International Networks

Dimitrana Ivanova

The idea to organize women in international organizations appeared in the second half of 19th century. The first international women’s organizations started in the late 19th century spreading the ideas of gender equality and  women’s suffrage of all women. The idea of internationalization of the women’s movement was a great achievement for this time. Although such organizations represented first of all middle – and upper class women, and their initiators and leaders came from the Western European countries or the USA those organizations contributed to the communication between women of different countries. They encouraged  the establishment of national feminist movements as well  to the development of the sense of an international “sisterhood”. Their support for the local women’s organizations and  initiatives was very important for the suffragist movements.  

The International Council of Women (ICW) was one of the first international women’s organization working across national boundaries for the common cause of advocating women’s  rights. It started in 1888 in Washington D. C. The International Alliance of Women (IAW), International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), later International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship, started  in 1904 in Berlin . The organization aimed to support and promote the gender equality and women’s rights and women’s suffrage around the world. The first leaders: Carrie Chapman Catt, Millicent Fawcett, Margery Corbett Ashby  and others  wanted to attract women in every country to the organization’s goals. In May, 1923, during the  Ninth Conference  of International Alliance of Women for Suffrage  in Rome women from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia ( the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), and Poland joined to form the Little Entente of Women (LEW). This women’s network was one of the first alliances of Eastern European  women  which attempted to shift feminist action in their countries away from the westernized international women’s movement.

In 1915 the American feminist activist and social reformer Jane Adams initiated an international Women organization against war: The Women’s International League for Peace in Freedom (WILPF) which organized regularly conferences and summer schools in order to educate women in the values of peace and equal rights.  In 1930 the summer school of WILPF took place in Sofia. Another very important union which contributed to the spread of the necessity of higher education for women was the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), (Graduate Women International (GWI),. As an international organization it united  women who were university graduates. IFUW was founded in 1919 immediately after the First World War by both British and North American female college and university workers who also wanted to contribute to congenial relations between women of different nationalities and to empower girls and women through education.

International Networks in Black Sea Region (20th Century)