Citizens of the World: U.S. Women and Global Government. (Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022, 238 pp.)
As Lucia Ames Mead, one of the nine women highlighted in this study, wrote in 1904:
“The decade is not far distant when we shall find that the largest organism to which we owe allegiance is not the United States, but the great World – we are first of all citizens of the World, first of all members of humanity.”
Between 1900 and 1950, many politically active women in the United States advocated for greater geopolitical integration in order to end war. They argued that increasing global interdependence demanded both governmental cooperation and a broader commitment to the international community.
All these women supported and worked for various measures to advance women’s political, legal and economic status. They all believed that women had a right and a responsibility to participate on the world stage equally with men. They felt a responsibility to the people of the world and to future generations to inaugurate mechanisms that would end war.
As Megan Threlheld stresses these nine women were not simply promoting an abstract sense of unity among all humankind. They were demanding to participate in shaping a real, tangible global polity.
A structured international body with authority and power was a prerequisite, they believed, for lasting peace among nations and greater equality among human beings. Many supported the League of Nations and then the United Nations as necessary first steps toward a genuine world government.
As Conor Cruise O’Brian wrote in The U.N. Sacred Drama:
” The General Assembly is the main focus of such power as does reside in the U.N. – moral, imaginative, religious power. Not that the Assembly is, in itself, especially moral, imaginative or religious, but that the corresponding human qualities act and through it, in surprising and unpredictable ways.”
The nine women all believed that the foremost purpose of any international institution was to end war and as world citizens they were responsible for furthering that goal. They wanted a global system in which world politics is not conducted by force and coercion but through negotiation and compromise.
All placed an emphasis on education for world citizenship. Fannie Fern Andrews developed a grade-school curriculum for world citizenship based on educating children about their responsibilities in the home, the city, the nation, and the world.
Megan Threlheld’s fine study is a strong reminder that world citizenship has retained its tremendous power to inspire people to develop just and peaceful practices.
René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.
Image Featured: On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Ambassador Robert P. Jackson hosted a reception for alumnae of the Fortune-U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. By U.S. Embassy Ghana, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.