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New Life Meets Real Life: Chinese Women in Nation Building and State Making, 1934–1949

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This article uses gender analysis to reexamine the New Life Movement, illustrating how strategies for women’s leadership cultivation played an important role in Guomindang (GMD) state-building efforts during the 1930s and 1940s. The GMD government promoted the New Life Movement to rectify the morals and conduct of civil servants and the general public for the purpose of building a modern nation-state at minimum cost. Although the New Life Movement is best known for employing urban middle-class centric approaches to reform, its Women’s Advisory Council (WAC) carried the modernizing project to China’s rural interior, where the GMD was previously bereft of access to local society. Although the WAC prioritized the mobilization of rural women for the war effort, its endeavors transcended the confinement of “women’s work” and were instrumental in bridging the central government and local authorities, bringing the state into rural households.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, B3L 1T9, Canada


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