|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (October 2012)|
Rosika Schwimmer was born on September 11, 1877 to a Jewish family in Budapest in Austria-Hungary. She studied music and languages but when family finances deteriorated in 1896, she began to work as a bookkeeper.
In 1897 Schwimmer founded the Hungarian Feminist Association, helped to found Hungarian National Council of Women, later organized the first Women's Trade Union in Hungary and was a board member in the Hungarian Peace Society. In 1909, the Minister of the Interior appointed her to the governing board of child welfare.
In 1913 she became a corresponding secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). Schwimmer toured Europe with Carrie Chapman Catt to lecture on female suffrage. She also edited magazine A No (The Woman). In 1914 Schwimmer moved to London and worked as a correspondent of various European newspapers and press secretary for IWSA. When the World War I broke out, she could not return home and began to agitate for the end of hostilities. In 1914 she toured the USA to demand that president Woodrow Wilson form a neutral conference to end the war. In 1915 she took part in the formation of the Woman's Peace Party.
During the April 28-May 10, 1915 Hague Congress of Women, her proposal for a Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation between the governments of the belligerents was adopted. In 1915 she gained the support of Henry Ford, who chartered a Peace Ship to Stockholm. Disappointed with Ford's efforts, she later organized the International Committee for Immediate Mediation in June 1916. After the armistice, Schwimmer became vice-president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
When Hungary gained independence from Austria-Hungary in 1918, prime minister Mihály Károlyi appointed Schwimmer to be Minister to Switzerland. When the communists gained control of the government in 1919, she opposed it and lost her civil rights. In 1920, when Miklós Horthy's government ousted the communists, she fled to Vienna and in 1921 to the USA. She settled in Chicago and did not move back to Hungary, where she had help build the foundation for future women in Hungarian politics.
Due to her pacifist beliefs, Schwimmer was labeled as a socialist in the USA. She spent most of her remaining life fighting various slanders against herself. When Fred Marvin accused her of being a German spy and a Bolshevist agent, she sued and received $17,000 in damages. However, she could not gain the US citizenship because of her pacifism—the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her in United States v. Schwimmer (1929). In 1946, United States v. Schwimmer was overturned in Girouard v. United States. She still spent the rest of her life in the country as a stateless person.
Later in life Schwimmer tried to create a world government. In 1935 she formed the World Centre for Women's Archives with Mary Ritter Beard. She received a World Peace Prize in 1937 and formed the Campaign for World Government with Lola Maverick Lloyd. In 1947 she was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize but no one received it the next year.
Death and legacy
- Gerit von Leitner. Wollen wir unsere Hände in Unschuld waschen? Gertrud Woker (1878 - 1968), Chemikerin & Internationale Frauenliga 1915 - 1968. Berlin: Weidler, 1998, ISBN 3-89693-125-3, p. 99.
- The Case of Rosika Schwimmer: Alien Pacifists Not Wanted! New York: American Civil Liberties Union, June 1929.
- Remembering 2 forgotten women in free-speech history
- Rosika Schwimmer papers at the Hoover Institution Archives