Version classiqueVersion mobile

Experts et expertise dans les mandats de la société des nations : figures, champs, outils

 | 
Philippe Bourmaud
, 
Norig Neveu
, 
Chantal Verdeil

Le système mandataire : un concours d'experts aux qualifications hétérogènes

Activist as Expert: Representation from the French Mandate for Syria on the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women

L’activiste en tant qu’expert : représenter le mandat français en Syrie au sein du Comité d’experts sur le statut juridique des femmes

Nova Robinson

Résumé

Le comité d’experts chargé de statuer sur le statut légal des femmes qui fut créé par l’Assemblée de la Société des Nations en 1937 était la première instance internationale dédiée à l’étude du statut des femmes. Les femmes du mandat français de Syrie tentèrent de garantir une représentation « orientale » au sein de ce comité. Cette campagne a posé la question de savoir qui pouvait être considéré comme « expert » du statut légal des femmes. Malgré une longue carrière de militante en faveur d’une protection légale accrue pour les femmes dans le mandat français de Syrie, Nour Hamada ne fut pas considérée comme experte.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Photo of the “Committee for the Study of Legal Status of Women” (title provided) from the League o (...)
  • 2 LN R3755 3A/19189/13900 Legal, General. Notes from a public meeting on 9 April 1938.

1A giant mural with Grecian figures depicting peace, justice, and equality hovered over the proceedings of the first session of the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women, which was created by the Assembly of the League of Nations at the end of 1937.1 The mural served as a tacit reminder of the principles underlying the committee’s task of surveying the legal status of women around the world in order to establish international protocols concerning women’s legal status. The committee conceded the enormity of its mandate: “Nothing of the kind had ever before been attempted on such a scale.”2 Yet, the codification of an international legal standard was seen as good for the world’s women. The experts assembled around the table in front of the mural were Suzanne Bastid a law professor at the University of Lyon; Dr. Anka Godjevac the only female member of the Yugoslav Society of International Law; H. C. Gutteridge a professor of comparative law at Cambridge; Kerstin Hesselgren a member of the Second Chamber of the Riksdag (Sweden); Dorothy Kenyon a lawyer from New York City; Dr. de Ruelle a legal adviser for the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration; and, Paul Sebasteyan a counselor and head of the Treatise Division the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hungary. H. C. Gutteridge served as the chair. K. Hesselgren was the committee’s rapporteur. Hugh McKinnon Wood, a Briton, represented the Secretariat on the committee; it was a non‑voting position, but it carried significant influence because he could frame the language of the debate about the legal status of women. The committee’s experts represented many countries: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Sweden, the United States, and Yugoslavia. Not all of the world’s women were pleased with the structure of committee, however. Missing from the ranks were any “Eastern” experts or representatives.

  • 3 Records indicating Nour Hamada’s birth and death dates are inconsistent. Her birthdate has been li (...)

2Before the expert ranks of the committee were finalized, the Secretariat received a series of nine petitions nominating Nour Hamada (1897‑1963) to the committee.3 N. Hamada was a seasoned women’s rights activist from Greater Syria, with fifteen years of activist experience working to improve conditions for women under the French mandate. N. Hamada was born in Baakline on Mount Lebanon. Her father had been the leader of the Druze community and supported her education, and later her activism. She was an early participant in the women’s movement in Greater Syria and founded al‑mujammaʿ al‑nisāʾī al‑adabī al‑ʿarabī (The Women’s Arabic and Cultural Assembly) in 1928. In the 1930s, N. Hamada was the president of two Eastern Women’s Conferences, hosted in stages in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and Tehran, in 1930 and 1932. She also participated in Arab women’s conferences hosted in the capitals of the Arab world between 1928 and 1938. In 1936, N. Hamada received a tourist visa to conduct research on the women’s movement in the United States and write a book about its successes and failures in Arabic. The book was never published. Furthermore, she overstayed her visa and was deported, after an appeal, by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services in 1938. Throughout her career, N. Hamada actively tried to cultivate connections between women’s organizations in the Arab world and the international women’s rights community.

  • 4 I use “Eastern” because it was the term used by the activists. I acknowledge the simplifications i (...)

3The nominating letters cited N. Hamada’s presidency of four congresses on the status of “Eastern” and Arab women in the early 1930s and her international renown among the reasons she should join the experts as a representative of “Eastern” women.4 The petitions carried with them the question of who could serve as experts on the committee: could an “Eastern” woman’s rights activist be considered an expert on women’s legal status? And, more broadly, the petitioners queried: could activists be experts? That is, could activists’ ways of knowing represent a legitimate form of expertise? Did the type of expertise provided by activists, and especially those from the French mandate for Syria, serve as a type of counter‑expertise to the hegemonic forms of knowledge production found in the conference rooms of the Palais des Nations—knowledge production that reflected the will of the colonizers and not the colonized? The biographies of the aforementioned experts hint at the types of expertise valued by the Secretariat, which was charged with staffing the committee: activist‑experts need not apply. The Secretariat’s conception of expertise was not accepted by a small group of women’s rights activists from the French mandate for Syria who decried the lack of representation from the “East” on the committee. They lobbied to create a truly globally representative committee that would be better suited to living up to the committee’s task of assessing the status of women all around the world, not just the status of women from the United States and Europe.

4This paper explores the campaign to create a position for an “Eastern” representative on the committee as a site for questioning who could serve as experts. In the age of League‑sanctioned imperialism, the campaign raised the question of whether women in the mandates could be experts about their own status. As such the campaign also targeted the international women’s rights community, which positioned women in the mandates as subjects of study and not as equals in the global fight for equality. Thus the campaign must be seen as highlighting the ways in which women from the mandates were systematically excluded from international forums—the League and international women’s organizations—that were discussing the status of women and ultimately shaping the universal definition of what those rights should be. Women from the French mandate for Syria were keen on gaining representation in these developing conversations, perhaps because they could see the consequences of exclusion, or perhaps because living in French Syria they had learned firsthand the consequences of being excluded from decisions that affected access to rights.

  • 5 The “Legal, General” section of the League archive does not contain any other material about campa (...)
  • 6 More scholarship is needed on women’s activism from other world regions directed toward the League (...)

5With limited tools at their disposal to challenge the concentration of power in the hands of formal League experts and the French mandate government, activists from Greater Syria wrote petitions that sought to raise awareness about alternative, activist‑based forms of expertise—one of the only kinds of expertise available to women in French Syria. The petition campaign orchestrated by women’s organizations from the French mandate for Syria and directed toward the League of Nations regarding the non‑representative membership of the Committee of Experts was unique.5 However many other women’s organizations from other parts of the world launched campaigns regarding League policies and the place of women’s expertise within the League’s operational structure; women from Central and South America were especially active in this regard.6 The process of positioning women as experts began with the League’s creation. The label of “expert” was never fully extended to all women, but that did not stop women from the French mandate from claiming expertise gained through activist experiences.

Could women be experts?

  • 7 The presence of European and US women at the League of Nations as actors has received scant attent (...)
  • 8 The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1924.

6When the League of Nations was founded in 1920, women’s rights were considered an issue of domestic concern.7 By the time the Assembly established the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women in 1937, the issue had transformed into an international issue. The change was the result of international women’s organizations, such as the International Council of Women (ICW), the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), lobbying the League. Their activism had two targets: one, get the League to recognize the value women’s expertise could provide to the League and two, get the League to formally recognize women’s issues as an international concern. The former point was more easily achieved. Women’s activism in Paris in 1919 as the Covenant was being drafted helped persuade the architects of the League to include an equality clause in Article 7 of the Covenant: “All positions under or in connection with the League, including the Secretariat, shall be open equally to men and women.”8 The clause guaranteed equal access to employment in League positions. Even with the clause’s protections, it was not easy to ensure that women were included because of prejudices about women’s inability to provide expertise. It is not surprising that “Eastern” women had to work even harder than their European and US counterparts to try to achieve the same classification as experts.

7Western European and US women worked hard to break down the notion women were lesser experts or that their experiences as activists could not constitute expertise. From the first meeting international women’s organizations had with League officials, the leaders of the organizations encouraged the League not to rely too heavily on formal “experts,” because very few women had acquired the status. In a meeting with the Secretary‑General elect of the League, Sir Eric Drummond in 1919, Maria Ogilvie Gordon (1864‑1939), the President of the National Council of Women of Great Britain and Ireland, a member organization of the IWSA, said:

  • 9 LN R1356 23/99/86 Women’s Questions, 1919. Informal interview with members of the National Council (...)

Might I point out that women cannot be expected to have had the same opportunities as men in acquiring this expert knowledge, and you could not look to recruit your women expert members from the same official classes. Women have been allocated to subordinate positions and precluded from becoming first‑rate experts.9

8Thus the members of international women’s organizations worked to have women’s activist experiences counted as expertise. It was a classification which women from Greater Syria tried to capitalize on later in the League’s history.

  • 10 Miller, 1992, p. 153.
  • 11 Throughout its history, 203 women served on the Fifth Committee compared with one or two women on (...)
  • 12 Pedersen, 2015, p. 403.

9In time, women’s formal and informal expertise, often garnered through activism on behalf of a perceived social ill, was valued, but its value was constricted to so‑called women’s issues. The Fifth Committee, which dealt with social questions, including the traffic in women and children received the most female experts as appointees and became known as la Commission sentimentale.10 The commission became a de facto women’s bureau. Four times as many women served on it as served on all the other committees.11 A few women served on committees other than la Commission sentimentale that engaged legal, technical, reduction of arms, financial questions, social questions, and political questions. The concentration of female experts on the Fifth Committee contributed to the gendering of expertise: women could be experts about women’s issues. Of course, the process of transforming women active in shaping public programs for prostitutes into viable experts on trafficking in women and children, for example, did not extend equally to women in all world regions. Given the colonial structure of the world and the League, which Susan Pedersen has called the “League of Empires,” women’s expertise and activist experiences,12 such as that cultivated working to secure women’s rights, such as the right to education or the right to vote, in French Syria.

10The embargo on women’s expertise from the mandates was lifted for European and US women working abroad. In fact, some women from Europe and the United States were able to parlay their experiences working as missionaries in the French mandate for Syria into expertise that was recognized by the League. The work of American Ruth Frances Woodsmall (1883‑1963) illustrates this point. She served as the regional director of the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) in the Near East in the 1920s. While working for the Y.W.C.A. she applied for and received a grant from the Ford Foundation to survey the status of Muslim women. She took a break from her post with the Y.W.C.A. to conduct her study, which fused ethnographic and qualitative research practices, on the status of women in the Muslim world from Turkey to British India. Her work was published as Moslem Women Enter a New World (1936). As the title suggests, she presented a picture wherein Muslim women had been denied access to the same opportunities and experiences as their non‑Muslim sisters, but thanks to educational opportunities provided by foreign missionaries, they were entering a new stage of development. Muslim women had the potential to become equals with women in Europe and the United States, but they were not there yet. R. Woodsmall’s book became a New York Times bestseller. Given its success, she was able to position herself as an expert on the status of Muslim women, even if she had no formal anthropological or ethnographic training (a fact that did not escape some of her contemporaries). Later, R. Woodsmall consulted with the League of Nations on a range of issues and was nominated to serve on the Committee of Experts, though the US post went to a barrister, D. Kenyon.

  • 13 The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1924.

11R. Woodsmall’s observations about the status of women in the Muslim world helped her place herself among the emergent class of women who were experts on women’s status in non‑Western regions. It should come as no surprise that women from the mandates were denied the same opportunities to relay information about their status or to position themselves as experts. After all, under the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the people in former Ottoman territories were said to be at “a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone.”13 In other words, people from the mandates were positioned as subjects of study and as recipients of aid, not as agents or experts able to speak about their experiences and needs. This classification applied equally to both men and women. The echoes of this classification can be seen in R. Woodsmall’s analysis. The women behind the petition campaign seeking an “Eastern” representative clearly disagreed with this assessment about their relative inability to speak to their own status.

  • 14 In 1909, Luisi was the first woman in Uruguay to qualify as a doctor of medicine. In addition to h (...)

12By the time the Committee of Experts was convened in Geneva in 1938, some women, like R. Woodsmall, were classed as experts, but exclusions applied. In order to be considered an expert, however, the woman had to be from the United States or Europe and her area of expertise had to relate to women’s issues, so as not to intrude upon areas of expertise that were gendered male. The opportunities for women not from the United States or Europe to claim expertise were limited. A few women, such as Paulina Luisi (1875‑1945) from Uruguay, who served on the Traffic in Women and Children Committee, did achieve “expert” classification.14 But, the League did not accredit the expertise held by women living under the mandate system in the Middle East, Africa, or in the Pacific. The women who supported the creation of a position for “Eastern” women on the Committee of Experts questioned this exclusion because they wanted to have a voice in representing their status, rather than having their status be represented by others, who did not possess the same degree of knowledge as the women themselves. One of the byproducts of missionary education and French rule meant that the educational elite in the French mandate for Syria had the English and French language skills necessary to speak for themselves. Language barriers and questions of translation did not necessitate US and European women speaking for them.

The origins of the committee of experts on the legal status of women

  • 15 The Arabic women’s press was a vibrant sphere for exchanging ideas about women’s rights and chroni (...)

13Between 1920 and 1937 women went from fighting for inclusion in League programs as experts to being studied by the League. The integration of women’s issues into the League’s structure would not have happened if not for women’s activism. Furthermore, women’s activism at the League had helped make women’s status an area in which someone, and especially a woman, could be an expert. Thus the convening of the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women represented the culmination of almost two decades of women’s activism. The women who helmed the campaigns for integrating questions of women’s status into the League were the leaders of international women’s organizations, primarily women from Europe and the United States. Women living under the French mandate for Syria were aware of the international women’s organizations’ efforts and wrote about them in the regional women’s press and discussed them at regional women’s conferences.15

  • 16 The South American nations that put forth the proposal were later joined by the U.S.S.R., Czechosl (...)

14Joseph Avenol, the Secretary‑General of the League of Nations (1933‑1940), opened the first session of the Committee of Experts with a brief history of how the League came to address the question of women’s status. His history focused primarily on the process by which member states forwarded women’s issues. It is important to note that member states that took up the issue of women’s status at the League had been targeted by women’s rights activists in those countries. J. Avenol observed, member states of the League started to raise the question of women’s legal status after The Hague Conference on the Codification of International Law in 1930. At the conference it became clear the absence of an international norm regarding married women’s nationality sometimes rendered women nationless. The conference pushed the issue of a women’s right to nationality—and other legal questions pertaining to the status of women—into the international arena. J. Avenol credited the Seventh International Conference of American States in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1933 as the spark that created the Committee of Experts. After the conference, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina registered the Montevideo resolutions at the League. In 1933 only those three nations brought the question of the status of women before the League. The next year, in 1934, fifteen governments had seized the mantle of women’s status under international law and asked the League to insert the question into the League’s agenda.16 J. Avenol’s summary reflected the course of events that took women’s issues from a peripheral debate about employment to the center of a League‑sanctioned inquiry, though it decentered the work of international women’s organizations in bringing the women’s status before the League.

  • 17 LN R3771 3A/33305/31757 Legal, General. Speech by the Secretary General to the Committee of Expert (...)
  • 18 Ibid. This was not the first transnational study on the legal status of women. It seems likely the (...)

15The question of a women’s right to nationality was highly politicized. It hinged on whether a woman could have a nationality independent of her spouse and whether she could transfer her nationality to her children. The question was political in nature because member states were fearful of international governance reaching into domestic affairs. Member states of the League saw the ability to shape relationships between men and women as being integral to their sovereignty, especially when it came to issues of growing or shrinking its population. Given the politicized nature of questions of women’s nationality, the Assembly traded it for the more neutral category of a women’s legal status and put it on the Assembly docket in 1937. J. Avenol noted the “‘legal status of women’ means for the governments not a single problem which can be solved by the application of a single principle,” he remarked, “but a multiplicity of highly complex legal and social problems which assume very different aspects according to the social and legal habits and structure of different countries.”17 As a result, there was no singular, or universal, definition of what the legal status of women meant. Because the League acted on the consensus of its member states, in the absence of consensus, no definitive commitment to action could be taken, but the League could commit to a study. J. Avenol expressed his desire that the publication of the results of the committee’s inquiry would form a “comprehensive objective statement of what the legal status of women actually is in the different countries of the world” and that such information would impel further progress on standardizing the rights and protections available to women.18

“Eastern” women’s rights activists claim expertise on the status of women

16In late 1937, the League of Nations solicited nominations from governments and women’s organizations for the men and women to form the expert core of the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women. Women from the mandated territories were not explicitly prohibited, but the structure of the League and the logic of the mandates did not accommodate their presence on the committee. Instead of relying on the government‑appointed and League‑sanctioned “experts,” women from Syria and Lebanon attempted to represent themselves on the Committee of Experts. A small coalition of elite Syrian women, mostly from Beirut and Damascus, were particularly vociferous in expressing their disappointment that the committee did not include a representative of women from the East, nor an individual they felt represented their interests and sent petitions to the League to this effect.

17The women from the French mandate for Syria who sent the petitions believed the status of “Eastern” women—a category claimed by women in explicit contrast to the West—needed separate representation. They felt that there was no one better suited to assess their status than themselves. They had been using women’s organizations to formally advocate for rights from their ruling governments—the Ottoman Empire through 1920 and thereafter the French mandate—for more than twenty‑five years. They believed their activist experiences made them experts. Women in Europe had gained expert status through activist channels and they were trying to do the same. Despite their efforts, the final ranks of the committee included three men and four women—all but one from Europe.

18The women behind the campaign represented a small group of women’s organizations in the mandate who were invested in trying to leverage the power of the League of effect change at home; they did not represent a majority of women’s organizations in the mandate, the majority of which eschewed politics and focused on providing charity and education to make up for the inadequate services provided by the French mandate government. N. Hamada was nominated by the Alliance for the General Oriental Women, Orient‑Occident League, Arab Feminist Academy, Committee of Oriental Women, the Syrian Feminist Union, and the League of All Mohammedan Women of the World. Little is known about the individual organizations, but they demonstrate an active civil sphere under the mandate. Their coordinated nomination campaign highlights an awareness of other women’s organizations working in the same sphere throughout the French mandate for Syria. Indeed, a national and regional women’s consciousness had been gestating since World War I and had recently begun to reach beyond the borders of the mandate and the Arab World in an effort to forge connections with the international women’s rights community. Thus the campaign for representation on the Committee of Experts must be situated within a larger historical moment in which women from Greater Syria were forging links among themselves, with other Arab women’s organizations, and with the larger international women’s rights community.

  • 19 Mogannam, 1976, p. 64.

19Under the French mandate for Syria, the Syrian and Lebanese women’s movements coalesced in new ways. Women’s organizations took up a variety of campaigns that broadly intersected with women’s status: improving girls’ access to education, increasing the number of healthcare facilities, addressing the conditions of female prisoners, and expanding protections for female factory workers. One woman active in the movement observed, these campaigns are “matters of a purely public character, which in many independent countries are undertaken by the State.”19 Indeed, the French mandate government did not start services dedicated to improving the status of women, nor did the government study women’s status as the Permanent Mandates Commission directed it to. While not particularly active in questions of women’s status, the French mandate government did not prevent women’s organizations from providing services, as long as they were not overtly nationalistic.

20The mandate government also occasionally provided financial assistance to women’s organizations. Though those funds were mostly reserved for French women’s organizations working in Syria, such as the Damascus branch of the Drop of Milk Society. It was connected to the Goutte de Lait network, which began in France in 1894 with the goal of eradicating infant deaths caused by inadequate maternal health. Frustrated by the lack of support local campaigns for women’s legal and social protections received from the mandatory power in Syria and Lebanon, some women’s organizations turned to the international sphere as a platform for pressuring the mandatory power to take action on issues that would improve women’s lives in the mandate. Their experience with the mandate government in Greater Syria did not lead them to trust that the League of Nations would represent them and compelled the campaign for “Eastern” representation on the Committee of Experts. While the primary target of the campaign was securing representation on the committee, it seems to have had the additional goals of highlighting French mandate noncompliance on issues of women’s status and proving the ability of women in the mandate to act on their own accord.

  • 20 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Arab Feminist Academy to the President of (...)
  • 21 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Superior Council of the Alliance for the G (...)
  • 22 Ibid.
  • 23 Ibid.

21The letter sent by Arab Feminist Academy, which appears to have been a women’s educational forum based in Beirut, supported the campaign for Eastern representation and called upon the President of the Council to respect “our right for a representative on the Committee on the Status of Women.”20 In its letter, also part of the campaign for Eastern representation on the Committee of Experts, the Superior Council of the Alliance for the General Oriental Women, an umbrella organization headquartered in Damascus that sought to bring women together from around the region, nominated N. Hamada to the Eastern position. The Superior Council of the Alliance for the general Oriental Women claimed that she “is well known in the West and in the East.”21 In addition, the Orient‑Occident League “propose[d] the nomination of Nour Hamada Bey as a member of the League of Nations Committee for the Status of Women.”22 Her presidencies of “the two famous Oriental women’s conferences held in Damascus (1930) and in Tehran (1932), in addition to the two Arab Women’s Conferences in Baghdad and Beirut” were given as reasons that she should be considered for a position representing the women of the “East” on the Committee of Experts.23 This first round of letters accomplished two things: it advocated for the creation of a position for “Eastern” women on the committee and it nominated N. Hamada for the post. The campaign drew upon her experiences as an activist as evidence that she was an expert on the status of women of “Eastern” women and should therefore be given a seat alongside the other experts gathered at the conference table in Geneva.

  • 24 E. Pethick‑Lawrence was an early women’s rights advocate in Great Britain. In 1907 she started the (...)

22Aware that their campaign for representation might not yield the desired result, the letters nominating N. Hamada also nominated two European women—Emmeline Pethick‑Lawrence, a British women’s rights advocate known for her interest in Eastern religions, and Maria Vérone, the first female French lawyer—who they felt were more attuned to the station of women in the Middle East than the experts the League had assembled through a wholly undemocratic process. Why E. Pethick‑Lawrence and M. Vérone were considered better advocates for Eastern women is unclear as neither woman wrote about the status of women in the East.24

23The women’s organizations nominating N. Hamada did not see her activist background and lack of legal training as an impediment to participating in the committee. The League did, however. The failure of the campaign to pressure the Committee of Experts to expand its ranks to include an “Eastern” representative revealed that the committee valued legal expertise—having a juris doctorate, serving as a lawmaker, or studying comparative law—over activist experience. Challenging the distinction between formal expertise and activist experience harkened back to M. Ogilvie Gordon’s claim that women’s experiences constituted expertise. Few women in the French mandate had access to a legal education, thus the emphasis on legal expertise precluded them from participation. Therefore in their bid for “Eastern” representation, they cited their activist credentials gained working for women’s rights and social welfare in the mandate. The activist expertise came from working with, but also against, the French mandate government to secure basic rights and protections. Thus the expertise brought to bear against the League was itself a product of the League’s policies in the Middle East.

Conclusion

  • 25 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from Nour Hamada to his Excellency, The Delegate of (...)

24The Syrian and Lebanese women’s campaign for representation did not secure a position for an “Eastern” woman or a “well known friend of the East” or anyone from east of the Urals on the Committee of Experts.25 The careful campaign for an “Eastern” representative directed toward the League of Nations captures Syrian and Lebanese women’s drive and desire for truly “international” women’s representation at the League of Nations. Women’s rights were internationalized at the League but without representation from many parts of the world, which women from the French mandate for Syria tried to rectify by nominating one of their own. The campaign served as a means of protesting the categorization of Syrian and Lebanese women, and other “Eastern” women, as somehow inferior and unable to represent themselves. Furthermore it highlighted the hypocrisies of the League, which classed itself as an international organization, but its definition of “international” did not include representatives from all nations and populations.

25The campaign to nominate N. Hamada highlights something more than ignorance about what constituted expertise. It was an attempt to challenge the construction of expertise, as women from the big international women’s organizations had in the 1920s, and advocate for a future that allowed for the inclusion of their type of expertise: lived and experienced. Who was better to serve as experts about the status of women in the French mandate for Syria than women in the mandate themselves. It was a simple call: let us speak about our own status without the mitigating influence of governmental officials or well‑intentioned, but not fully informed, experts from the United States and Europe who specialized in the status of women in other world regions. Whether their activist experience was recognized as expertise or not, the campaign proved that they were indeed experts about the dynamics of international women’s organizations, the League of Nations and its mandate structure, and about the issues affecting women in the French mandate for Syria. The demand at the core of the campaign for “Eastern” representation—e.g. independent representation—was not fully heeded until 1975 and the start of the United Nation’s Decade for Women when local and regional women’s organizations were called upon to discuss their perceived status as women. By this juncture, activist experience counted as expertise.

Bibliographie

Archives of the League of Nations:

LN R3755 3A/19189/13900 Legal, General. Notes from a public meeting on 9 April 1938.

LN R1356 23/99/86 Women’s Questions, 1919. Informal interview with members of the National Council of Women with Sr. Eric Drummond, 21 June 1919.

LN R3771 3A/33305/31757 Legal, General. Speech by the Secretary‑General to the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women, 4 April 1938.

LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Arab Feminist Academy to the President of the Council of the League of Nations, 25 January 1938.

LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Superior Council of the Alliance for the General Oriental Women to the Chairman of the Council of the League of Nations. 17 January 1938.

LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from Nour Hamada to his Excellency, The Delegate of Iran, Chairman of the Council of the League of Nations, 1 February 1938.

References

Baron Beth, 1994, The Women’s Awakening in Egypt. Culture, Society, and the Press, Yale University Press, New Haven, 259 p.

Baron Beth, 2005, Egypt as a Woman. Nationalism, Gender, and Politics, University of California Press, Berkeley, 287 p.

Berkovitch Nitza, 1999, From Motherhood to Citizenship. Women’s Rights and International Organizations, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 224 p.

Bisaab Malek, 2010, Militant Women of a Fragile Nation, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 304 p.

Cook Rebecca, 1994, Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 634 p.

Dubois Ellen Carol, 2009, “Internationalizing Married Women’s Nationality: The Hague Campaign of 1930” in Offen Karen (ed.), Globalizing Feminisms, 1789‑1945, Routledge, New York, pp. 204‑216.

Eisenberg Jaci, 2013, “The Status of Women: A Bridge from the League of Nations to the United Nations” in Journal of International Studies, no 2, vol. 4, pp. 9‑24.

Fleischmann Ellen, 2003, The Nation and its “New” Women. The Palestinian Women’s Movement, 1920‑1948, University of California Press, Berkeley, 335 p.

Garner Karen, 2010, Shaping a Global Women’s Agenda. Women’s NGOs and Global Governance, 1925‑1985, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 310 p.

Gelvin James, 1995, “The League of Nations and the Question of National Identity in the Fertile Crescent” in World Affairs, no 1, Special Issue: Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, Part Two, vol. 158, pp. 35‑43.

Grimshaw Patricia, Holmes Katie & Lake Marilyn (eds.), 2001, Women’s Rights and Human Rights. International Historical Perspectives, Palgrave, Basingstoke, 318 p.

IbrĀhĪm Imīlī Fāris, 1966, Al‑Harakat al‑nisāʼiyya al‑lubnāniyya, Dar al‑Thaqafa, Beirut, 231 p.

Khoury Philip S., 1987, Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920‑1945, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 698 p.

Lonrgigg Stephen Hemsley, 1958, Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate, Oxford University Press & Royal Institute of International Affairs, Oxford, 404 p.

Manela Erez, 2009, The Wilsonian Moment: Self‑Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 331 p.

Mazower Mark, 1997, “Minorities and the League of Nations in Interwar Europe” in Daedalus, no 2, vol. 126, pp. 47‑64.

Metzger Barbara, 2007, “Towards an International Human Rights Regime during the Inter‑War Years: The LON’s Combat of Traffic in Women and Children” in Grant Kevin, Levine Philippa & Trantmann Frank (eds.), Beyond Sovereignty: Britain, Empire and Transnationalism, 1880‑1950, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 54‑79.

Miller Carol, 1992, Lobbying the League: Women’s International Organizations and the League of Nations, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University, 344 p.

Miller Carol, 1994, “Geneva – the Key to Equality: Inter‑war Feminists and the League of Nations” in Women’s History Review, no 2, vol. 3, pp. 219‑245.

Mogannam Matiel, 1976 [1937], The Arab Woman and the Palestine Problem, Hyperion Press, Westport, 319 p.

Mouton Marie‑Renée, 1979, « Le congrès syrio‑palestinien de Genève » in Relations internationales, vol. 19, p. 313‑328.

Pedersen Susan, 2007, “Back to the League of Nations” in American Historical Review, no 4, vol. 112, pp. 1091‑1117.

Pedersen Susan, 2008, “Metaphors of the Schoolroom: Women Working the Mandates System at the League of Nations” in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, no 1, vol. 66, pp. 188‑207.

Pedersen Susan, 2012, “Samoa on the World Stage: Petitions and Peoples before the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations” in Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, no 2, vol. 40, pp. 231‑261.

Pedersen Susan, 2015, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, Oxford University Press, New York, 592 p.

Pfeffer Paula, 1985, “‘A Whisper in the Assembly of Nations’: United States’ Participation in the International Movement for Women’s Rights from the Nations to the United Nations” in Women’s Studies International Forum, no 5, vol. 8, pp. 459‑471.

Rupp Leila J., 1997, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 325 p.

Shields Sarah D., 2011, Fezzes in the River. Identity Politics and European Diplomacy in the Middle East on the Eve of World War II, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 306 p.

The Covenant of the league of nations, 1924, The Avalon Project , including amendments adopted until December 1924, Yale Law School, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp (consulté le 27 January 2014).

Thompson Elizabeth, 2000, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon, Columbia University Press, New York, 402 p.

Watenpaugh Keith D., 2010, “The League of Nations’ Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920‑1927” in American Historical Review, no 5, vol. 115, pp. 1315‑1339.

Weber Charlotte, 2008, “Between Nationalism and Feminism: The Eastern Women’s Congresses of 1930 and 1932” in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, no 1 , Special Issue: Early Twentieth‑Century Middle Eastern Feminisms, Nationalisms, and Transnationalisms, vol. 4, pp. 83‑106.

Zimmerman Susan, 2012, “Liaison Committees of International Women’s Organizations and the Changing Landscape of Women’s Internationalism, 1920s to 1945” in Kish Sklar Kathryn & Dublin Thomas (eds.), Women and Social movements, International, 1840 to Present, Alexander Street Press, Alexandria, https://search.alexanderstreet.com/preview/work/bibliographic_entity%7Cbibliographic_details%7C1666534.

Notes

1 Photo of the “Committee for the Study of Legal Status of Women” (title provided) from the League of Nations Photo Archive Online, University of Indiana.

2 LN R3755 3A/19189/13900 Legal, General. Notes from a public meeting on 9 April 1938.

3 Records indicating Nour Hamada’s birth and death dates are inconsistent. Her birthdate has been listed as 1887, 1888, and 1897. It seems most likely she was born in 1897 as it conforms with her life milestones, such as when she attended university: furthermore, a New York Times article from 8 November 1933 indicated she was 36. Likewise, her death has been listed as 1963 and 1969. Her family said she died in the early 1960s when I tried to confirm her death date with them. They also indicated her papers, including a death certificate, burned when her family home was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War.

4 I use “Eastern” because it was the term used by the activists. I acknowledge the simplifications inherent in dividing the world into an East‑West binary, but the activists I study saw the world in those terms. I keep “Eastern” in quotes to reflect the fact that I am referencing their usage. For the history of Arab women’s usage of “Eastern” to describe their identities, see Baron, 1997, pp. 105‑109.

5 The “Legal, General” section of the League archive does not contain any other material about campaigns launched by women or women’s organizations in other countries regarding the make‑up of the committee. The other correspondences the League received about the committee were from national and international women’s organizations nominating women to the committee. These petitions they did not seek to alter the make‑up of the committee as the campaign launched by and for N. Hamada did.

6 More scholarship is needed on women’s activism from other world regions directed toward the League of Nations in an effort to affect League policy. Dubois (2009) addresses the campaigns of women from Latin America.

7 The presence of European and US women at the League of Nations as actors has received scant attention; no scholarship exists on the demands for women’s rights made by women in the mandates or colonized world at the League. Miller, 1994; Pedersen, 2008; Pfeffer, 1985; Zimmerman, 2012; Eisenberg, 2013.

8 The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1924.

9 LN R1356 23/99/86 Women’s Questions, 1919. Informal interview with members of the National Council of Women with Sr. Eric Drummond, 21 June 1919, 4.

10 Miller, 1992, p. 153.

11 Throughout its history, 203 women served on the Fifth Committee compared with one or two women on other Committees. Miller, 1992, p. 131. For further information on the inclusion of women on the commissions, especially those concerned with health and social welfare see LN R1356 23/4533/84 Women’s Questions, 1919 and LN R1356 23/4533/84 Women’s Questions, 1919.

12 Pedersen, 2015, p. 403.

13 The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1924.

14 In 1909, Luisi was the first woman in Uruguay to qualify as a doctor of medicine. In addition to her credentials as a doctor, she was an advocate of educational reforms and women’s rights and the intersection of the two. In 1920, she founded the Uruguay Women’s Association—she served as the organization’s first president. She was a member of the League of Nations’ Advisory Committee on Traffic in Women and Children and Child Welfare Committee from 1922 to 1932. From 1923 to 1939, she was a committee member of the IWSA.

15 The Arabic women’s press was a vibrant sphere for exchanging ideas about women’s rights and chronicling the actions of the international women’s organizations. For example, al‑Marʾa al‑Jadīda (Beirut, 1921‑1926) covered international women’s conferences. Between 1928 and 1938 at least ten women’s conferences were hosted in capitals throughout the Arab world. They brought women from around the region together to discuss a range of topics ranging from the social—improving the conditions in prisons—to the political—independence for Palestine and other Arab states.

16 The South American nations that put forth the proposal were later joined by the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Mexico, Columbia, China, Panama, Siam, Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Latvia, Haiti, and Yugoslavia in supporting the principle of women’s equality in nationality. See A.7 (1935) V and V. Legal 1935. V. 1. Their appeal to the Secretary‑General read: “In view of the worldwide restrictions upon the rights of women—the right to earn a living, the right to an education, to hold public office, to enter the professions—and in view of the interdependence of nationality and the right to work, the following delegations request that there be brought before the First Committee the Convention for Equality from Women in Nationality entered into at the recent Conference of American Republics at Montevideo [1933].”

17 LN R3771 3A/33305/31757 Legal, General. Speech by the Secretary General to the Committee of Experts on the Legal Status of Women, 4 April 1938.

18 Ibid. This was not the first transnational study on the legal status of women. It seems likely the structure of the study was inspired by an intergovernmental study of the legal the status of women in the Americas that was commissioned by the Inter‑American Women’s Commission in 1930.

19 Mogannam, 1976, p. 64.

20 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Arab Feminist Academy to the President of the Council of the League of Nations, 25 January 1938. No biographical details are available about B. Mouri.

21 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from the Superior Council of the Alliance for the General Oriental Women to the Chairman of the Council of the League of Nations. 17 January 1938.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 E. Pethick‑Lawrence was an early women’s rights advocate in Great Britain. In 1907 she started the publication “Votes for Women” with her husband. She was imprisoned in 1912 for her activism. She ran unsuccessfully for office in 1918. In 1905, M. Vérone joined the French League for Women’s Rights, which was affiliated with the IWSA; she was the President of the French branch of the organization from 1919 to 1938. In 1908 she became a lawyer. She used her law degree to advance the cause of women’s suffrage in France.

25 LN R3771 3A/31757/31757 Legal, General. Letter from Nour Hamada to his Excellency, The Delegate of Iran, Chairman of the Council of the League of Nations, 1 February 1938.

Auteur

Seattle University

© Presses de l’Inalco, 2020

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search