Women's International Democratic Federation

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1970 USSR postage stamp, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the federation

Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) is a private organization that professes to work for women's rights, and that was widely acknowledged as a pro-Soviet communist front organization during the Cold War.[1][2] WIDF was founded in Paris in 1945, but it was later banned by French authorities and relocated to East Berlin, where it was supported by the East German communist regime.[3][4] Its first president was Eugenie Cotton, and its founding members included Tsola Dragoycheva and Ana Pauker. Later leaders included the Australian Freda Brown. The WIDF was one of the largest and "probably most influential international women's organizations of the post-1945 era" in the eastern bloc.[5] At various points in its history, the WIDF enjoyed consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. It was at the initiation of representatives of the WIDF in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations that the UN declared the International Women's Year in 1975.[6]

The main areas of concern initially identified by WIDF were anti-fascism, world peace, child welfare and improving the status of women.[7] During the Cold War years, it was described as Communist-leaning[1] and pro-Soviet.[2][8][9] International Day for Protection of Children, observed in many countries as Children's Day on June 1 since 1950, is said to have been established by the Federation on its November 1949 congress in Moscow.[10][11] The WIDF published a monthly magazine, Women of the Whole World, in English, French, Spanish, German, and Russian, with occasional issues in Arabic.[12]

After the end of the Cold War, the organization lost its funding and most of its importance and membership as a result of the downfall of its primary sponsors, the East German communist regime and the Soviet Union. The organization that exists today under this name has its secretariat in São Paulo, Brazil.[13] Philippine Congresswoman, Liza Maza, is the regional coordinator of WIDF in Asia.[14]

Cold War[edit]

4th Council of the Women's International Democratic Federation in January 1951

During the Cold War, the Congress of American Women was the affiliate organization of the WIDF in the United States. In 1949, members of the Congress of American Women were targeted by the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives (HUAC). In HUAC's report,[15] the WIDF was named as a "communist front" organization, less interested in advanced women's rights than supporting Soviet foreign policy. WIDF was banned by French authorities and subsequently moved its headquarters from Paris to East Berlin. It also lost its consultative status with the United Nations.

Scholars[who?] have subsequently argued that the WIDF was an active feminist organization advocating for women's rights,[16] and that "Cold War" stereotypes continue to impact the legacy of this organization, effectively erasing it from the history of international women's movements.[17] Despite the Cold War context, the WIDF played an important role in supporting women's anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.[18]

Affiliates[edit]

See also[edit]

Other post-1945 international communist fronts[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kate Weigand (7 October 2002). Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation. JHU Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-8018-7111-5. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b Peter Duignan; Lewis H. Gann (1994). Communism in Sub-Saharan Africa: a Reappraisal. Hoover Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8179-3712-6. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  3. ^ Peter Duignan; Lewis H. Gann (1996). The rebirth of the West: the Americanization of the democratic world, 1945-1958. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 306. ISBN 978-0-8476-8198-3. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  4. ^ Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (1 June 1997). Eternal vigilance?: 50 years of the CIA. Frank Cass. pp. 107–. ISBN 978-0-7146-4807-1. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  5. ^ de Haan, Francisca. "The Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF): History, Main Agenda, and Contributions, 1945-1991". Women and Social Movements, International-1840 to Present. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  6. ^ Francisca de Haan, “A Brief Survey of Women's Rights from 1945 to 2009.” UN Chronicle. 2010, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p56-59
  7. ^ "Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) Records, 1945-1979". Five College Archives & Manuscript Collections. Sophia Smith College. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  8. ^ Gerald J. Bender; James S. Coleman; Richard L. Sklar (25 September 1985). African Crisis Areas and U.S. Foreign Policy. University of California Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-520-05628-2. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  9. ^ Robyn Rowland (1984). Women who do and women who don't join the women's movement. Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-7102-0296-3. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  10. ^ Children's Day
  11. ^ Cooke, Susan (20 November 2015). "Make Every Day a Children's Day". South Coast Herald. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  12. ^ English copies of the WOWW magazine can be found at the International Institute for Social History: https://search.socialhistory.org/Record/1398843
  13. ^ Women's International Democratic Federation. Contato
  14. ^ Women's International Democratic Federation. Comitê de Direção FDIM – 2007 – 2011
  15. ^ HUAC report on the Congress of American Women: https://archive.org/details/reportoncongress1949unit
  16. ^ Celia Donert, “Women's Rights in Cold War Europe: Disentangling Feminist Histories.” Past & Present. May 2013 Supplement: 178-202
  17. ^ Katherine McGregor, “Indonesian Women, The Women's International Democratic Federation and the Struggle for ‘Women's Rights’, 1946–1965.” Indonesia & the Malay World. July 2012, Vol. 40 Issue 117: 193-208.
  18. ^ Elisabeth Armstrong, “Before Bandung: The Anti-Imperialist Women's Movement in Asia and the Women's International Democratic Federation.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society. Winter 2016, Vol. 41 Issue 22: 305-331

Further reading[edit]

  • Elisabeth Armstrong, “Before Bandung: The Anti-Imperialist Women's Movement in Asia and the Women's International Democratic Federation.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society. Winter2016, Vol. 41 Issue 2, p305-331
  • Katherine McGregor, “Indonesian Women, The Women's International Democratic Federation and the Struggle for ‘Women's Rights’, 1946–1965.” Indonesia & the Malay World. Jul2012, Vol. 40 Issue 117, p193-208.
  • Celia Donert, “Women's Rights in Cold War Europe: Disentangling Feminist Histories.” Past & Present. May2013 Supplement, p178-202
  • Francisca de Haan, “A Brief Survey of Women's Rights from 1945 to 2009.” UN Chronicle. 2010, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p56-59
  • Full text of the HUAC report on the Congress of American Women, including information about the founding of the WIDF in Paris in 1945.
  • Francisca de Haan, "Continuing Cold War Paradigms in the Western Historiography of Transnational Women’s Organisations: The Case of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF)," Women’s History Review 19, no. 4 (Sept. 2010): 547-573.

External links[edit]