In his book, What Country Women of the World Are Doing, Sholto Watt, son of Madge and Dr. Alfred Watt, covered the June 1933 meeting in Stockholm, Sweden at some length. Here it was the name the Associated Country Women of the World was chosen and written in four languages on the blackboard: English, French, German and Swedish. It was here also that Madge Watt became the first President of the organization, a position she held until she submitted her resignation at the Amsterdam Conference in 1947. Thirty country women’s organizations reported in 1933; in attendance were, among others, the Crown Princess of Sweden, and notable women representing the nations who had sent delegates.
A simple Constitution was presented and adopted unanimously. Mrs. Watt was elected President, and eight Vice Presidents were also chosen: Mrs. F. Conant, USA; Mrs. Godfrey Drage, Wales; Mrs. J. H. Fairfax, Australia; Countess Keyserlingk, Germany; Lady Tiphaine M. Lucas, UK; Fru Michelet, Norway; Mrs. O’Connor, South Africa; Mrs. de Soysa, Ceylon. A very international group!
Those attending this gathering from June 26 to 30, 1933, shared an abundance of information on what the various societies were doing in their home countries. Mrs. W. R. Lang, Legislative Convener, Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada, spoke of the Children’s Peace Gardens along the frontier between Canada and the United States. “A wistful sigh went up from the European delegates when Mrs. Lang ended: “Why cannot there be flower gardens instead of fortifications along the frontiers of Europe?”
In the course of the Conference, it was suggested by Frau Carla Meyer that “ on certain days Mrs Watt might broadcast to the countrywomen all over the world. This was supported by many delegates. Mrs. Watt replied that requests that she should broadcast had already been received, and said that if the Societies wish that she should do so, they would have to approach their own broadcasting authorities and, through these, the British Broadcasting Corporation.” That was certainly a good idea, and showed great forward thinking, however, it would have taken some considerable cooperation and negotiations to achieve it!
Another session addressed certain aspects of health problems. A member from New South Wales, Australia spoke about the possibility of cooperation by the countrywomen of the world in a campaign to promote the development of health consciousness in the rising generation. A delegate from the International Council of Nurses gave an account of what was being done to organize a nursing service in the extreme north of Sweden.
The account prepared by Sholto Watt and printed in this slim volume shows discussions on matters of interest to people everywhere, and a solid grasp of what issues needed to be addressed. I am grateful to Helen Geissinger for giving this book to me, and affording an opportunity to share some of it with you. Many of the issues discussed there are still with us, in a little different form. But we have come a long way from the fledgling organization established there, and we have achieve many gains in the years since then. Keep up the good work!
Yours For Home and Country,
Ruth Fenner, Provincial Historian, British Columbia Women’s Institute
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