The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is held annually in memory of Sue Innes, feminist historian, campaigner and journalist, who died in 2005. Sue was an enthusiastic member of Women’s History Scotland (then known as Scottish Women’s History Network). She was one of the editors of The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, which is dedicated to her.
Sue was a key figure in the second-wave feminist movement (as well as a history of women’s orgnisations) and thus the topic of this year’s memorial lecture was very apt. Our topic this year had also been selected to encompass a broad transnational perspective in recognition of the importance and relevance of global connectedness (at a time when horizons sometimes feel they are narrowing as a result of the effects of the pandemic). Finally, it had also been selected to highlight the Women’s History Scotland objective of promoting and showcasing all aspects of women’s and gender history research that are taking place in Scotland as well as about Scotland.
Women’s History Scotland was delighted to introduce Dr Maud Bracke, who gave the 2020 Sue Innes Memorial Lecture. Maud is a Reader in History at the University of Glasgow where she is also co-Director of the Centre for Gender History at Glasgow. She has published widely in five different languages on communist history, the history of the European left, political and social mobilisation around 1968, and on collective memory after the Second World. Her book Women and the Re-Invention of the Political: Feminism in Italy 1968-1983 was published by Routledge in 2014.
Dr Bracke is currently working on a major book project charting the rise of notions of reproductive rights in post-1945 Europe (West and East) in a global perspective – and she will be drawing on this research in her lecture:
Transnational feminism and the global rise of reproductive rights (1960s-1990s)
In this lecture I propose a new way of approaching late-20th Century struggles for reproductive rights and health by pointing at the limits of nationally framed narratives, and by highlighting the emergence of a global women’s health movement in the 1970s-80s. Such a movement, which included organisation such as the International Contraception, Abortion and Sterilisation Campaign (created London in 1978) and the Women’s Global Network for reproductive Rights (Amsterdam, 1984), foregrounded an intersectional notion of reproductive autonomy and agency.
The lecture will focus on the debates that animated this movement in its early years (1970-1984), and specifically on the interactions between Latin American and European women’s organisations. On the basis of their critique of the global family planning movement and its population control-driven approaches, Latin American women’s organisations challenged Western feminists, calling on them to think beyond an agenda focused primarily on the right not to be a mother. They incorporated the categories of race, location and social class into a more complex analysis of patriarchal control of women’s bodies, one that was cognisant of the social hierarchisation of reproductive bodies and of the histories of non-white, non-Western, poor and disabled women being denied the right to parent. The lecture includes analysis of such debates and tensions within the feminist movements of France, the UK and Italy.
As the global women’s health movement professionalised and gained international influence in the 1980s-90s, these distinct approaches – and specifically the disconnection of reproductive rights from any population management agenda – shaped the articulation of reproductive health and rights as defined at the UN Conference of Women in Cairo in 1994, which underpins today’s global conversation of reproductive rights and reproductive justice.
Rowena Arshad’s interview referenced in Dr Bracke’s talk can be found in the British Library’s ‘Sisterhood and After’ project – https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/rowena-arshad-contraception-and-controlling-poor-womens-bodies
You can also find out more about Rowena Arshad’s work here: