Spotlight on the international women’s movement collections


In the second of our blog posts celebrating International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March, we turn the spotlight on the collections in the library relating to internationalism within the women workers’ movement.

The British delegation to the Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Zurich, 1919.

As the picture above attests, there is a long history of international women’s solidarity. The experience of the First World War was particularly significant in mobilising a variety of different groups, such as feminists, socialists, anarchists and pacifists. This picture shows the British delegation to the Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which met in Zurich at the same time as the Paris Peace Conference. The League urged the Paris conference to include a 12-point Women’s Charter implementing women’s suffrage, equal pay and economic opportunities.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 also provoked international exchange, with a number of trade union delegations travelling to Russia in the 1920s. The photo below is from an album presented to the Women’s Trade Union Delegation on a visit to Russia in 1925 and shows a group of Russian women celebrating International Women’s Day in 1924. The library also contains material from other Russian delegations, including those undertaken by Margaret Bondfield, the first woman Cabinet minister in the 1929 Labour government. You can find out more about our Russian collections here.

International Women’s Day demonstration, Russia, 1924.

In 1926 the “Open Door” international movement was founded. The group consisted of women who were opposed to growing levels of protectionist legislation that prevented women entering particular trades, such as mining, on an equal footing with men. Below, on the left, is just one example of the group’s publications held in the library. Its campaign was a controversial one, however, as can be seen from the item on the right – a 1930 pamphlet from the Labour Party opposing the Open Door movement’s aims.

Open Door International conference report, 1935

Labour Party pamphlet, 1930











In the post-WWII period the internationalist and feminist movements grew significantly, and when the UN designated 1975 as International Women’s Year the British labour movement, including the TUC, held a number of promotional events. In May 1975 the TUC held a rally and march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. You can see more images from the rally on our website Britain at Work.

The labour movement continued to support the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. The poster below was produced when the event coincided with the 1984-85 miners’ strike, promoting a rally organised by Women Against Pit Closures.

The TUC Library continues to collect a broad range of contemporary publications related to international women’s campaigns and international comparative data on women’s employment, pay, conditions, etc, in many different countries. To find out more about what we hold, or to arrange a visit, get in touch at, 020 7133 3726, or visit our website.


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