Mona L. Siegel

 

On her book Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women's Rights After the First World War

Cover Interview of March 10, 2020

Lastly

Reading Peace on Our Terms, readers may find themselves justifiably shocked at the contemporary relevance of women’s priorities a century ago. Here in the United States in the early twenty-first century, women’s marches, the #MeToo Movement, and the Equal Rights Amendment are all front-page news, while #BlackLivesMatter and other social justice movements highlight the voices of women of color. Globally, female prime ministers head governments from New Zealand to Finland and from Slovakia to Ethiopia. Since 2010, at the United Nations, UN Women has directed efforts to promote global gender equality and to demand a role for women in peace processes.

If female politicians and peacemakers have never been so visible, myriad problems stemming from gender inequality have proven stubbornly intractable. Violence against women, marriage of under-age girls, sexual discrimination in the workplace, and unequal representation of women in all levels of government continue to sow instability and poverty at home and around the world.

The women featured in Peace on Our Terms fought for women’s full inclusion in peacemaking, nation building, and international policymaking for a reason. They saw it as a necessary precondition to combatting the discrimination and insecurity that had long defined their lives. That battle continues unabated today.

I hope that readers will be inspired by the courageous women’s rights activists in this book. These women—all of them—defied convention and put their reputations, if not their lives, on the line. They did so because they believed that women not only had a right, as individuals, to shape their societies, but they also had a duty, as women, to speak from their unique life experiences. From Malala Yousafzai to Greta Thunberg, we see women around the world continuing that tradition today, often unaware of the shoulders they stand on.

I also expect—perhaps even hope—that some of my readers will step away from this book a bit angry. “How,” they may ask themselves, “can we still be fighting so many of the same battles as these women a century ago?” To ask such a question is to probe the tremendous hurdles women faced in the early twentieth century, as they fought to establish a place for women in international diplomacy and policymaking, and it is a first step toward continuing to fight for a more just and equitable world today.