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Editors' Note and Acknowledgements As co-editors of this special issue, we are pleased to feature articles about women in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East that explore issues which are critical to the histories of particular societies and which relate to broad questions in comparative women's history. Anand A. Yang brings a fresh examination of demographic data to the Indian practice of sati (the immolation of a woman on her husband's funeral pyre), while evaluating previous explanations of it. Seeking to present the subjectivity of these women who are largely invisible as individuals in the documents, Yang views their acts as an " 'option' bound by economic, social, and religious constraints." His article is a major contribution to the comparative study of practices and institutions that oppress women, the more so because it is solidly embedded in an understanding of the cultural context. Dealing with a later period in Indian history, Barbara N. Ramusack explores a question of immense importance to women and to feminists: birth control. She examines the debate over birth control from 1920 to 1940, a period that has been little explored despite the centrality of population control to postindependence Indian life and politics. She finds key differences between the arguments put forward by men and women, as well as critical cooperation between indigenous proponents and foreign supporters. Janet Afary examines women's political participation and early feminist activism during the Constitutional Revolution in Iran in 1906-11 through the vehicle oianjumans, semisecret women's councils. Her study is important because it explores the interaction between nationalist and feminist aspirations and agitation, which at times have been and have been seen to be in tension with one another. Moving to Latin America, Asunción Lavrin looks at the interrelation of gender and political ideology in the attitudes of anarchists and socialists in Argentina and Chile toward the entry of women into the wage labor force from 1890-1925. She finds differences between the two political groupings, but ultimately, she argues, the Left did not significantly change gender relations in these countries in the early decades of the 20th century. Iris Berger situates the study of South African working women and their organization in relation to the comparable historiography for U.S. and European women. Her article touches upon themes from both Afary's and Lavrin's articles: the relationship between struggles for "women's issues" and class or national struggles, the forms of organization that advance these struggles, and women's leadership. These studies, based on new and exciting primary research, are followed by Sharon Sievers' discussion of the writing of feminist history and 1989 EDITORS' NOTE of histories of feminism. She urges us as historians not to eliminate nonwestern societies and political movements from our discussion of feminism , even though such exclusion is often done with the best intentions of avoiding cultural imperialism. Afary and Lavrin comment on her argument, based upon their own research in the areas of Middle Eastern and Latin American women's history. The JOURNAL OF WOMEN'S HISTORY features this work in a special issue (to be followed by another, Vol. 2, No. 1) not in the interest of segregating the nonwestern world; rather, we seek to stress our commitment to the dissemination of the history of women in these regions, written by indigenous and foreign scholars, and to the development of a comparative history that is firmly grounded in an understanding of local and particular histories of women. Cheryl Johnson-Odim Margaret Strobel Special issue co-editors ...


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