Women's Rights (Global Issues) by Natasha Thomsen

By Natasha Thomsen

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In 1924, the state of Virginia adopted a statute authorizing the compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded for the protection and health of the state. Carrie Buck was a dependent in the care of the state of Virginia. In 1927, the Supreme Court decided that it was in the state’s interest to have her sterilized. Virginia’s eugenics law was partially repealed in 1974 and completely repealed in 1979, but Buck v. Bell has yet to be overturned. During the reign of Indira Gandhi (1917–84), India used forced vasectomies, a form of sterilization, on fathers; that policy led to public resentment of family planning in that country that persists today.

The journalist and lawyer Crystal Eastman (1881–1928) established the National Civil Liberties Bureau to protect conscientious objectors to the war. One of the larger European organizations—the International Conference of Socialist Women—and the Euro-American International Women’s Congress met in 1915 to advocate peace. Women from 12 countries met in the Hague, the capital of the Netherlands. S. delegates campaigned for America not to enter the war, and it did not until 1917. In 1919, the delegates from the International Women’s Congress formed a new organization, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), in Geneva, Switzerland, led by Addams.

Public perception of women’s ability, dress, and appearance shifted dramatically. Women were finding out about contraceptives as an option for sexual freedom and self-determination. Although women would soon be again alienated from job opportunities as men returned to the workforce, countries initiated suffrage in record numbers after the war. After the war, women had the opportunity to meet with the 14 allied country representatives at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and to provide proposals for the newly formed Covenant of the League of Nations and ILO.

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