Records of Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 5ODI
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English , French , German , Swedish
  • Physical Description
      13 A boxes

Scope and Content

This archive consists of minutes of board meetings (1947-1973), reports and conference resolutions (1929-1966), conference papers (1952-1957), constitutions and charters (1929-1970), correspondence files of president and honorary secretary (1947-1974); incomplete series of the publication 'Open Door' (1929-1938), circular letters (1949-1959), leaflets and pamphlets (1929-1964), headed stationery, reports and publications of other organisations including United Nations commissions and International Labour Organisation. Most of the papers originate from the organisation's Honorary Secretaries.

Administrative / Biographical History

Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker (1929-1974) was established in 1929. After 1918, women over the age of thirty became entitled to vote for their MP and women's organisations that had previously campaigned for women's suffrage began to concern themselves with a wider range of issues. The sudden mass redundancy of women who had occupied traditionally male-dominated jobs between 1914 and 1918 focussed attention on the issue of women's employment and financial inequality. At the same time, they concerned themselves with the ongoing issue that had first been raised in the previous century: restrictive legislation such as limiting working hours which applied only to women and with the aim of 'protecting' them against industrial exploitation. However, there was no consensus within the movement regarding the appropriate response protective legislation. An ideological split occurred at this time between those who supported ideas such as an 'Endowment of Motherhood' to women to allow their financial independence and those who adopted a more strictly equalist position. In the mid-1920s, the Labour government proposed a series of bills which would extend this protective legislation and the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship of the time was being pressurised to change its equalist policies on the issue. In response to this situation, the Open Door Council was established in May 1926. Its object was to ensure a woman's opportunities, right to work and to protection at all stages of her life were the same as those of a man. From its creation, the group intended to organise an international group to further their aims. The Open Door Council always hoped to be an international group and in its first year, an international committee was formed. In Jun 1929 it held a conference in Berlin for individuals and organisations concerned with equality within the workplace. From this emerged a group called the Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker with Chrystal Macmillan as the first president. Sympathetic individuals and organisations from 21 countries supported the group until the Second World War, but when the first post-war meeting was called in 1945 for board members of international branches, several previously flourishing branches failed to send representatives. Conferences resumed in 1948, but its sphere of influence shrank to Scandinavia, Belgium and Britain in the 1950s and the decline continued through the next decade. The organisation dwindled until it came to an end, without any winding up meeting, in 1974.

Access Information


This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Dr Esther Hodge, the last President of the Open Door International, on behalf of the ODI.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Custodial History

The deposit was made after discussion between Esther Hodge and Anne Odegaard. The decision was made to deposit at the Fawcett Library due to the leading role British women had played in the formation of the ODI.

Related Material

The records of the Open Door Council are also held by the Women's Library: see 5ODC