Records of the International Women's Co-operative Guild



Admin History:

The International Guild of Co-operative Women (known in German as the Internationale Genossenschaftliche Frauengilde) was formed in 1921 at the International Co-operative Congress held in Basle in that year. The first president was Emmy Freundlich of the Austrian Women's Guild and the first secretary was Honora Enfield of England. It survived as an independent organization until 1963 when it became a committee of the International Co-operative Alliance. Most of the papers of the Guild are in Vienna where Emmy Freundlich was based.

The early identification of the Guild was very much tied up with Emmy Freundlich. Born in 1878 in Bohemia to rich parents, Emmy Freundlich eloped to marry a socialist, Leo Freundlich, against the wishes of her guardians (her father had died young). In 1912 she became involved with women co-operators in Austria and her first contact with the English Women's Co-operative Guild seems to have come in 1913. She became very friendly with Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Honora Enfield and, in 1921 when she became the first president of the International Women's Co-operative Guild, Honora Enfield became the first secretary. Their partnership resulted in a very active period through the 1920s and, like the English Women's Co-operative Guild, this was one of the International Guild's most productive and successful decades.

In the 1930s Emmy Freundlich came under suspicion from the Austrian Nazi regime and was arrested in a major purge of socialist leaders in February 1934. U DCX/7/1 is a file containing news of events in Austria in 1934. On 19 February 1934 Dr Deutsch was reported in an interview for the Manchester Guardian as saying 'the hangman is busy'. Dr Bauer said 'my wife has had to flee and I don't know where she is'. Emmy Freundlich, however, was to be found in jail and the file also contains letters about her arrest and petitions sent requesting her release. One from the Irish Women's Co-operative Guild reads 'these organisations [i.e. those in which Emmy was involved] are neutral as regards religion and politics, we are convinced in all her actions she has been out for progress and peace'.

Emmy Freundlich was released in April 1934 and a photograph taken of her in England with the committee of the English Women's Co-operative Guild soon after is at U DCW/6/34. She returned to Vienna and avoided further arrest until 1939 but then had to flee and she returned to England. After the war she went to America and died there rather suddenly in 1948 and papers concerning her death are at U DCX/7/2-3.

The International Women's Co-operative Guild after the war concerned itself particularly with reconstruction and only lasted as an autonomous society until 1963 when the death of its president prompted its return to its roots, as a committee of the International Co-operative Alliance.

These papers were deposited with the main Co-operative Women's Guild archive [see U DCW] and represent some of their files on the International Co-operative Women's Guild. They include minutes of the central committee from 1932 to 1962 with the most significant gap being between 1938 and 1948 when the Second World War disrupted Guild activity and minutes of the executive committee from 1952 to 1957 (U DCX/1). U DCX/2 contains conference files for several years up to 1951, including a file on the 1921 International Co-operative Congress at which the International Women's Co-operative Guild was formed. U DCX/3 are reports of the committee in French, German and English for 1921 to 1959 and circular letters and bulletins are held, also in French, German and English, for 1938 to 1957, with only minor gaps (U DCX/4). A large number of their printed publications for 1921 to 1961 are held at U DCX/5 and this includes Honora Enfield's Guildswomen at Basle of 1921 (U DCX/5/1). There are publications of the 1920s by Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Emmy Freundlich. In 1930 Honora Enfield published 'The legal position of women in co-operative societies' and she followed this up in 1932 with 'The power of the market basket' and these are at U DCX/5/38 and U DCX/5/42. In 1935 Enfield died and her obituary appeared in the major Guild publication written by Emmy Freundlich, 'History of national and international co-operative women's guilds', compiled from national reports (U DCX/5/55-6; 2 copies). U DCX/6 comprises papers submitted to conferences of the International Co-operative Women's Guild. Some of the most interesting papers of this collection are in U DCX/7 which comprises three files on Emmy Freundlich. The first contains information about her arrest in Austria in February 1934 and the petitioning for her release in April. U DCX/7/2-3 contain obituary notices of her death in 1948 and papers sent from New York to England at the time. U DCX/8 contains a variety of subject files, including files on their work for peace and disarmament 1921 to 1945 and their campaign for world government 1947 to 1955 (U DCX/8/1, 6). A number of presidential addresses are at U DCX/8/2.