This article considers why and how locality influenced feminists’ perceptions of colonised women. It does so through an analysis of how militants and novelists linked with the Union Française pour le Suffrage des Femmes (French Union for Women's Suffrage, UFSF) perceived the Arab and Berber women of colonial North Africa. The organisation had branches in North Africa, and thus feminists in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are compared to those in France. Where these women lived shaped their understanding of French women's roles in the colonies, along with their opinions regarding the rights to which colonised women could lay claim. Tensions among UFSF members are traced here through the literary figure Elissa Rhaïs, articles in the feminist newspaper La Française and correspondence among UFSF members. These sources indicate that while all these French women positioned themselves as mediators of colonialism and women's rights, their precise interpretations of that mediation were consistently influenced by local concerns.