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

A Good Education is the Best Guarantee for a Good Life

Article by Tuula Peltonen, published in the Brussels Morning Online Newspaper on 09 September 2021

In Finland, schools are just beginning their autumn term. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, schools will reopen as normal and thousands of teachers will return to teaching...

Situation of Women and Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

26 August 2021

Following the fall of Afghanistan into the control of Taliban forces, the Socialist International Women stands in firm solidarity with the international community both in condemnation of all forms of violence and oppression in Afghanistan and in firm support of innocent civilians caught up in this distressing situation...

Role of Women in Sustainable Peace for Inclusive Development and Economic Security

Article by Shazia Marri, published in the Brussels Morning Online Newspaper on 30 July 2021

Throughout history, women have played a pivotal role in shaping the future. Whether it is the freedom struggles in Asia and Africa or the economic uplift of Europe after the Second World War, women have proved — time and again — their resilience in the face of danger and difficulty alike...

Debt Cancellation: A burden lifted from women

Article by Chantal Kambiwa, published in Brussels Morning Online Newspaper on 17 June 2021

Over the years, acknowledgement of the rights of women and girls has become increasingly central to development strategies across the world and in Africa more particularly. Does this represent a recognition of the value of women and girls and a desire to see them flourish?...

We must defend progress in gender equality after the COVID-19 pandemic

Article by Ouafa Hajji, published in Brussels Morning Online Newspaper on 24 May 2021

Women and girls paid a disproportionate price of the economic shutdown during the pandemic, particularly in developing economies — our policies need to prevent this becoming the new norm, argues Ouafa Haji...

Our Support to Sandra Torres

30 April 2021

Socialist International Women, SIW, would like to show its support to Sandra Torres, leader of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) of Guatemala and one of the SI Vice-Presidents...

SIW Council Meeting

30 April 2021

How to reinvent our future after Covid-19

Women are each other’s homeland

Article by Hilal Dokuzcan, published in Brussels Morning Online Newspaper on 30 March 2021

As Turkey withdraws from the Istanbul convention – to which an AKP government acceded in 2011 – a Turkish politician reflects on the prosecution of women, everywhere. There is no homeland for women, she notes, other than other women...

Statement on Turkey's Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention

22 March 2021

The Socialist International Women are very sorry to receive the news of Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention determined by the President's decree on March 20, 2021...

Effective Participation and Decision-Making in Public Life - Key to Achieving Gender Equality

16 March 2021

65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 15 to 26 March 2021

Virtual Parallel Event hosted by the Socialist International Women (SIW)

International Women's Day Declaration

08 March 2021

Socialist International Women (SIW) warmly applauds this year’s International Women’s Day theme of “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”...

Season's Greeting!

December 2020

Wishing peace and equality for 2021

SIW Executive Meeting

18 December 2020

COVID-19 and the Impact this is Having on Women and Gender Equality in the Different Regions

Declaration on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2020

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is a powerful call to stand in solidarity with all women and girls worldwide...

Message of Support for Turkey and Greece Following 30th October Earthquake

October 2020

The Socialist International Women offers its sincere condolences to Turkey and Greece following the devastating earthquake under the Aegean Sea on 30th October 2020...

Message of Solidarity with all Women and Girls Worldwide during the COVID-19 Pandemic

October 2020

The Socialist International Women stands in firm solidarity with all women and girls worldwide during this deeply painful, devastating period of the COVID-19 pandemic...

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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