Nova Robinson


My first book manuscript, Truly Sisters: Arab Women and International Women’s Rights, is currently under press review. The project uncovers how transnational Arab women’s activism shaped the international women’s rights system that operates at the United Nations today. As such it will be of interest to scholars of women’s movements in the Arab world and internationally, to scholars of international governance, and to historians of the modern Middle East. Some of the women whose local, regional, and international activism is studied in the book are pictured at right.

A second book project, Fighting for Representation: The League of Nations and the Internationalization of Women’s Rights, is currently in progress. It explores the role of women from the global south in pushing the League of Nations to recognize women’s rights as an international concern.

I am also co-editor with Bonnie G. Smith of the Routledge Global History of Feminism. A collection that presents the global history of feminism through 40 chronologic, geographic, and thematic essays.

My next book project will explore Arab women’s responses to foreign missionaries, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, and scholars positioning them as a population in need of saving. Juxtaposing Arab women’s replies to what was being said about them reveals the stagnation of discourse around the “backwards” status of Arab women in the face of evidence to the contrary: a long history of local women’s rights activism that identified and addressed their own needs. The book will cover between 1890-1990.


The Arab Women’s History Project is a new, centralized repository of digital sources in Arab women’s, gender, and sexuality history from the late Ottoman period, through European occupation, and into the era of independent statehood. The project collects and catalogues sources already digitized by scholars and makes them available in one location. The project is now seeking funding for the launch of its first phase. In the second phase of the project, users will identify additional sources for digitization and inclusion in the digital archive to ensure increased access and to preserve the sources.

Our aim is to identify, digitize, and preserve sources from the range of women’s experiences from working-class women, to ardent feminists activists, to educated salon women, thus making it possible to recover the many worlds of women that when viewed collectively give a window into women’s histories in the Middle East. If you have sources you would like to contribute the project, please contact me.

I am the Associate Editor of the Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria),1900-1960 documents in the “Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean,1860-1960” section of Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires since 1820 (Alexander Street Press). The document collection makes primary sources about women collaborating with or contesting foreign and/or local empires available for classroom use.