The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, hosted in Beijing in 1995, was one of the largest multilateral events ever convened. It welcomed 6,000 official delegates representing almost every country in the world, 4,000 members of the press, countless observers and civil servants, and more than 30,000 civil society leaders and activists at a parallel NGO Forum. The 189 participating nations signed a Declaration that remains the most ambitious international commitment in support of gender equality. One of the conference’s defining moments was then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s speech, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”; Clinton’s speech launched an influential wave of support for the women’s rights movement and helped build a constituency committed to advancing global women’s issues.
The Library’s new exhibition, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights: The United States and the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women,” includes more than 100 photos, documents, conference materials, media coverage, and other items that illustrate the United States’ preparation for and participation in the conference, and the conference’s legacy. The objects in the exhibition come from the archives of Ambassador Melanne Verveer, chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton and the first ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. These documents have never been published or made publicly available before. Verveer generously donated these items and other materials to the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, where they will be made available for research, instruction, and public programs. There are also some loans from Theresa Loar, director of the Global Conference Secretariat at the State Department during the conference.
The exhibition can be viewed in the Special Collections Gallery and the Charles Marvin Fairchild Gallery on the fifth floor of the Library through February 13, 2022. The exhibit is also available online. It was guest-curated by Verveer and Rebecca Turkington (F’17), and produced by Art Curator LuLen Walker.
Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who led the U.S. delegation to the conference, will visit Georgetown for the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security’s annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards ceremony December 6. All of this year’s awardees will be women who attended the Beijing conference and went on to dedicate their careers to advancing women’s rights. Details about the ceremony are forthcoming.