Catalogue description International Woman Suffrage Alliance Archive

This record is held by Manchester University: University of Manchester Library

Details of IWSA
Reference: IWSA
Title: International Woman Suffrage Alliance Archive

A summary of the material contained within each class is given prior to the description of items within the class. In general terms, the archive contains information relating to the political, social and economic condition of women worldwide with particular emphasis on the campaign for the enfranchisement of women.


The archive contains material relating to


Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria


Belgium, Bohemia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma


Canada, Ceylon, China




East Africa, Egypt


Finland, France


Galicia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece


Hawaii, Hungary


Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy


Jamaica, Japan




Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Mexico


Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway


Poland, Portugal


Roumania, Russia


Servia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland




U.S.A., Uruguay


Great Britain is the country most fully represented throughout the archive; but large amounts of material relate to France, Germany and the U.S.A. Information relating to all other countries is valuable but limited.


Information is also to be found relating to other reform movements with which women were intimately involved, notably: the campaigns for an equal moral standard, the reform of the divorce laws, temperance and prohibition; and the campaigns against prostitution, the "white slave trade" and venereal disease.


It should be noted, in particular, that the archive provides a wealth of information on women's work during the war and offers insights, through the workings of an international women's organisation during time of war, into international conditions and attitudes prevailing during the First World War and its immediate aftermath.


The archive does not contain any copies of the Journal Jus Suffragii.


Where the file contains foreign language pieces the number of pieces affected is contained in the description and, used in conjunction with the number of pieces, the reader can see at a glance the approximate proportion of the file which is written in foreign languages.


When using the list the reader should assume that, where not otherwise stated, the society or person is British and the language is English.


The archive comes from the I.W.S.A. Headquarters in London and for that reason the majority is written in English.


There are however a significant number pieces written in the 2 other official languages of the Alliance, French and German, and in Italian.


In addition, there are small amounts of writing in Afrikaans, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Roumanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.


On an international level the Alliance adopted a motto in Latin and a telegraphic address in Esperanto.


The archive contains a few pieces written in shorthand

Date: 1913-1920

The archive is divided into 3 classes.


IWSA 1 Subject Files 1913-1920


IWSA 2 Headquarters Correspondence Files 1915-1920


IWSA 3 News Cutting Files 1914-1919


Each class consists of files; the arrangement of files within each class is explained at the start of each class. The contents of the files have been placed into new acid-free files but any information recorded on the original file (usually a title) has been recorded in the descriptions.


The archivist found that the original order of the files and of papers within files had been disturbed but there was usually sufficient internal evidence to indicate whether the compilation had originally been chronological, alphabetical, by subject or according to the I.W.S.A. classification scheme; the original order has therefore been reconstituted.


Within files any doubtful items (such as those without a date in a chronological file) have been placed at the end of the file. And in a few instances, where there was no clear evidence of a logical system, the file has been left as it was found, a random order perhaps being original.


Within each file each physically separate piece of paper has been given a simple running number. Thus 2 pieces of paper sewn together have a single number but a single news cutting which has fallen apart into 2 pieces has 2 numbers. The running number governs the order of pieces in the file and is given in the file descriptions as an indication of physical extent.

Related material:

Related materials: the library also holds archives of the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. See also the correspondence of C.P. Scott with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst in the Guardian Archive. There are also a number of suffrage journals. Researchers may find it useful to consult Margaret Barrow Women 1870-1928: A Select Guide to Printed and Archival Sources in the United Kingdom (London: Mansell, 1981), a copy of which is held at the Main Library.


In compiling this list the archivist found particularly useful: Ida Husted Harper The History of Woman Suffrage Volume IV (National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922); Melanie Parrye (editor) Chambers Biographical Dictionary of Women (Chambers, 1996); Sally Shreir (editor) Women's Movements of the World (Longman, 1988); and Jacqueline Van Voris Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life (The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1987).

Held by: Manchester University: University of Manchester Library, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

International Woman Suffrage Alliance, 1902-

IWSA, 1902-

Physical description: The archive consists of 286 files drawn from the I.W.S.A. London Headquarters. There are 3 distinct series of records: Subject Files of the I.W.S.A.; Correspondence Files of the I.W.S.A.; and News Cuttings collected by the I.W.S.A. Information Bureau.
Immediate source of acquisition:

Custodial history: the archive was given to the John Rylands Library in September 1923 by Katherine Bompas, then Headquarters Secretary of the I.W.S.A. The files had, by that stage, ceased to be sufficiently up-to-date for the current reference requirements of the Alliance and when lack of storage space made their disposal necessary the N.U.S.E.C. suggested they join the .U.W.S.S.volumes of news cuttings at the Manchester repository.

Custodial history:

The files were compiled during the period 1913-1920, although a minority of pieces, such as constitutions and biographical accounts are of earlier date; these may have come into the hands of the Alliance as early as its inception in 1902 although it seems more likely that they were collected after 1913.

  • Womens suffrage
  • Womens organizations
Unpublished finding aids:

Publication record: the archive of the I.W.S.A. is published in Reels 11 to 31 of the microfilm Campaign for Women's Suffrage 1895-1920: Papers of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, and the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage, from the John Rylands Library, Manchester (Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1990).


The collection was filmed before it had been arranged and listed by the archivist. In most cases items from IWSA 1 are found in Reels 26-31, items from IWSA 2 are found in Reels 21 to 26 and items from IWSA 3 are found in Reels 11-20. Please note that, on the microfilm, files, and pieces within them, are frequently not in original order and that there are no demarcations between the contents of different files. These problems are at their worst for items in IWSA 3.


These defects make the microfilm copies almost impossible to use in any coherent research. Readers at the John Rylands Library will usually be issued with originals and readers using the microfilm copies in other institutions are warned of their defects.

Administrative / biographical background:

The impetus for an international organisation to promote the enfranchisement of women around the world came from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (N.A.W.S.A.) and from one of its most influential Presidents, Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947).


When Carrie Chapman Catt became President of the N.A.W.S.A. in 1900 the Association had already played a part in the international women's movement, hosting a women's congress in 1888 which had led to the formation of the International Council of Women. But although the International Council of Women had a Standing Committee on Suffrage and Rights of Citizenship it was not its principal raison d'être; this role would be filled by the new International Woman Suffrage Alliance (I.W.S.A.).


As a first step Carrie Chapman Catt invited international delegates to attend the 34th Annual Convention of the N.A.W.S.A. The invitation was accepted by representatives from Australia, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey who joined representatives from the U.S.A. and on 12 February 1902 the I.W.S.A. was born. An interim Committee was established, with Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) as Chairman and Carrie Chapman Catt as Secretary, to look after the affairs of the new Alliance until they could meet again at Berlin, Germany in 1904, in what was the first of their biennial international congresses.


The Congress at Berlin was attended by 33 delegates who adopted as their motto "In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas" [In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity] and defined their object "to secure the enfranchisement of the women of all nations and to unite the friends of woman suffrage throughout the world in organized cooperation and fraternal helpfulness". A Committee or Board of Officers was elected with Carrie Chapman Catt as President. The official languages of the Alliance were to be English, French and German.


Affiliation of a country to the Alliance was through the national woman suffrage society of that country. To avoid the confusion which might have arisen in an international organisation if internal differences of methodology and strategy, rife amongst suffrage campaigners in some of affiliated countries, had been allowed to dominate the agenda, only one society was eligible for affiliation from each country. So, in Great Britain, the affiliation was with the constitutional National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (N.U.W.S.S.), which subsequently became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (N.U.S.E.C.), and not with the militant Women's Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.). An exception to this rule appears to have been made in Denmark.


Countries which had no national association or which decided not to affiliate to the Alliance could send representatives to Congresses and fraternal delegates from any interested societies in affiliated countries were welcome to attend. Such delegates had no voting rights but it enabled their participation whilst also broadening the scope of the Congresses.


The first countries to affiliate to the Alliance were Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and the U.S.A. and they were soon followed by Denmark and Norway. By the time of the second biennial Congress at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1906 Canada and Hungary had affiliated and Australia expected to join.


It was here that the badge of the Alliance was adopted. This showed the sun rising from behind a woman who holds the scales of justice in her right hand and featured the Latin motto "Jus Suffragii" [The Right of Suffrage] which became the name of the journal of the Alliance. The journal, also sometimes known as the International Woman Suffrage News, was to be printed in English (later there was a French edition too) and was to be issued from Rotterdam, Netherlands.


The third biennial Congress was held at Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1908 and saw the affiliation of Bulgaria, Finland, Italy, Russia, South Africa and Switzerland. In the following year the first Quinquennial Meeting of the Alliance and its 5th Annual Conference (dated from the first Congress at Berlin in 1904 rather than from the Alliance's inception in 1902) were held in London; Belgium and France becoming affiliated.


The fourth Congress was held at Stockholm, Sweden in 1911. New affiliations up to and including the Congress were Austria, Bohemia, Iceland and Servia.


The fifth Congress was held in 1913 at Budapest, Hungary. Attended by 12 official delegates from each of the 26 affiliated countries, fraternal delegates from other interested societies, representatives from unaffiliated countries, visitors and the press, some 2800 people attended the Congress.


Also in 1913 an International Headquarters for the Alliance was established in London. The address was 7 Adam Street, Adelphi, although during the war they were to move to 11 Adam Street. The English edition of Jus Suffragii was to be issued from this office (the French edition was being issued from Paris) and it was also to administer the I.W.S.A. Information Bureau which collected, and supplied on request, information on women's issues worldwide. The archive of the I.W.S.A. comes from this office and covers the period from its establishment to 1920.


The next Congress should have been held in Berlin, again, in 1915 but the outbreak of the First World War made this impossible. The war inevitably diminished the activities of the I.W.S.A., not least because the women's organisations in all countries were using their skills, resources and contacts to administer war aid and the mobilisation of women into civilian trades as men were required for military service.


The work of the I.W.S.A. during the period of war should not, however, be underestimated. Their achievement was to maintain limited communications with at least some of the affiliated countries, even enemy nations, and to continue to publish in Jus Suffragii articles that could pass the censor and be read by women in countries that were at war with each other.


The timing of the Congress after the War proved to be controversial with some members feeling that too much time had already been lost and others feeling that national sensibilities were too raw to attempt any kind of international gathering without first allowing time for the reconstruction of countries and the rebuilding of shattered lives.


There were plans for a Congress in Spain but ultimately the venue chosen was Geneva, Switzerland and the date 1920. The late date precipitated the resignation of Mary Sheepshanks, a key figure within the Alliance who had responsibility for the Information Bureau and Jus Suffragii, from her position as Headquarters Secretary, although she was at pains to make clear that she had no disagreement of principle with her colleagues who made up the Board of Officers and Presidents.


At Geneva there were further affiliations with Argentina, Greece, Spain and Uruguay. In the following years there were further affiliations and Congresses held at Rome, Italy (1923), Paris, France (1926), Istanbul, Turkey (1935), Copenhagen, Denmark (1939) and Interlaken, Switzerland (1946). By this stage the franchise had been extended to women in the majority of affiliated countries and after the Second World War the organisation was to find a new role as an advisory group to the United Nations, changing its name to the International Alliance of Women (I.A.W.).


During the period covered by the archive (1913-1920) members of the Board of Officers, most of whom also played important roles in the national associations of their respective countries, were as follows:


President - Carrie Chapman Catt, U.S.A.


1st Vice-President - Millicent Garrett Fawcett, England


2nd Vice-President - Annie Furuhjelm, M.P., Finland


3rd Vice-President - Anna Lindemann, Germany


4th Vice-President - Marguerite de Witt de Schlumberger, France


1st Corresponding Secretary - Katherine Dexter McCormick, U.S.A.


2nd Corresponding Secretary - Rosika Schwimmer, Hungary/Jane Brigode, Belgium


1st Recording Secretary - Chrystal Macmillan, M.A., B.Sc., Scotland


2nd Recording Secretary - Marie Stritt, Germany


1st Treasurer - Adela Stanton Coit, England


2nd Treasurer - Signe Bergman, Sweden


The Headquarters Secretary at 7/11 Adam Street, Adelphi, London was Mary Sheepshanks, until her resignation in 1919, and then Elizabeth Abbott.


During the same period the affiliated associations, in alphabetical order of country, and their presidents, were as follows:


Australia - Women's Political Association, Vida Goldstein


Austria - Oesterreichisches Frauenstimmrechts-Komitee, E. von Furth


Belgium - Fédération Belge pour le Suffrage des Femmes, Jane Brigode


Bohemia - Vybor pro volebni pràvo zen, Frantiska Plaminkova


Canada - Dominion Woman Suffrage Association, Flora MacD. Denison


China - National Woman Suffrage Association, Sophia Chang


Denmark - Danske Kvindeforeningers Valgretsforbund, Eline Hansen


Denmark - Danske Landsforbundet, Elna Munch


Finland - Federation of Auxiliaries, Annie Furuhjelm


France - L'Union Française pour le Suffrage des Femmes, Marguerite de Witt de Schlumberger


Galicia - Polish Woman Suffrage Committee, Mme Hedvige Tomika


Germany - Deutscher Verband für Frauenstimmrecht (later Deutscher Reichsverband für Frauenstimmrecht), Marie Stritt


Great Britain - N.U.W.S.S./N.U.S.E.C., Millicent Garrett Fawcett


Hungary - Feministàk Egyesülete, Vilma Glücklich


Iceland - [a woman suffrage association in Iceland], Briet Asmundsson


Italy - Comitato Nationale per il Voto alla Donna, Prof. Anita Dobelli-Zampetti/Marchesa Clelia Pelicano


Netherlands - Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht, Dr. Aletta Jacobs


Norway - Landskvindestemmeretsforeningen, F. M. Qvam


Portugal - Associaçao de Propaganda Feminista, Jeanne d'Almeida Nogueira


Roumania - National Suffrage Association, Eugenie de Reus Jancoulesco


Russia - League for the Equality of Women's Rights/Union of Defenders of Women's Rights, P. Schischkina Yavein, M.D.


Servia - Szpshi narodni zenski Saves, Hélène Losanitch


South Africa - Women's Enfranchisement Association, M. Emma Macintosh


Sweden - Landsforeningen för Kvinnans Politiska Röstratt, Signe Bergman/Anna Whitlock


Switzerland - Verband für Frauenstimmrecht, Emilie Gourd/M.M. de Morsier, Deputy


U.S.A. - N.A.W.S.A., Rev. Anna H. Shaw

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