproduction generated by the booms and busts in the economic cycles of
its highly volatile economy. Industrial leaders such as Andrew Carnegie and
John D. Rockefeller, as well as many farmers and politicians, argued that the
health of American industry depended on expansion. They claimed that the
failure to establish new foreign markets for the swelling output of U.S. goods
would result in industrial slowdowns and economic stagnation at home (Fain
2003). They feared that unemployment resulting from such stagnation would
only increase already growing working-class radicalism and militancy. Moreover,
overseas expansion was the logical sequel to the closing of the frontier and the
victory of U.S. settler colonialism over its own indigenous population. Indeed,
the United States had already succeeded in developing its own internal,
transcontinental empire before it expanded abroad to include intercontinental
Political and ideological factors also played key roles in U.S. expansionism.
Maintaining hemispheric security by keeping European powers out of the
Caribbean and Latin America was a prominent aim of the increasing enforcements
and extensions of the Monroe Doctrine during this era. The goal of spreading
the values of American Progressivism abroad, as well as the missionary zeal of
extending American Protestantism overseas, fostered ideologues from across
the political spectrum to join the pro-imperialist chorus. Even gender ideologies
reflecting concerns about the robust nature of American manhood chimed in
during this particular era of U.S. history (Hoganson 1998). Hence, a wide range
of economic, political, and ideological ambitions came together to fuel the
imperialist impulse. Our first question is: “What role did American feminists of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries play in fostering or resisting
this expansionist thrust?”
U.S. Feminism and Anti-Imperialist Struggles, 1890–1920
While it is tempting to use the term “first wave” as shorthand for describing
the feminists I am studying, there are numerous problems associated with
“wave approaches” to examining the U.S. women’s movement (Ruth 1998). The
problem most salient to this study is that wave approaches too often focus on
the hegemonic feminist organizations during each wave that were led by white,
middle-class women. Hence, they obscure the diversity of competing feminisms
within each wave, as well as the diversity of the women who were involved.
This latter tendency is particularly likely to obscure the contributions of more
radical feminisms and those feminists who were marginalized by race, ethnicity,
and social class.
To avoid this problem, I divided the so-called “first wave” into three camps
and selected famous leaders of these camps to reflect the diverse standpoints
and political perspectives of the U.S. women’s movement during this era. To
represent the white, middle-class, liberal camp, I examine the responses to
imperialism by the first three Presidents of the NAWSA: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(1890–1892), Susan B. Anthony (1892–1900), and Carrie Chapman Catt (1900–
1904). Two major black feminist leaders whose works I examine are Anna Julia
Cooper and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. My exemplars of the more radical, left-wing
camp of the women’s movement include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jane Addams,
Emma Goldman, and Jeanette Rankin, all of whom represent a range of positions
that were inspired by socialism, anarchism, and pacifism. Major leaders of these
camps were chosen because most of their original writings are published and
this was a prerequisite to discerning their views on imperialism. Hence, their
published works set the boundaries and the limitations of this study.
While feminist sociologists have ignored the responses of suffragists to
U.S. overseas imperialism, feminist historians have been more attentive to this
issue. Particularly useful to this study are the works of Allison Sneider (1994,
2008) and Kristin Hoganson (1998, 2001).
Sneider documents how U.S.
expansion enabled feminists to keep the suffrage issue on the national political
agenda. She discusses how in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the
federal government maintained control over citizenship, while state governments
controlled voting rights. Most suffragists wanted these two issues united so that
as “citizens” they could automatically vote. As new lands were annexed to the
United States, legal and constitutional issues were reopened to deal with
citizenship and suffrage in these new territories and colonies. Hoganson’s works
excel in showing the role conceptions of manhood played in U.S. imperialist
ventures (Hoganson 1998) and in highlighting how class, race, and gender were
imbricated in suffragists’ responses to U.S. overseas expansion (Hoganson
2001). Together Hoganson and Sneider provide some of the most important
contributions to date for understanding the relationship between U.S. imperialism
and “the Woman Question” as it was known in that era. However, their works
tend to focus on suffragists in the more hegemonic liberal feminist organizations
of the U.S. women’s movement and to ignore the role of more radical feminists
during that era. Consequently, it is the intent of this study to include these more
radical feminist perspectives.
To feminists today, it might seem obvious that women’s suffrage and
struggles against colonialism and imperialism rested on the common principle
of self-government. However, the NAWSA did not side with anti-imperialists in
this heyday of America’s surge to acquire territories in the Far East and Latin
America. Rather, suffragists in the NAWSA split over this issue. My immediate
thought was that these suffragists did not want to ally with a small group of
radical, anti-imperialists and thereby endanger their chance to obtain the vote.
But in fact, the opposite was true. The major organization that protested U.S.
imperial policies—the Anti-Imperialist League—was a much larger organization
than the NAWSA. Founded in 1898, the League had more than 100 affiliated
organizations, approximately 30,000 members and over 500,000 contributors by
the turn of the twentieth century. In contrast, the NAWSA had less than 9000
members at this time (Beisner 1968; Hoganson 2001).
Hoganson raises the interesting question of why, given how the suffrage
movement at this time was chronically short of cash, faced stiff opposition in
Congress, and elicited outright hostility from much of the general public, did so
few suffragists see the advantage of building a coalition with anti-imperialists
to broaden their base of support, much as they had done when they allied with
Abolitionists in the pre-Civil War era? She provides a number of reasons why
suffragists split on this issue, but race- and class-based notions of citizenship
were among the most important factors (Hoganson 2001).
Because the late nineteenth century witnessed the concentration and
centralization of economic wealth alongside shrinking political rights for
minorities and the poor, classes and races were becoming increasingly polarized.
After Reconstruction, black men were being disenfranchised in the South, while
poll taxes and literacy tests marginalized white working-class and poor men as
well. As Hoganson (2001:21) writes: “Many white, middle-class suffragists
approved of this state of affairs, hoping they could parlay their positions of
social privilege into voting rights within a political system that favored whiteness,
wealth and education over manhood.”
These suffragists used the same argument against victims of U.S. imperialism
that they had used against black males during the heated debates over the 15th
Amendment—namely, that illiterate people were incapable of self-government
(Giddings 1984; Terborg-Penn 1998). They also did not hesitate to reveal their
fears of people of color as violent and savage. For example, Elizabeth Cady
Stanton writes: “The great public topic just now is ‘expansion,’ of which I am
in favor . . . I am strongly in favor of this new departure in American foreign policy.
What would this continent have been if we had left it to the Indians?” (Stanton
quoted in Sneider 2008:102). Indeed, Stanton held paternalistic views of many
people, including blacks, immigrants, workers, and Cubans (Griffith 1984). In a
similarly racist and elitist way, Susan B. Anthony states: “It is nonsense to talk
about giving those guerrillas in the Philippines their liberty for that’s all they
are that are waging this war. If we did, the first thing they would do would be to
murder and pillage every white person on the island . . .” (Anthony quoted in
Hoganson 2001:13–14). Even in later years when these feminists argued for
women’s suffrage in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, they made quite
clear that they supported suffrage with limits, such as educational and property
qualifications to vote (Sneider 2008). Such limits meant, for example, that of
the 110,000 inhabitants of Hawaii in 1893, the number of eligible voters would
have been around 2,700 (Sneider 2008).
These two early Presidents of the NAWSA had strategic reasons for
supporting imperialism (Hoganson 2001). Support for empire provided a good
opportunity for suffragists to demonstrate their own political worthiness as
citizens through their loyalty and allegiance to their government, much as many
pro-imperialist British feminists had done earlier (Burton 1994). Moreover, the
Republican Party was more pro-imperialist than Democrats in this era and
NAWSA members believed that continued support for the Republicans would
more likely lead to women’s suffrage. However, fearing that Filipino men might
get the vote before they did under American imperial rule, the NAWSA passed
a resolution that Congress should grant Filipinas whatever rights it conferred on
Filipino men (Hoganson 2001).
By contrast, an issue that generated anti-imperialist sentiment among some
white, middle-class liberal suffragists during the Spanish-American War was
the revival of assertions that women should not vote because they did not render
military service. As Hoganson (1998) points out, gender divisions were heightened
by pro-imperialists’ claims that military service and war fostered a more robust
manhood. Anxieties about manhood in this era can be traced to urbanization,
industrialization, and corporate consolidation in the late nineteenth century.
Middle- and upper-class men who held “soft white-collar jobs” and who enjoyed
the comforts of modern life were anxious about becoming “overcivilized.” As
Hoganson (1998:200 –201) writes: “They feared that a decline in manly character
would impair their abilities to maintain not only their class, racial, and national
privileges, but also their status relative to women, especially when assertive
New Women scoffed at submissive ideas of womanhood.” The aging of the
Civil War generation and the end of the Indian Wars also focused attention on
the decline of manhood—especially for young men who lacked such “epic
challenges” (Hoganson 1998:201).
The use of the gendered nature of military service to negate women’s suffrage
was condemned in Carrie Chapman Catt’s address as President of the NAWSA
in 1901. Here Catt argued that “militarism is the oldest and has been the most
unyielding enemy of woman” (quoted in Hoganson 1998:195).
As claims of male
privilege based on military service grew in strength, Catt recanted her earlier
and formally endorsed Philippine independence while visiting Manila
for a suffrage meeting of Filipina and U.S. activists (Hoganson 2001). Notably, Catt
maintained her opposition to militarism and joined with more left-wing feminists in
1915 to form the first women’s peace organization—the Women’s Peace Party.
Throughout this era, white, middle-class suffragists were divided over the
issue of imperialist wars. There were those, like Susan B. Anthony, whose
Quaker background fostered her pacificism and whose experiences during the
Civil War made her recognize how wars distracted attention from the suffrage
movement (Sneider 2008). Other suffragists embraced the prevailing notion in
that era that women were more “peace-loving” than men. These suffragists used
women’s ostensible “tenderness” and “higher morality” to argue for women’s
right to suffrage (Sneider 2008:92). There also were suffragists, like Elizabeth
Cady Stanton, who thought it was a big mistake to argue for suffrage on any
ground other than social justice and seized every opportunity to speak in favor
of war to undermine this essentialized view of women (Griffith 1984; Sneider
2008). As Stanton wrote in a letter to her son, “I am sick of all this sentimental
nonsense about ‘our boys in blue’ and ‘wringing mother’s hearts’ ” (Stanton
quoted in Sneider 2008:92).
Another issue that attracted suffragists to the pro-imperialist cause was the
so-called “civilizing mission” of imperialist ventures. For example, suffragists
in organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA),
the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and the American Woman’s
Foreign Mission Movement were sent abroad to spread American values and
culture (Tyrell 1991). These women were incensed to learn of the U.S. Army’s
regulation of prostitution in the Philippines as means of reducing venereal
diseases among soldiers.
The NAWSA joined with the WCTU in condemning
the military inspections of Filipina prostitutes and tried to use this “element of
savagery in Army circles” as another reason to give Filipina women the vote
(Sneider 2008:123). Although such “vice” on the part of the U.S. soldiers
undermined claims of U.S. imperialism’s “civilizing” mission abroad, these
suffragists were not critiquing imperialism, they simply wanted a “more chaste
imperialism” (Hoganson 2001:17).
African Americans also were enticed by the pro-imperialist ideologies of
fostering a more “robust manhood” and of “civilizing” foreign lands. Because
of their particular concern for their ancestral homeland of Africa, many African
Americans (including suffragists) were drawn to the missionary ideology of
imperialism (Jacobs 1981). Yet, even in Africa, these female missionaries faced
sexism from their male counterparts and racism from both white missionaries
and imperial officials (Jacobs 1995). The Spanish-American war offered the
opportunity for black males as soldiers to “claim U.S. masculinity for themselves”
(Sneider 2008:93 – 4). Many volunteered for the army even though the sight of
black men in uniform provoked violent responses from some white racists.
As the ties between domestic and international racism grew more apparent,
they became a major theme used by black feminists who condemned U.S.
expansionism during this era. Anna Julia Cooper ([1892] 1998) used this
theme to criticize U.S. expansion in the West and the injustices perpetrated on
American Indians in
A Voice from the South
The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class—it is the cause
of human kind. . . . Why should woman become plantiff in a suit versus the Indian or the
Negro or any other race or class who have been crushed under the iron heel of Anglo-Saxon
power and selfishness. (Cooper [1892] 1998 quoted in Lemert and Bhan 1998:106, 108)
Cooper ([1925] 1998) also criticized global imperialism in her doctoral
dissertation, where she analyzed how colonial conflict was the result of internal
race and class differences that were aggravated and exacerbated by white colonizers
pursuing their own advantage. She concluded that the overall fate of the colonies
was not due to their “backwardness,” but to the ways colonizing powers exerted
their influence and appropriated natural and human resources (Lemert and Bhan
1998:268–9). While some scholars have likened her analysis to Neo-Marxist
Dependency and World-Systems Theory (Lemert and Bhan 1998), Cooper’s
attention to race, gender, class, and geographic location is more similar to
contemporary U.S. Third World Feminism (Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley
1998; Sandoval 1991).
In contrast, Ida B. Wells-Barnett initially saw great opportunities for
African Americans abroad and encouraged them to go to Africa to assist with
its development. When the link between domestic and international racism
became clearer to her, she dropped this support for black involvement in imperialist
goals (Hoganson 2001). Overall, the black press and African American activists
were more likely than were their white counterparts to take an anti-imperialist
stance during this era (Gatewood 1975; Jacobs 1981). However, it took some
time for this stance to develop. Sneider (2008) notes how the initial silence of
black suffragists at the start of the Spanish-American War changed over the
course of this war as they began to see more clearly the links between imperialism
abroad and white racism at home.
By the end of the nineteenth century, U.S. imperialism had a significant
number of opponents that crossed racial, ethnic, gender, and social class lines.
While the settler colonial campaign against Native Americans and the Mexican-
American War had generated only mild resistance from most American “citizens”
(Foner and Winchester 1984:xix, 3), Americans from all walks of life expressed
apprehension and resistance to the U.S. establishing formal political control
overseas. As I noted above, the Anti-Imperialist League had garnered a huge
following within the span of only a few years. The League was not, however, a
cohesive group, but rather a confederation of local organizations that included
extremely diverse people (Foner and Winchester 1984:xix).
The anti-imperialist motives of League members spanned the political
spectrum. They included leftists, such as W. E. B. Dubois who was committed
to self-government and equality domestically and abroad, as well as racists such
as Varina Howell Davis (Jefferson Davis’ wife) who stated that her “most serious
objection to making the Philippines American territory is because three-fourths
of the population is made up of Negroes” (Davis quoted in Foner and Winchester
1984:235). The vast majority of League members, however, genuinely objected
to the antidemocratic nature of U.S. imperialism and to the irony that a former
colony would become a colonial master. Despite this consensus on the principle
of self-government, the League never extended its political critique to cover
women’s disenfranchisement. For most League members, suffrage and self-
determination, whether at home or abroad, were the provinces of men.
Even in the face of this sexism, many American feminists were active in
the Anti-Imperialist League and /or spoke out against U.S. imperialism. For
example, Jane Addams who was active in Chicago’s Anti-Imperialist League,
spoke adamantly against the brutality of the armed interventions undertaken by
the United States. As a member of the women’s college of the Chicago School
of Sociology, she was part of the “new sociology of race” that focused on the
social dimensions of race as opposed to biology and addressed such matters as
urbanism, immigration, and imperialism. Indeed this link between domestic
racism and what they called the “racial frontier” of imperialism was a laudable
feature of the Chicago School’s analysis of race. In contrast, its more conservative
counterparts in the sociology of that era were committed to a biological model
of racial difference that tended to racialize premodern peoples and treated them
as lesser, uncivilized savages in their evolutionary views of human development
(Winant 2007).
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a member of the Anti-Imperialist League
although she did not write extensively on the issue of imperialism. In

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