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

Mona Siegel

Columbia University Press, 2020

Agent: Elise Capron

In the watershed year of 1919, world leaders met in Paris, promising to build a new international order rooted in democracy and social justice. Female activists demanded that statesmen live up to their word. Excluded from the negotiating table, women met separately, crafted their agendas, and captured global headlines with a message that was both straightforward and revolutionary: enduring peace depended as much on recognition of the fundamental humanity and equality of all people—regardless of sex, race, class, or creed—as on respect for the sovereignty of independent states.

Peace on Our Terms follows dozens of remarkable women from Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Asia as they crossed oceans and continents; commanded meeting halls in Paris, Zurich, and Washington; and marched in the streets of Cairo and Beijing. Mona L. Siegel’s sweeping global account of international organizing highlights how Egyptian and Chinese nationalists, Western and Japanese labor feminists, white Western suffragists, and African American civil-rights advocates worked in tandem to advance women’s rights. Despite significant resistance, these pathbreaking women would leave their mark on emerging democratic constitutions and new institutions of global governance. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Peace on Our Terms is the first book to demonstrate the centrality of women’s activism to the Paris Peace Conference and the critical diplomatic events of 1919. Siegel tells the timely story of how female activists transformed women’s rights into a global rallying cry, laying a foundation for generations to come.

"This sparkling, character-driven history will captive readers interested in the suffrage movement and feminist history." 
—Publishers Weekly

"A stunning retelling of the Great War’s aftermath and how women rose up at the war’s end to demand a different and better world. Siegel’s evocative prose transports us back in time and around the world as women from east, west, north, and south descend on Versailles in pursuit of their rights. Peace on Our Terms is a stirring, extraordinary tale of how the denial of voice to more than half the world’s people shaped our time. This is history and drama at its finest."
--Dorothy Sue Cobble, coauthor of Feminism Unfinished: A Short, Surprising History of American Women's Movements

"Siegel models beautifully the capacity for academic scholarship to draw transnational connections within a complex, multilingual project. Few scholars have this capacity for such beautiful writing. The book is truly engaging, and readers will come to ‘know’ the key figures in really personal ways?readers share humor and wit, puzzlement, adventure and grief alongside the women themselves. In this regard, it is a very contemporary style of scholarly history?and one that I hope will be modeled more in the future."
--Louise Edwards, author of Women Warriors and Wartime Spies of China

"Peace on Our Terms highlights the contributions that women from all over the world made in 1919 to the history of peacemaking. Her collage of activists?from France's Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger to China's Soumay Tcheng?is stunningly drawn. By investigating women's activism on a global scale, Siegel has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the post-World War I period. A beautifully written, inspiring page-turner!"
--Karen Offen, author of European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

"As diplomats gathered in Paris in 1919 to negotiate the peace that would end World War I, women around the world?in North America and Europe but also in Egypt, China, and elsewhere?mobilized to make their voices heard. Convinced that they had a role to play in making the peace, they demanded disarmament, racial justice, national sovereignty, international cooperation, and women’s rights. This deeply researched and elegantly written book shows how these women’s efforts, despite many disappointments, helped to shape the new world order and the rise of global feminism."
--Erez Manela, author of The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism