Working Girls: Women’s Cultural Production during the Interwar Years

Venue: University of San Francisco and St. Mary\'s College of California

Location: Moraga, California, United States

Event Date/Time: Oct 19, 2007 End Date/Time: Oct 20, 2007
Registration Date: Aug 01, 2007
Early Registration Date: Jun 01, 2007
Abstract Submission Date: Jun 01, 2007
Paper Submission Date: Aug 01, 2007
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The period between the two World Wars presented both exciting opportunities and intense social and political struggles for international women working in the arts and other forms of cultural production. Many women across Europe and North America embraced the long-awaited prospect of emancipation in the form of suffrage and increased employment in both the public and private spheres. As public awareness of the importance of women’s health and fitness increased, so did the acceptance of the possibilities of women’s sexual preferences and desires. In response to the threat posed by this “new woman” movement, many reactionary national governments responded by reinforcing the cult of female domestication. Mothers across the globe were celebrated for their biological ability to reproduce as a means to compensate for the devastating loss of life and decline in population.

This interdisciplinary two-day symposium in Northern California seeks proposals for papers that explore the many facets of what it meant to be a “working girl” involved in cultural production during this time of great social opportunity, but also economic depression and backlash of conservative attitudes. Among the questions we hope to address are: How did women, as both producers and consumers of art, design, architecture, and popular culture in different parts of the world during the interwar years, respond to the rise of modernity made possible by the machine age? How did their “work” from this period also address the role of technology in promoting the loss of both life and capital on a global scale? What are the similarities and differences in the ways in which women artists responded to the rise of nationalism, fascism, and xenophobia in different countries and urban settings? Finally, what types of international dialogues existed among creative women of the interwar years, and how can we draw parallels between women’s experiences in different geographic locations during this important period in world history?


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