Pappa Umanath founded the Democratic Women's Association in Tamil Nadu in 1973, working for women's rights and for their education, employment and status, along with issues like casteism, communalism, child rights and disaster aid. Several other affiliated State-based organisations developed, and the unified All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) was established in 1981.
AIDWA has an annual membership fee of one rupee, which allows it policy-independence from donor agencies and government. In 2007, it had over 10 million members, spread across 23 states.
The first National Conference of AIDWA was held at Chennai in 1981, with delegates from 12 states representing 590,000 members. The eighth National Conference was held at Kolkata in 2007, with 951 delegates from 23 states, representing a membership of around 18,600,000. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu addressed the inaugural session.
AIDWA's 10th National Conference was held in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, from 22 to 25 November 2013. It started with flag hoisting by AIDWA's national president Shyamali Gupta and homage to martyrs who sacrificed their lives for women's emancipation and social justice. The inaugural session featured a special session titled "Women against Violence: Fighting for Justice, Resisting Violence, Claiming Rights", wherein women from across the country who have been fighting the battle against violence, discrimination and social injustice in various forms which includes domestic and political violence, sexual assault, fight for land rights, fight against caste and communal discrimination and against terrorism spoke. The women who spoke included representative of the Vachathi tribal mass rape survivor from Tamil Nadu, Parandhayi, who stood up against her sexual assault by forest and police officials for 19 long years and finally succeeded in getting justice.