Ukrainian National Women's League of America
The Ukrainian National Women's League of America (UNWLA) is a charitable and cultural organization that unites women of Ukrainian descent as well as those who are active in the Ukrainian communities of the United States. Established in 1925, the organization is guided by the principles of political non-partisanship, religious tolerance, and universal respect for human rights.
Founding the UNWLA
The UNWLA was established in 1925 by five Ukrainian women's associations in New York City and vicinity. The reason for unification was the exclusion of the National Council of Women (NCW) of Ukraine from the International Council of Women at the ICW's General assembly held in Washington, D.C., in May 1925. The NCW of Ukraine had been a member of the ICW since 1920. Its exclusion from the ICW occurred as a direct result of Ukraine's loss of national independence, a prerequisite for ICW membership.
At the meeting of Ukrainian women's associations in New York City, following the delegation's return from Washington, it was decided to form a centralized organization. This decision was approved in June 1926, and the name given to the new organization was "Soyuz Ukrayinok Ameryky" - Ukrainian National Women's League of America. The goal of unification was to inform the free world about events in Ukraine, to support the homeland both spiritually and materially, and to promote the preservation of Ukrainian national identity, cultural heritage, and ethnic traditions in the United States.
International Women's Movement
In 1948 The UNWLA was the first ethnic organization in the United States to become an associate member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Joining the GFWC gave the UNWLA an opportunity to participate in national and international events on an equal footing with other American women's organizations.
In 1952 the UNWLA became a member of the National Council of Women of the United States (NCW/USA). UNWLA presidents are ex officio members of the Board of Directors of the NCW/USA, and UNWLA members have been elected to serve on its Executive Committee. In 1992, for the first time in the NCW's 108-year history, a UNWLA member - Iryna Kurowyckyj - was elected President. Membership in the NCW/USA entitle UNWLA members to participate in its meetings and attend the triennial General Assembly of the International Council of Women (ICW). The 2006 ICW General Assembly was held in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
The UNWLA is also a founding member of the World Federation of the Ukrainian Women's Organizations (WFUWO) - an international federation founded in November 1948 that is currently uniting 23 non-profit women's organizations from 12 countries.
Connections with Ukraine
Events in Ukraine often influence the path of UNWLA projects and programs. Initially, the UNWLA worked to inform the world about cultural and political repression in Ukraine under Soviet domination. The UNWLA organized demonstrations and protests, and forwarded petitions and telegrams to the attention of U.S. and European governments, to the League of Nations, and after World War II to the United Nations.
Since 1991, the year Ukraine proclaimed its independence, UNWLA members have been sending petitions to senators and congressional representatives, requesting their support for the advancement of Ukraine's political and economic reform. One example of the UNWLA's work in this respect was the organization's active participation in the Jackson-Vanik Coalition, which was instrumental in the successful push to turn the Jackson-Vanik amendment into law, thereby normalizing trade relations between Ukraine and the United States. The UNWLA continues to disseminate accurate information about Ukraine and Ukrainians and to correct media misinformation about the country and its people.
- Julia Shustakevych (1925)
- Julia Jarema (1925-1931)
- Olena Lototsky (1931-1934, 1943-1965)
- Anneta Kmetz (1934-1935, 1939-1943)
- Anastasia Wagner (1935-1939)
- Stefania Pushkar (1965-1971)
- Lydia Burachynska (1971-1974)
- Ivanna Rozhankowsky (1974-1987)
- Maria Savchak (1987-1993)
- Anna Krawczuk (1993-1997)
- Iryna Kurowyckyj (1999-2008)
- Marianna Zajac (2008-)
Today, the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, Inc. (UNWLA), is the largest and oldest Ukrainian women's organization in the United States. It works independently as a charitable and cultural organization and has been granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.
The organizational structure of the UNWLA consists of a National Board and Executive Committee, Regional Councils, Branches, and Members at Large. UNWLA by-laws define the internal organizational structure and the division of responsibilities and duties. The highest legislative body of the UNWLA is the UNWLA Convention, which is held every three years.
The purpose of UNWLA is to unite women of Ukrainian descent and those affiliated with the Ukrainian community in order to:
- Foster Ukrainian cultural heritage and promote knowledge of Ukrainian culture.
- Provide financial assistance to Ukrainians within and outside the United States, especially for studies and research of Ukrainian history and culture.
- Initiate and uphold ties with other Ukrainian as well as American and international organizations for educational and charitable purposes, especially with women's organizations.
- Support the Ukrainian Museum in New York.
- Participate in the Ukrainian, American and international women's movement.
The UNWLA has been active in providing assistance to people in Ukraine in cases of natural disasters and emergencies, such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
The organization maintains the Scholarship Fund, having donated millions of dollars in scholarships to enable secondary school and college students in Ukraine and the diaspora to complete their studies.
Through its Social Welfare Fund, the UNWLA provides medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and other countries of the world, in particular assisting orphans and elderly women in Ukraine.
Since 1926, the UNWLA has been organizing exhibits of Ukrainian folk art at American institutions with the goal of familiarizing the public with the diverse cultural heritage of Ukrainians. One of the major initial efforts was the exhibition of the Ukrainian folk art at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Between 1967 and 1973, the UNWLA maintained the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art until it founded the Ukrainian Museum in New York, NY, in 1976.
The Ukrainian Museum was presented as a gift to the Ukrainian community, however, the UNWLA retains 51% of the votes on the Board of Directors of the Museum.
Since 1944, the UNWLA has been publishing a bilingual monthly magazine Our Life. The magazine is a source of information about the UNWLA, its activities and goals. It also features articles about Ukrainian culture, art, people, events in Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora.
-  Official website of the World Federation of the Ukrainian Women's Organizations
- Alexander Lushnycky, Ukrainians in Pennsylvania: a contribution to the growth of the Commonwealth (1976), ASIN B001DDBMC8
- Alex Lushnycky, Ukrainians of Greater Philadelphia (2007), ISBN 9780738550404
- Stephen P. Haluszczak, Ukrainians of Western Pennsylvania (2009), ISBN 0738564958
- Myron B. Kuropas, Ukrainians of Chicagoland (2006), ISBN 0738540994
- Nancy Karen Wichar, Ukrainians of Metropolitan Detroit (2010), ISBN 9780738577166
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