Seventh Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance
Seventh Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance met in Budapest, Hungary, June 15–21, 1913. As had been the case with all that had preceded, the place of meeting had been chosen with reference to the situation in regard to woman suffrage where the prospect for it seemed favorable and it was desired to influence public sentiment by showing that the movement for it was worldwide. When it had been announced at the congress in Stockholm that the next one would be held in the capital of Hungary it had seemed very far away and that country was not associated with representative government. It proved to be, however, one of the largest and most important of the conventions and its efforts were widespread, as the delegates stopped en route for mass meetings and public banquets in Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Vienna.
Twenty-two countries were represented by 240 delegates and alternates. The full quota of 24 were present from Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States and Hungary; Finland sent 15; Denmark and Norway 11 each; Switzerland 9; Italy 8; Russia 5; Belgium and Austria, 4 each; from South Africa came 4, from Iceland, 2; from Canada, 3; from Bohemia one.
Mrs. Frederick Spencer was an official delegate of the government of Australia and Norway was represented by the president of the National Suffrage Association, Fredrikke Marie Qvam, and the president of the National Council of Women, Gina Krog. The Governors of California, Oregon and Washington had appointed representatives. Written or telegraphed greetings were received from nineteen countries. Fraternal delegates—163 were present from twelve countries—offered their greetings and a large number advocated for their organizations. A resolution was adopted that no credentials should be accepted until the society presenting them should be approved by the National Suffrage Association of its country and no fraternal delegate should speak except by invitation of the president of the Alliance and with the consent of the congress. This checked a torrent of oratory and allowed the convention to carry out its program. The Chinese Woman Suffrage Society was admitted, for which Catt had sowed the seeds at the time of her visit to that country, and the embroidered banner they had sent was presented to the Alliance by Dr. Aletta Jacobs, president of the Netherlands Association, who had accompanied her.
A banner was presented by the delegation from Galicia. The president of the Belgian Association reported that Roman Catholic, Conservative, Socialist and Progressive women had united in a non-partisan federation to work only for woman suffrage. South Africa, Romania and Portugal associations were received in full membership and also a committee from Galicia, where women were not allowed to form an association. Greetings came by cable from the women of Persia.
Rosika Schwimmer arranged this convention, the first of the kind ever held in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both the government and the municipality made financial contributions, which the citizens supplemented with more than enough to pay the entire expenses of the congress. A sale of 2,800 season tickets was made. Through the assistance of capable committees, every effort possible was made for the comfort of the delegates, who were cared for from the moment they arrived at the station. English speaking university students and others of education helped to overcome the extreme difficulties of the language. Many expeditions into the country had been provided through the courtesy of the railroads and navigation company. A reception given Saturday evening by the National Suffrage Association at the Gerbaud Pavilion enabled officers, delegates and members of the committees to begin acquaintance and friendship.
According to the custom of the country the convention was opened on Sunday afternoon. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw had conducted religious services in the morning at the Protestant church in Buda, assisted by the Rev. Eliza Tupper Wilkes, by courtesy of its minister, the Rev. Benno Haypal. At four o'clock a large and cordial audience assembled in the grand Academy of Music for the official welcome, which began with an overture by the orchestra of the National theater, composed for the occasion by Dr. Aladar Renyi. A special ode written by Emil Abranyi was recited in Hungarian by Maria Jaszai and in English by Erzsi Paulay, both actresses from the National Theater. Greetings were given by Countess Teleki, chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, and Vilma Glucklich, president of the National Suffrage Association. The official welcome of the Government was extended by His Excellency Dr. Bela de Jankovics, Minister of Education, and that of the city by Dr. Stephen de Barczy, the Burgomaster. The response for the Alliance was made by its secretary, Dr. Anna Lindemann, in German and French. Dr. Alexander Geisswein, a member of Parliament, made a strong address in favor of woman suffrage. These ceremonies were followed by the president's address of Carrie Chapman Catt.
On the Sunday evening after the opening of the convention the Royal Opera, a State institution, gave a special gala performance of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, with Cupid's Tricks, by the full ballet.
It was soon evident that the business of the convention would have to be confined to the morning hours, as the afternoons and evenings had to be given over to public speech making and social functions. There was long discussion in several sessions on establishing international headquarters and a press bureau, enlarging the monthly paper, Jus Suffragii, and changing the place of its publication. After most of the delegates had expressed opinions the whole matter was left to the board of officers.
The treasurer, Elizabeth Stanton Coit, made a detailed and acceptable report and said that, with new headquarters, a paid secretary, an enlarged newspaper and many publications, 2,000 pounds would be necessary for the next two years. Pledges were made for 2,510 pounds.
Catt having served as president nine years earnestly desired to retire in favor of a woman from another country but at a meeting of the presidents of all the auxiliaries she was unanimously and strongly urged to reconsider her wish. She reluctantly did so and was elected by acclamation. The delegates decided that the ten persons receiving the highest number of votes should constitute the officers of the Alliance and the board itself should apportion their special offices. Mrs. Fawcett, Mrs. Coit, Miss Furuhjelm, Miss Bergman and Mrs. Lindemann were re-elected. The five new officers selected were Mrs. DeWitt Schlumberger, France; Miss Schwimmer, Hungary; Miss Macmillan, Great Britain; Mrs. Stritt, Germany; Katharine Dexter McCormick, United States.
The persistent requests that the Board should and should not endorse the "militant" movement in Great Britain, which had assumed serious proportions, caused it to recommend a resolution which was adopted without dissent.
Catt introduced and urged a resolution "to send from this congress a request to the Governments of all countries here represented to institute an international inquiry into the cause and extent of commercialized vice, and to ask the woman suffrage organizations in each country to petition their own Government to institute a national inquiry and to include women in the Commission." The resolution was unanimously adopted. Catt was appointed to represent the Alliance at the approaching International White Slave Traffic Congress in London. An address was made by Fawcett, who presided at the meeting held to discuss What Women Voters Have Done towards the Solution of this Problem.
Reports of the progress in all the affiliated countries were presented and ordered published in the Minutes, where they filled over sixty pages.
A crowded mass meeting addressed by women took place one evening in the Academy of Music, with Catt presiding. Mrs. Stritt, president of the National Suffrage Association of Germany, spoke on Woman Suffrage and Eugenics; Mme. Maria Verone, a well known lawyer of Paris, made her impassioned address in French, and Dr. Gulli Petrini of Sweden spoke in French on Woman Suffrage and Democracy; Miss Schwimmer inspired the audience with Hungarian oratory; Miss Jane Addams of the United States gave a forceful address on Why the Modern Woman Needs the Ballot, and Dr. Shaw closed the meeting with an interpretation of the demand of women for the vote. One afternoon from 4 to 6 o'clock was devoted to a Young People's Meeting, addressed by delegates from eight countries. A forenoon was given to the discussion of the always vital question. What Relation Should Suffrage Organizations Bear toward Political Parties, led by Anna B. Wicksell, Sweden, and Miss Courtney, Great Britain. A large audience heard one evening the Benefits of Woman Suffrage related by those who had been sent as official delegates from Governments that had given the vote to women, Mrs. Qvam, Miss Krog and Mrs. Spencer, and in supplementary speeches by Jenny Forselius, member of Parliament from Finland; Miss A. Maude Royden, Great Britain; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, United States, whose topic was New Mothers of a New World. A resume of all these addresses was made in Hungarian by Vilma Glucklich. During the convention much of the interpreting in English, French and German was done by Maud Nathan of the United States, who also made an address in the three languages.
A list was given of distinguished men who had become converted to woman suffrage. Men took a more prominent part in this convention than in any which had preceded, due principally to the very active Hungarian Men's League for Woman Suffrage, which included a number well known in political and intellectual life. The International Alliance of Men's Leagues conducted an afternoon session in the Pester Lloyd Hall with the Hon. Georg de Lukacs of Hungary, its president, in the chair. What can Men Do to Help the Movement for Woman Suffrage? was discussed by Dr. C. V. Drysdale, Great Britain; Major C. V. Mansfeldt, Netherlands, and Dr. Andre de Maday, Hungary. On Thursday evening this International League held a mass meeting in the Academy of Music with rousing speeches for woman suffrage by Hermann Bahr, Austria; M. Du Breuil de St. Germain, France; Major Mansfeldt; Keir Hardie, Great Britain; Senator Mechelin, Finland; Dr. Vazsonyi, M. P., Hungary; Professor Wicksell, Sweden; Professor Gustav Szaszy-Schwartz, Hungary.
On the last day it seemed almost as if the men had taken possession of the congress, for they had secured the convention hall for the afternoon meeting, but the women did not like to discourage such exceptional interest. Woman Suffrage and Men's Economic, Ethical and Political Interest in it was discussed by Professor Emanuel Beke, Hungary; Dr. Emil von Hoffmansthal, Austria; Frederick Nathan and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, United States. Vigorous speeches were made by Malcolm Mitchell, Great Britain; Leo Gassman, Germany; the Rev. Benno Haypal, and Alexander Patay, Hungary. The hall was restored to the women at 5 o'clock for their final program under the general topic, How may women still bound by ancient custom, tradition and prejudice be awakened to a realization that these new times demand new duties and responsibilities? How to Reach the Home Woman, Gisela Urban, Austria; Irma V. Szirmay, Mrs. von Fiirth, Hungary; How to Reach the Church Woman, Jane Brigode, Belgium, Mme. Girardet-Vielle, Switzerland; How to Reach the Society Woman, Miss Royden, Mme. Schlumberger; How to Reach the Woman of Higher Education, Crystal Eastman Benedict, United States; How to Reach the Wage-earning Woman, Isabella O. Ford, Clinny Dryer, Great Britain; How to Reach the Woman Social Worker, Miss Addams.
Plans for the subsequent conference
Several countries competed for the honor of the conference of the Alliance in 1915 and its regular convention in 1917. May Wright Sewall, honorary president of the International Council of Women, presented an official invitation from the managers of the Panama Pacific Exposition to be held in San Francisco in 1915, endorsed by the California Suffrage Association; the executive committee of the National Suffrage Association of Germany extended an urgent request for the conference and that of France for the congress. The answer was referred to the board, and it later accepted the invitations to Berlin and Paris. This had been the largest meeting of the Alliance. Never had the prospects seemed so favorable for accomplishing its objects; never had the fraternity among the women of the different nations seemed so close. When they parted with affectionate farewells and the bright hope of meeting two years hence in Berlin they little dreamed that it would be seven years before they came together again; that during this time the world would be devastated by World War I and that the task must be once more commenced of developing among the women of the nations the spirit of confidence, friendship and cooperation.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: E. C. Stanton, S. B. Anthony, M. J. Gage, I. H. Harper's "History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920" (1922)
- Stanton et al. 1922, pp. 847-859.
- Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Anthony, Susan B.; Gage, Matilda Joslyn; Harper, Ida Husted (1922). History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920 (Public domain ed.). Fowler & Wells.