The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

[picture:  First International Congress of Working Women Group Portrait, Washington, DC, 1919]

The International Congress of Working Women (ICWW) was the brain child of Margaret Dreier Robins, a wealthy, progressive Republican who felt strongly about women's labor issues and served as the president of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL). Robins chaired the first ICWW in 1919, a meeting that gathered representatives from nineteen countries to discuss and promote fair labor standards for women. Among other demands, the Congress called for a universal eight-hour workday and legally binding maternity leave for working women.

Eleanor Roosevelt attended that first gathering in Washington, D.C. as a volunteer providing simultaneous translation for the delegates. Immediately intrigued by the Congress' goals, ER spent much time socializing with the delegates and grew more supportive of their efforts as her understanding of the issues deepened. Many of the activists that accompanied her to the conference became lifelong associates whose advice ER sought as her involvement in public policy grew. These included Rose Schneiderman, Mary Anderson, and Julia O'Connor, all of whom were ardent trade unionists. Their views about the right to economic security and universal employment had an important effect on ER that remained with her throughout her life as she organized women voters throughout New York and the nation, lobbied FDR as he debated various New Deal economic measures, worked to defend the rights of organized labor, and drafted and promoted the sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights dealing with labor and society.
 


Sources:

Beasley, Maurine, Holly C. Schulman and Henry R. Beasley, eds. The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001, 579-582.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume One, 1884-1933. New York: Penguin Books, 1992, 258-259.