International Alliance of Women

Scope and Content

Minutes, annual and conference reports, policy and subject files, biographies, publications, photographs, memorabilia. The collection also includes a series of resource files which detail other women's organisations

Administrative / Biographical History

The decision to establish the International Alliance of Women was taken in Washington in 1902 as part of an annual convention of the National American Women Suffrage Association, although it took some nine months to come to fruition. It was originally named the International Woman Suffrage Committee, with Susan B Anthony as president, Vida Goldstein of Australia as secretary and with a committee of five members. This committee consisted of the secretary, Britain's representative Florence Fenwick Miller, Rachel Avery of the USA, Mrs Antoine Stolle of Germany and Mrs Gundrun Drewson of Norway. At this date, it was envisaged as a central bureau to collect, exchange and disseminate information on suffrage work internationally. Its objects were: (1) To secure enfranchisement for the women of all nations, by the promotion of woman suffrage and all such other reforms as are necessary to establish a real equality of liberties, status and opportunities between men and women, and (2) to urge women to use their rights and influence in public life to ensure that the status of every individual, without distinction of sex, race or creed, shall be based on respect for human personality, the only guarantee for individual freedom. A second conference was held in Berlin in 1904 at which the organisation was formally constituted. A third took place in 1906, the same year that its periodical 'Jus Suffragii' was created. Work progressed despite some dissension produced by conflicts at national level. One such incident occurred that same year when Millicent Fawcett challenged the Women's Social and Political Union's representative Dora Montefiore. However, by June 1911, 24 associations were affiliated. The group continued throughout the First World War, although members' opinions were divided over the issue of pacifism, which led to the creation of another body, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915. At the end of the conflict, representatives from its ranks attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 to work with some of the special commissions that touched on women's interests internationally. With the extension of the franchise to women in a number of countries after the Great War, there was some discussion of disbanding the organisation. However, it was decided that it should go on after a conference in Geneva in 1920, divided into franchised and non-franchised sections. The next conference three years later took place in Rome where the leadership passed from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margery Corbett Ashby. The organisation of the group was also changed, due to the increased sized of the group (38 affiliated members in 1923). From this point there was an increasing number of special committees on subject areas such as equal pay and the right to work, equal moral standards and the status of wives and mothers. The 1926 conference in Paris responded to this widening of their areas of interest by changing the name of the organisation to the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship. By 1929 the organisation took as its five principles 1. equal suffrage 2. working for peace and human solidarity 3. equal access to education as a means of attaining equality of economic and working rights 4. equality of moral standards 5. equality of legal rights, especially for married women The principle of working for peace and disarmament was an area which would grow in importance throughout the late twenties and into the thirties as contact with the League of Nations grew through joint work on women's status. The outbreak of the Second World War saw the work falter, though not end, and in 1946 the body re-emerged as the International Alliance of Women: Equal Rights - Equal Responsibilities. Since then, it has worked closely with the United Nations. The organisation was among the first of the Non-Governmental Organisations to be accredited with Consultative Status by the Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) of the newly established United Nations in 1948 and contributed to work on the Declaration of Human Rights. It also increased its work with individual commissions attached to the larger international group, particularly those on social matters, the status of women, the International Labour Organisation and UNESCO. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, their involvement with organisations based in post-colonial countries increased and with it their focus on issues such as population and family planning. By 1989 the revised objectives were: (a) To secure all such reforms as are necessary to establish a real equality of liberties, status and opportunities between men and women and to work for equal partnership between men and women in all spheres of life (b) To urge women to accept their responsibilities and to use their rights and influence in public life to ensure that the status of every individual without distinction of sex, race or creed, shall be based on respect for the person, the only guarantee for individual freedom (c) To promote a better quality of life and good understanding among peoples Between triennial Congresses, a Board Meeting and an International Meeting are held, each accompanied by a seminar. The official organ of the IAW is the International Women's News Journal. This periodical was taken over for a short period by the Women's Publicity Planning Association between 1940 and 1945. Prior to that it was known as Jus Suffragii.


The resource files were originally catalogued as a separate fonds 2/IAW2. Here they have been brought together with the main body of the records and are listed as a sub fonds with the reference 2/IAW/2. Within this sub fonds, the original arrangement and numbering has been preserved, so that 2/IAW2/A/1 has become 2/IAW/2/A/1. The main body of the records have been designated as a sub fonds with the reference 2/IAW/1.

Access Information

This collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit

Acquisition Information

The board of the IAW at their board meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1990, confirmed by International meeting in Japan 1991, agreed to offer the IAW archives to The Women's Library on the understanding that the library would catalogue the collection and pass all duplicate material to the International Archives (IIAV) in Amsterdam. The resource files were collected by David Doughan, Librarian, in the 1980s


Description prepared by Liza Giffen and Maxine Willett, The Women's Library

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue

Alternative Form Available

Any duplicates have been returned to the IAW

Custodial History

The resource files were formerly kept in a filing cabinet by the organisation, and given to the Library when the Alliance moved in the late 1980s

Related Material

The papers of Margery Corbett Ashby, chairwoman of the IAW, (ref. 7/MCA) and the papers of Mary Sheepshanks, one of the leaders of the group in the 1920s,(ref. 7/MSH) are both held at The Women's Library. Some material, dated 1913-1920, is held at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, ref. IWSA.