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 (especially suffrage), and professions open for women. Officers of the German Council of Women were put in charge of this conference. At this conference, the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) was founded. Along with Susan B. 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]

Toronto, June 24-30, 1909[edit]

This congress was held under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Canada[9] immediately following the 4th Quinquennial Meeting of the International Council of Women.[10] Sessions were held on education, art, health, industries, laws concerning women and children, literature, professions for women, social work, and moral reform. Notable speakers included Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cadbury, Anna Hvoslef, Millicent Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland, Rosalie Slaughter Morton, Eliza Ritchie, Alice Salomon, and May Wright Sewall.[11]

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.[12]

The Hague, April–May 1915[edit]

This congress, also known as the Women's Peace Congress or just The Hague Congress[13] 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; Aletta Jacobs from The Netherlands and Emilia Fogelklou. Rosa Genoni was the sole delegate from Italy.[14] Rosa Genoni was representing a number of Italian women's organisations, and she was one of the delegates nominated as envoys to visit belligerent and non-belligerent governments after the Congress to advocate for a halt to the war.[14]

The French women declared their intention not to attend nor support the Congress, and none attended.[14] The planned 180-strong British delegation was severely reduced by the British government's suspension of the commercial ferry service between Folkestone and Flushing.[13][15] and their reluctance to issue passports to proposed delegates.[14]

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.

In September 1915 a delegation went to the United States to meet president Woodrow Wilson to present the proposal for a "League of Neutral Counties" that could help mediating to end the war.[16]

Zurich, May 1919[edit]

[17] 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’.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20]


  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. ^ Report of the International Congress of Women held in Toronto, Canada, June 24th-30th, 1909 Under the Auspices of the National Council of Women of Canada. Toronto : Geo. Parker & Sons, 1910.
  10. ^ Report of Transactions of the Fourth Quinquennial Meeting Held at Toronto, Canada, June, 1909, with which Are Incorporated the Reports of the National Councils and of International Standing Committees for 1908-1909. London : Constable & Co., 1910.
  11. ^ Report of the International Congress of Women held in Toronto, op. cit.
  12. ^ Oldfield, Sybil (2003-01-01). International Woman Suffrage: November 1914-September 1916. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415257381.
  13. ^ a b Apr 28, 1915: International Congress of Women opens at The Hague,
  14. ^ a b c d Paull, John (2018) The Women Who Tried to Stop the Great War: The International Congress of Women at The Hague 1915, In A. H. Campbell (Ed.), Global Leadership Initiatives for Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (pp. 249-266). (Chapter 12) Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  15. ^ Addams, Jane (2003), Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results, ISBN 978-0-252-07156-0
  16. ^ John Whiteclay Chambers (January 1991). The Eagle and the Dove: The American Peace Movement and United States Foreign Policy, 1900-1922. Syracuse University Press. pp. 55–57. ISBN 978-0-8156-2519-3.
  17. ^ "Records of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, DG 043 Part II Congress Reports, Swarthmore College Peace Collection". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  18. ^ "All Aboard The Peace Train - Arming All Sides". Arming All Sides. Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ [1][permanent dead link]

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