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Inter-American Commission of Women records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00312

Scope and Contents

The Inter-American Commission of Women Records consist of 2.25 linear ft. consisting primarily of bulletins, publications, and reports (many in Spanish). There is also a small amount of correspondence; clippings; biographical sketches of Doris Stevens, first chair of the IACW; photographs of the 11th Assembly; and other materials. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1933 and 1959. Included are IACW reports to the International Conference of American States (1933-48) and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (1948-63). The records are arranged in four series:

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1928-1976


Language of Materials

English and Spanish

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

Copyright ownership is unknown. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

The Inter-American Commission of Women (IACW)/Comisión Interamericano de Mujeres (CIM) was established in 1928 "to work for the extension of civil, political, economic, and social rights to the women of [the Americas]; to study their problems and propose means of solving them." The IACW was established in response to pressure applied on the Pan American Union during the Sixth International Conference of American States in Havana, Cuba. Its Secretariat is attached to the General Secretariat of the Pan American Union's successor, the Organization of American States, as such it is the first international governmental entity established to advocate for women's political and civil rights.

Doris Stevens, of the National Woman's Party in the U.S., was appointed first chairman of the Commission of twenty-one members, one from each country in North, Central, and South America. Stevens served from 1928 until 1939.

In its early years IACW collected comprehensive information on women's civil and political status in each of the countries represented by the Commission and brought two proposals to the Pan American Union for ratification: the "Convention on Equality of Nationality" and a "Treaty on Equal Civil and Political Rights." The Convention required countries in the Pan American Union to abolish laws impacting the status of women who married foreign nationals. It was signed at the Seventh International Conference of American States in 1933. The Treaty advocated for ensuring women's rights to vote and hold office. It was not ultimately ratified by the Pan American Union.

At the Eighth International Conference of American States in 1938, IACW was established as a permanent organization. President Franklin D. Roosevelt replaced Doris Stevens as U.S. representative to the Commission in 1939. The second chair was Ana Rosa S. de Martinez Guerrero of Argentina. Under its new leadership, IACW continued to advocate for women's legal and civil rights, but chose not to challenge protective labor legislation, citing women's childbearing role.

In the 1950s and 60s IACW's focus expanded to include such things as education, working conditions, and access to health care and other public services. The impact of the women's movement of the 1970s brought advocacy for "social participation and a voice in the decision-making process."

Since 1955, IACW has regularly reported to the United Nations on the status of women in the Americas and works to implement U.N. Conventions in the Western Hemisphere.

According to its Web site, the IACW today is "the principal forum for debating and formulating policy on women's rights and gender equality in the Americas." For more information see:


2.0 linear feet (6 containers)


The Inter-American Commission of Women Records primarily consists of bulletins, publications, and reports (many in Spanish), as well as correspondence, clippings, photographs, and reports. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1933 and 1959.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. General and Historical Materials
  2. Assembly
  3. Conferences and Seminars
  4. Reports

Custodial History

Muna Lee, a central and south America regional specialist at the U.S. Department of State, donated much of the material that makes up the Inter-American Commission on Women Records beginning in 1948. Materials related to the 1972 Inter-American Specialized Conference on the Integral Education of Women came via Elizabeth Tolman, a Smith College alumna and long-time economic officer in the U.S. Department of State.

Related Materials

Additional or related materials can be found in the Dorothy Kenyon Papers and the Committee of Correspondence Records. Issues of IACW's News Bulletin, 1960-64, are stored in the SSC's Periodicals Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, 2015.

Inter-American Commission of Women records
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Maida Goodwin.
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 (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:16-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063