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Women and diplomacy: from the interwar to the Cold War

Hosted by the Department of International History

LSE campus (please view programme), United Kingdom


Professor Denise Lynn

Professor Denise Lynn

Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook

Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook


Dr Victoria Phillips, Dr Artemis Photiadou and Professor Vladislav Zubok

Department of International History

To mark International Women's Day and the tenth anniversary of the official opening of the Women's Library Reading Room at LSE, the Department of International History’s project in History, Culture and Diplomacy is pleased to announce a day of papers, panels, and a keynote speech on women, diplomacy and politics. 

The event will be held in partnership with the LSE Library and its Women's Library. On Friday 8 March, the Department of International History conference will open with a paper by Denise M. Lynn, author of Where is Juliet Stuart Poyntz: Gender, Spycraft and anti-Stalinism in the Early Cold War, in which she will discuss Poyntz’s work at LSE during the interwar. After a selection of panels and papers by faculty and emerging scholars, the day will conclude at 5pm with a keynote speech by the renowned award-winning biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy-five.

The History, Culture and Diplomacy project hosts events to further the study of the history of culture and international diplomacy under the aegis of the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Projects, speakers, conferences and student fellowships examine the ways in which “soft power” ideological campaigns were joined with “hot war” confrontations. The project’s primary intents are: 1. to encourage new approaches to cultural diplomatic history; 2. to encourage networks of cooperation among international scholars.

Download the Conference Programme 

This event is co-sponsored with:

Opening Keynote Lecture - Professor Denise Lynn

Title: “From Student to Spy: Juliet Stuart Poyntz and the London School of Economics”

In 1910, Juliet Stuart Poyntz earned a prestigious scholarship through the General Federation of Women’s Clubs to study in England at an institution of her choice. Already a self-identified socialist and suffragist, she chose the London School of Economics (LSE) to study the effects of industrial conditions on women workers. Poyntz’s time at LSE would significantly impact the course of her life. She collaborated on a study with LSE co-founder Sidney Webb, she befriended LSE lecturer Arnold Freeman who became enamored with her, and she met her future husband, German socialist Frederick Glaser, while she worked at the library. Poyntz returned to the United States invested in her radical commitments, which would eventually lead her into the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA). Though she would rise to leadership positions in the Party and remain committed to women workers' plight, Poyntz is not remembered for her activism. Instead, her legacy is tied to her 1937 disappearance while she operated as an anti-Nazi spy in the Soviet underground. Her disappearance remains unsolved, but it has been influential in fueling anticommunist conspiracy theories among politicians, scholars, and journalists. Even her time at LSE has been connected to her disappearance since she met her German husband there, which some believe alerted the Nazi government to her work. This presentation explores how Poyntz’s studies at LSE were part of her radicalization that transformed her from a committed socialist and student to a radical activist and anti-fascist spy.

(CANCELLED) Evening Keynote Lecture - Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook

Title: “Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy-five: a global promise of peace dignity education work for everybody”

After serving as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first lady from 1933 to 1945, during which she had a deep influence on his policies, in 1946 President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She served as the first Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). She used her intelligence, prestige, and credibility to steer the drafting process. In 1948 the UN General Assembly ratified the UDHR despite escalating political tensions.  In 1968, she was posthumously awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize. Over seven decades, these rights form the basis for international human rights law. Yet with the twenty-first century turn in world politics away from a liberal, democratic, and global order to isolationism and the political justification of torture and genocide, how can we understand human rights, the UDHR, and how can the memory of Roosevelt spark new activism in the global arena?

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