European women’s organized struggles for their rights and social justice began in the early nineteenth century and were almost immediately transnational in character. From the 1860s, women’s international activism became more formally structured. The three main international women’s organizations of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century were the International Council of Women (ICW, 1881), the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA, established in Berlin in 1904, from 1926 called the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship, IAW), and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF, the Hague, 1915). All three were bourgeois in character and dominated by women of European origin. From the 1910 onwards, socialist or socialist feminist women also created international structures to enhance women’s rights, with the German Clara Zetkin as a key figure. The three main international women’s organizations of the post-1945 world were the ICW and IAW and the newly established left-feminist Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF, Paris, 1945) as the third of the “Big Three.” As recognized by the United Nations, these three made crucial contributions towards enhancing women’s rights and status, not just in Europe but globally.
European Women and the Main International Women’s Organizations