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Chapter 6 Not Such Good Neighbors In his 1933 inaugural address, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt declared, ‘‘In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.’’1 That year the United States abrogated the Platt Amendment, which had established Cuba as a U.S. protectorate in 1901. In 1934 Roosevelt withdrew U.S. marines from Haiti, ending the nineteenyear occupation of that country, and restructured the U.S. agreement with Panama, scaling back the extent of U.S. control over the Panama Canal. The United States did not scale back its economic investments and loan programs, nor did it attempt to reduce its political influence, but the Good Neighbor Policy symbolized a commitment to hemispheric solidarity and to more egalitarian relations throughout the Americas.2 The election of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934 disrupted the improvement of U.S.-Mexican relations that had begun after the crisis of 1926–1927. Cárdenas’s ability to mobilize the popular masses had propelled him into office, where he was determined to make good on the Revolution’s promises. He redistributed forty-four million acres of land, established new credit systems to finance agricultural production, and implemented a nationwide education program designed to instill a ‘‘shared language’’ of culture, identity, and values.3 As U.S. bankers and oilmen cringed, Cárdenas became immensely popular among Mexican peasants and workers. His support was built on mass organizations composed primarily of these two groups. Most were dominated by men, but almost all encouraged women’s participation, albeit in marginalized and limited ways. Cárdenas’s intense nationalism, particularly as evidenced by his land Not Such Good Neighbors 175 redistribution, made many U.S. observers wary. His land programs evoked strong memories of the crises over Article 27 in the 1920s, and foreshadowed another showdown with the United States over oil in 1938.4 Both of these developments represented opportunities for U.S. women internationalists. First, heightened rhetoric about ‘‘neighborliness’’ clearly fit with the personal interactions and shared experiences that practitioners of human internationalism had been promoting for almost two decades. Not coincidentally, both the Mexican YWCA and the Mexican section of WILPF experienced something of a renaissance during the second half of the 1930s, as they capitalized on the United States’ willingness to soften both its policies and its tone. In doing so, the human internationalists evinced more of the sophisticated, politicized internationalism that Dorothy Detzer and others had pioneered in the mid-1920s. Second, Cárdenas’s willingness to consider women as revolutionary citizens opened the door to the legal advancements the Inter-American Commission of Women sought through the Equal Nationality and Equal Rights Treaties. Both Doris Stevens and Margarita Robles de Mendoza hoped that Cárdenas’s support for equal nationality, and for the woman suffrage campaign that gathered strength during the 1930s, heralded significant advancements for Mexican women. At the same time, however, Cardenismo—renewed revolutionary nationalism —belied much of the rhetoric about ‘‘good neighbors.’’ Mexican women who cooperated too closely with U.S. women became open targets for accusations of disloyalty. Ultimately, Mexican women’s activism developed during the 1930s in conjunction with Cardenismo, not with U.S. women ’s internationalism or with prevailing trends in ‘‘Western’’ feminism. This left little opportunity for U.S. women to secure their long-term endeavors in Mexico before the outbreak of war in Europe commandeered their attention. Ironically, Mexican women had finally developed political machinery that would have impressed Carrie Chapman Catt, the woman who had once written them off as fat and lazy. But they put that machinery to use for their own ends, not the ends U.S. women like Catt had envisioned for them. Women Internationalists Are Good Neighbors The human internationalist organizations, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Young Women’s Christian Association , were best positioned to take advantage of rhetoric about ‘‘neighborliness .’’ WILPF in particular desperately needed it. The U.S. section had 176 Chapter 6 established an internal Inter-American Committee to coordinate sections, correspondence, visits, and programs throughout the Western Hemisphere, but it had suffered throughout the first half of the 1930s from a lack of leadership and direction. In 1934, Ellen...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812290028
Related ISBN
9780812246339
MARC Record
OCLC
889537722
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-28
Language
English
Open Access
No
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