A Brief History

The first International Socialist Women's Conference took place in Stuttgart, Germany on 17 August 1907, and it was attended by fifty-eight participants from Europe, India and Japan. At this conference it was decided to establish an Women’s International Secretariat with Clara Zetkin from Germany as the person in charge. The Conference adopted a resolution on women's right to vote, which was to become the starting point of an untiring struggle for women's political rights. At the time, only women in New Zealand and Finland had the right to vote.

At the second conference, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910, a resolution was adopted to mark one day in the year as International Women's Day as a day to campaign for women's right to vote and for the political emancipation of women. The conference also adopted a resolution on peace.

In 1912 the Socialist International held an extraordinary conference in Basle, Switzerland to monitor peace and pledge to campaign for an end to the Balkan war. Clara Zetkin gave a much applauded speech at this conference:

“Socialist women of all countries, fight in unity with the Socialist International against the war. The modern war is mass destruction and mass killing. But war is only the expansion of the mass killing that capitalism is perpetrating every hour of every day against the proletariat. Year after year, hundreds of thousands of victims fall on the battlefield of labour in the capitalist developed nations – more victims than in any war. Women are a growing number of these victims. War is only the maddest form of mass exploitation through capitalism. It is the sons of the proletariat who are led against each other, to kill each other. Women and mothers deplore such a crime and do not think only of the mutilated bodies of their own relatives, but also of the harm to their souls. War threatens all that mothers have taught their children about solidarity and international community. Women can teach their children with profound feelings against war, but this does not mean that women are not willing to make sacrifices. They know that it is necessary to fight and to die in the struggle for freedom. The fight against war and the fight for freedom, cannot be fought without women”.

After the first world war in 1926 the women's movement was restructured and became known as the International Socialist Women’s Committee and Edith Kemmis took charge of the Secretariat in Zurich, Switzerland.

In 1928 Martha Tausk, a Member of Parliament in Styria, Austria, took over as the Secretary and she continued in this post until 1934. At the time many Austrian Socialists were persecuted and were forced to go into exile. A year later, the Secretariat was relocated to Brussels, Belgium and Alice Pels was the Secretary until 1940.

The themes discussed at the conferences between the two World Wars, were 'Women and Mobilisation', 'Women and Fascism' and 'The Economic Crisis'. The outbreak of the second World War made the work of the International Socialist Women’s Committee impossible. Once again the work of the organisation came to a halt. In March 1941, Mary Sutherland and the British Labour Women organised an International Women's Day where comrades of the countries under fascist regimes held speeches in their mother tongue. This would be the last international meeting of women for some time.

In 1955 the organisation was re-founded as the International Council of Social Democratic Women and relocated to London, United Kingdom, following a series of international conferences of women in which they demanded the renewal of the movement. In 1978 the name of the organisation was changed to its present name the Socialist International Women.

For an in-depth account of the history of the Socialist International Women please refer to the Publications page.

 

News

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2018

The Socialist International Women (SIW) honours the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women...

Women on the Move - Gender Perspective of Migration Flows and Geopolitical Responses

25 and 26 October 2018

Event organised by Socialist International Women (SIW), PES Women, Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and IEV

Nobel Peace Prize 2018

05 October 2018

The Socialist International Women (SIW) would like to warmly congratulate the Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad on winning the 2018 Nobel peace prize for their work on combating sexual violence...

Obituary - Maria Jonas

01 February 1940 - 25 September 2018

We were deeply saddened to hear today that our comrade and friend Maria Jonas, former Secretary General of Socialist International Women, has died at the age of 78 years...

Coucil Meeting

Geneva, Switzerland, 28 and 29 June 2018

For a World 50-50 in 2030 – The Great Challenges

Socialist International Women denounces brutal attacks on Palestinian demonstrators

17 May 2018

The Socialist International Women strongly denounces the use of lethal fire by Israeli military forces against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza on Sunday 14 May 2018...

Connecting Rural Women – E-Development and Rural Women's Empowerment

16 March 2018

62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 12 to 23 March 2018

Side Event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the UN; the Mongolian People’s Party; Socialist International Women(SIW) and PES Women

Empowering Rural Women: Granting Universal Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

15 March 2018

62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 12 to 23 March 2018

Parallel Event hosted by the Socialist International Women (SIW), PES Women and Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS)

International Women's Day Declaration

08 March 2018

In solidarity and recognition of the immense societal, economic and political achievements of women and girls worldwide Socialist International Women is proud to support International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018...

Statement on Unilateral Decision by the United States of America to Recognise Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

07 December 2017

The Socialist International Women (SIW) disapproves the decision of President Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US embassy there from Tel Aviv...

Council Meeting

Barcelona, Spain, 21 and 22 November 2017

Democracy in Crisis, Populism on the Rise - Where do Women's Rights fit in?

Publications

The First Hundred Years

A Short History of Socialist International Women

By Irmtraut Karlsson

This book tells the history of the first one hundred years of the Socialist International Women

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