A woman wearing academic dress on a bicycle in Oxford


Women's International Thought

A collaboration with the Leverhulme Project on Women and the History of International Thought.


This exhibition explores the ideas, genres, and contexts of women’s international thinking in Britain and the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. A period of colonial and anti-colonial struggles, superpower rivalry, racial, class and gendered conflicts, the legacies of these times – and these women’s ideas - are still with us today. Curated by the Leverhulme Project on Women and the History of International Thought, the following exhibition explores women international thinkers and their work at a fundamental moment in the imagining of international relations.

Opening times

  • 9am to 7pm,  Monday to Friday 
  • 11am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday

The promotional poster for the exhibition

The exhibition is audio-described by the curators to enhance your visit or help you explore from home. You can find the audio guides after the next section.


Selected images and quotes from our curators

A woman sat at a desk reading a newspaper

I love this image of Claudia Jones reading a copy of the West Indian Gazette, which she founded in 1958 and edited after she was deported to Britain from the United States because of her radical left and anti-racist work. It’s included in a display where we feature the work of four leading Black internationalist thinkers of the early to mid-twentieth century, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Una Marson, Merze Tate, and Claudia Jones.

Patricia Owens, Professor of International Relations, Oxford University


A women photographed from behind and sat at a desk with papers.

This image was taken soon after World War II, in the newspaper clippings department of the foreign affairs think tank Chatham House. The unknown woman in the image is cutting out a newspaper column, which would then be catalogued and filed away, delivering the raw material for one of Chatham House’s many publications. The mostly male authors who published surveys and books on international affairs could not have completed their work without this crucial process of mining the ‘raw facts’. I am fond of this image for many reasons, but not least because it reminds me of the historian Gerda Lerner’s demand that the recovery of women’s intellectual history cannot focus on exceptional women only – the unexceptional ones are just as important.

Katharina Rietzler, Senior Lecturer in American History, University of Sussex


A stamp with a portrait of a woman on underneath the text "Black Heritage"

This is my favourite image from the exhibition, included in the exhibit on Women and the Canon of International Thought. It is a US postage stamp, produced in 2009 as part of a series celebrating black heritage. It is a brilliant picture, with Anna Julia Cooper looking commandingly into the distance, but also a stark reminder of how recently Cooper’s work gained any recognition at all, let alone as a contribution to international thought. It is sobering to note that Cooper’s brilliant Sorbonne PhD thesis, Slavery and the French Revolutionists, which she had to defend to a white supremacist examiner, was only published 60 years after she was awarded her doctorate and more than twenty years after her death.

Kimberly Hutchings, Professor of International Politics, Queen Mary University of London


Dean Virginia C. Gildersleeve, member of the Delegation from the United States, signing the United Nations Charter at a ceremony held at the Veterans' War Memorial Building on 26 June 1945, San Francisco, United States.

This photo of Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College, signing the United Nations Charter in 1945 surrounded by men, for me really captures the heights and contradictions of the interwar world of women’s international thought. Simultaneously prominent and minoritised, educated women in the US made foundational contributions to international relations through the interrelated, predominantly white worlds of the academy and women-led organisations. Alongside Gildersleeve, the only woman US delegate, multiple women served as technical experts, advisors and assistants to the US delegation, many holding PhDs and academic jobs.

Joanna Wood, DPhil Candidate in International Relations, University of Oxford


Listen to the curators’ audio-described guides

1. Introductory Poster and Lightbox


2. Poster


3.Video Wall Recording


4. Political Interventions


5. LSE Connections


6. Women and the Canon of International Thought


7. Black Internationalists


8. Women in the Interwar United States


9. Think Tank Women


Image credits

Banner image of Merze Tate, courtesy of Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections.

Claudia Jones image courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Clippings image courtesy of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Stamp image courtesy of US Postal Service, Black Heritage Series, 44-cent Anna Julia Cooper Commemorative Stamp, Issued 2009. Further details of the stamp

UN Charter image courtesy of UN Photo/McCreary.

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