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Women's International Democratic Federation records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00594

Scope and Contents

The WIDF records are divided into four Series as follows:

I. GENERAL consists of miscellaneous statements, appeals, messages, subscription information, and WIDF's Tenth Anniversary publication (1955).

II. AFFILIATES contains general information, publications, and clippings about WIDF affiliates in China, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia as well as correspondence mostly with Zelma Brandt, co-chairman of the Committee of International Affairs, clippings, reports, and publications of the U.S. affiliate, the Congress of American Women (CAW). CAW materials date from the founding of the organization in 1946 to its investigation by HUAC in 1949.

II. CONGRESSES consists of records of seven congresses sponsored by WIDF between 1945 and 1969. The bulk of this series consists of agenda, financial reports, timetables, reports, speeches and anti-Vietnam War material from the World Congress of Women held in Helsinki in 1969.

III. PUBLICATIONS contains WIDF publications including Eugenie Cotton, a biography of the founder of the WIDF, Documents and Information, News In Brief and Vietnam. Also included are miscellaneous pamphlets and printed material. The WIDF's magazine, Women of the Whole World (1951-91), can be found in the SSC's periodicals collection.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1945-1979


Language of Materials

English, French, German

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

The Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) was founded in Paris in 1945 at the International Congress of Women by Eugenie Cotton and Marie-Claude Vaillant-Courturier. It was organized around four major concerns: anti-fascism, international peace, child welfare, and the status of women. In a 1958 interview Eugenie Cotton stated, "It was Fascism that caused the 1939-1945 war and because of this the founders of WIDF stressed their determination to work for the strengthening of democracy in the world. When they demand peace, women think first and foremost of safeguarding the lives of their children." ["Madame Cotton Tells Us"] There were Communists active in the organization and as a result, the American press labeled it as "Communist dominated."

The American affiliate of the WIDF, the Congress of American Women (CAW), was founded in New York City in 1946 to "revive the struggles of the nineteenth century woman's movement and attract women radicalized by their wartime experiences into the larger progressive movement" [Weigand 47] Shortly thereafter CAW established itself as an American branch of the WIDF. In response to the House Un-American Activities Committee's (HUAC) charge that the WIDF was a tool of the Soviet Union, the CAW disaffiliated from the WIDF in December 1949 and voted to disband in 1950.

The WIDF is an ongoing organization. According to its website it has affiliates in 160 countries.

Works Cited

  1. Women of the Whole World, "Madame Cotton Tells Us." April 1958.
  2. Weigand, Kate, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation.


1.75 linear feet (4 containers)


Pacifist organization, Peace activists. Records contain printed materials dating from the founding in 1946 to its investigation by HUAC in 1949; publications of international affiliates; and records of congresses sponsored by WIDF between 1945 and 1969, primarily from the World Congress of Women held in Helsinki in 1969. Included is a biography of the founder Eugenie Cotton; correspondence of the Congress of American Women (American affiliate); and materials relating to the Vietnam War and International Women's Day.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Zelma Brandt, co-chairman of the Committee of International Affairs, Congress of American Women, donated her records of the WIDF and CAW between 1968 and 1972.

Related Materials

Additional WIDF materials can be found in the Sophia Smith Collection in the papers of Mary Metlay Kaufman, Dorothy Kenyon, Mary van Kleeck, and Ruth Frances Woodsmall. WIDF's magazine Women of the Whole World is located with the Periodicals Collection.

Processing Information

Separated from Communism Collection and processed by Susan Boone, 2008

Women's International Democratic Federation records
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Susan Boone.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:15-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • Location of donor files
  • Location of finding aid

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063