Inter-American Congress of Women

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Inter-American Congress of Women

Inter-American Congress of Women, an international conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala, 21-27 August 1947. Sponsored by the Committee of the Americas of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and hosted by the Guatemalan Union of Democratic Women, the meeting was comprised of representatives of women's groups from nineteen western hemisphere nations who convened to "denounce the hemispheric armament plan under discussion at the Rio Conference" and demand that "the cost of the arms program be used to support industry, agriculture, health, and education for our people."

The belief that "women of our continent" have a particular right to speak out on "inter-American political problems," as stated in the minutes of the congress, had a long precedent, as did the delegates' concern with international peace and issues of social and economic justice. The women sent cablegrams to the Rio Conference asking that the delegates respect the peaceful intent of the Charter of the United Nations and urging that "the expansion of communism will not be contained by force of arms." Their efforts were unrequited.

The Primero Congreso Interamericano de Mujeres (to give the official title) was not the "first" inter-American congress of women; rather, the title underscored the discontinuity of the historical record of women's activities at the international level. Convening the congress demonstrated the women's conviction that a separatist strategy continued to be necessary for women to make their voices heard on political issues in the post-World War II world. The legacy of the congress is clear in the 1949 mandate to the Inter-American Commission of Women in the charter of the Organization of American States.

The Congress illustrates an important moment in the first wave of the international women's movement. Although the cold war largely stifled this initial phase of women's internationalism, the global activism of women since the 1970s and into the twenty-first century is built on these foundations.

See alsoFeminism and Feminist Organizations; Pan-American Conferences: Rio Conference (1947); Rio Treaty (1947).


The papers of the Primero Congreso Interamericano de Mujeres, 1947, are in the Collection of Alicia Moreau de Justo, Montevideo, Uruguay. See also Francesca Miller, "Latin American Feminism and the Transnational Arena," in Women, Culture, and Politics in Latin America (1990) and Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Molyneux, Maxine. Women's Movements in International Perspective: Latin America and Beyond. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Potthast, Barbara, and Eugenia Scarzanella, eds. Mujeres y naciones en América Latina: Problemas de inclusion y exclusion. Princeton, NJ: M. Wiener, 2003.

Rock, David. Latin America in the 1940s: War and Postwar Transitions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Rupp, Leila J. Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women's Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Sheinin, David, ed. Beyond the Ideal: Pan Americanism in Inter-American Affairs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

                                      Francesca Miller

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Inter-American Congress of Women