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

Event: Beijing+20 - The Vision of the Socialist International Women

13 March 2015

59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 09 to 20 March 2015.

Panel discussion hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Angola to the United Nations and the Socialist International Women

Event: Beijing+20 - Gender Equality a Reality, Not a Dream

12 March 2015

59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 09 to 20 March 2015.

Panel discussion hosted by the Socialist International Women

Statement on International Women's Day

08 March 2015

The Socialist International Women (SIW) strongly supports International Women’s Day (IWD) and the essential core principles it represents of upholding women’s rights, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls...

Statement on the killing of activist Shaimaa el Sabbagh

24 January 2015

Shaimaa el Sabbagh was shot dead on 24 January 2015 allegedly by the Egyptian Police as she was on her way to lay flowers at the memorial of those killed during the Egyptian uprising on 25 January 2011, in Talat Harb Square, Cairo....

Statement on International Migrants Day

18 December 2014

Over 214 million human beings have migrated from their homeland to another country. Many experienced distressing, physically demanding and extremely dangerous journeys...

Council Meeting

Geneva, Switzerland, 15 and 16 December 2014

Beijing+20 - The Vision of the Socialist International Women and Women in Politics - The New Challenges

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2014

On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I would like to invite you to join the Socialist International Women (SIW) and take action to end violence against women...

Nigeria - Abducted Schoolgirls Global Week of Action

11 - 18 October 2014

The Socialist International Women joins forces with other women’s organisations around the world in calling on the Government of Nigeria to renew efforts for the immediate rescue of the abducted schoolgirls...

Video: Short interview of SIW President Ouafa Hajji (in French)

26 August 2014

Short interview of Ouafa Hajji, President of the Socialist International Women, in which she highlights the current situation of women in relation to violence, terrorism and extremism...

Barbara Prammer

11 January 1954 - 02 August 2014

It is with great sadness that we inform you that Barbara Prammer, former Vice-President of the Socialist International Women (SIW) from Austria passed away on 02 August 2014...

Council Meeting

Mexico City, Mexico, 26 and 27 June 2014

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action - 20 Years Later

Nigeria Declaration

14 May 2014

The Socilaist International Women presents a Declaration on the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria

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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