International Congress of Women

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The name International Congress of Women was used by a number of feminist and pacifist events since 1878.

Paris, 1878[edit]

The First International Congress of Women's Rights convened in Paris in 1878 upon the occasion of the third Paris World's Fair. An historic event attended by many representatives, seven resolutions were passed at the meeting, beginning with the idea that "the adult woman is the equal of the adult man".[1] The subject of women's suffrage was deliberately avoided at the Congress, as it was too controversial and not supported by all the attendees. Hubertine Auclert wrote a speech calling for the right to vote for French women, but was not allowed to present it to the Congress. Instead, she published it later.[2] Emily Venturi gave a memorable closing speech, in which she declared

Last evening a gentleman who seemed a bit skeptical about the advantages of our congress asked me, ‘Well Madame, what great truth have you proclaimed to the world?’ I replied to him, ‘Monsieur, we have proclaimed a woman is a human being.’ He laughed. ‘But, Madame, that is a platitude.’ So it is; but when this recognized by human laws, the face of the world will be transformed. Certainly, then, there would be not need for us to assembly in congress to demand the rights of woman.

— Karen Offen, European Feminisms: A Political History, 1700-1950, 2000

London, June 26 - July 7, 1899[edit]

The International Congress of Women of 1899 was convened by the International Council of Women in conjunction with its 2nd Quinquennial Meeting.[3] The Congress was divided into 5 sections, with programming in each: Education, Professional, Political, Social, and Industrial and Legislative. The transactions of the Congress were edited by the then Countess of Aberdeen, who was president of the International Council of Women at the time of the congress, and published in a set along with the Report of Council Transactions from the International Congress of Women's 2nd Quinquennial meeting.[4][5]

Berlin, June 1904[edit]

This conference aimed its focus on four main sections; education, social work/institutions, the legal position of women, and professions open for women. Officers of the German Council of Women were put in charge of this conference. They extended an invitation to Susan B. Anthony. Letters began to pour in, asking her to attend the conference and making known the feelings toward the thought that she may not present herself there. After receiving all of these letters, Anthony decided to make an appearance at the conference. Along with Anthony, Mary Church Terrell spoke at the International Congress Of Women in Berlin.[6]

Amsterdam, June 1908[edit]

Isabella Ford had attended this conference.[7] Another important woman spoke at that conference, Carrie Chapman Catt. She discussed the importance of women's history being part of the world's history. Women came from South Africa and Australia to hear about the success of the International Congress of Women. A male delegate from "Great Britain's Men's League for Women's Enfranchisement also attended.[8]

Stockholm, June 1911[edit]

This conference was led by Carrie Chapman Catt. During this conference eight men formed the Men's International Alliance for Women's Suffrage. These men came from Great Britain, the U.S., France, Germany, and Holland.[9]

The Hague, April–May 1915[edit]

This congress, also known as the Women's Peace Congress or just The Hague Congress[10] was part of the emergent women's peace movement. More than 1200 delegates from 12 countries discussed proposals to end the First World War through negotiation. Two participants, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Other attenders included Lida Gustava Heymann, one of 28 delegates from Germany; Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Hobhouse and Chrystal Macmillan from Great Britain; Rosika Schwimmer from Hungary; and Emilia Fogelklou.

The French government prevented the participation of a French delegation, and the planned 180-strong British delegation was severely reduced by the British government's suspension of the commercial ferry service between Folkestone and Flushing.[10][11]

This event marked the foundation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Somewhat confusingly, it is sometimes referred to as the First International Congress of Women.

Zurich, May 1919[edit]

[12] This conference was held at the same time as the Peace Treaty of Versailles and hosted over 200 women coming in from 17 nations. One member commented that the German delegation was ‘scarred and shrivelled by hunger and privation, they were scarcely recognizable’.[13] At this conference the women of the International Congress of Women regrouped to form a new organization, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.[14]

Vienna, July 1921[edit]

This congress ended with a short resolution entitled "Revision of peace treaties":

Believing that the Peace Treaties contain the seeds of new wars, this Congress declares that a revision of the Peace Terms is necessary, and resolves to make this object its principal task.[15]


  1. ^ "'Women in Every Country' – The First International Congress of Women's Rights. Paris, 1878". Teaching Women's Rights From Past to Present. Women In World History. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Offen, Karen M. (2000). European feminisms, 1700–1950: a political history. Stanford University Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-8047-3420-8. 
  3. ^ Ishbel Gordon Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair (1900). The International Congress of Women of 1899. T. F. Unwin. pp. 1–. 
  4. ^ The Countess of Aberdeen (ed.), Women in Professions, being the professional section of the International Congress of Women of 1899 
  5. ^ Butlin, F.M. (1899), "International Congress of Women", Economic Journal (Blackwell Publishing) 9 (35): 450–455, doi:10.2307/2957075, JSTOR 2957075 
  6. ^ Montefiore, Dora B. (June 1904). "The Women’s Congress in Berlin". New Age. pp. 363–364. 
  7. ^ Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. pp. 227–. ISBN 1-135-43402-6. 
  8. ^ Keller, Kristin Thoennes (2006-01-01). Carrie Chapman Catt: A Voice for Women. Capstone. ISBN 9780756509910. 
  9. ^ Oldfield, Sybil (2003-01-01). International Woman Suffrage: November 1914-September 1916. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415257381. 
  10. ^ a b Apr 28, 1915: International Congress of Women opens at The Hague,
  11. ^ Addams, Jane (2003), Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results, ISBN 978-0-252-07156-0 
  12. ^ "Records of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, DG 043 Part II Congress Reports, Swarthmore College Peace Collection". Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  13. ^ "All Aboard The Peace Train - Arming All Sides". Arming All Sides. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  14. ^ "Women and Social Movements, International: The Longest Living Women's Peace Organization in World History: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915 to the Present". Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  15. ^ [1]

External links[edit]