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THE FOUNDING YEARS: 1910 -1914

It was in 1910 that Madame de Vélard, President of the Patriotic League of French Women (later Action Catholique Générale Féminine, ACGF) suggested uniting the leagues of Catholic women throughout the world.

This meeting, called “the Committee for Initiative”, took place in Brussels (Belgium) and brought together the Leagues from Germany, England, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, France, Lorraine, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay, along with the International Catholic Society for Girls, ACISJF.

In her address Madame de Vélard outlined the aims of this meeting, which was the first step in the process of instituting the International Union of Catholic Women’s Leagues (UILFC) which became WUCWO in 1952:

“…We have met because we want to enlarge our horizons …study the obstacles and the way to overcome them, and to arm ourselves better for Catholic Social Action. …

Daughters humbly obedient to the one Church... we have felt we must work to realise the union of all Catholic Women throughout the world…

…Let us not dream ! We have no time to do so; besides dreams are fatal: they waste our energy on imagining difficulties which may perhaps never materialise… Let us prepare for the future: to do so let us share serious and well organised action…” 

Another delegate stated:

“The time has come for Catholic women to understand that changing times demand changing duties. When we can no longer content ourselves with small, narrow, enclosed associations, in which piety and charity are cultivated with discreet timidity; the time has come to have a broader outlook; to widen our arena; to bring together all the works and good will into strong federations, capable of being an active force in the service of Christian social renewal throughout the world.”

In the course of this meeting, with the encouragement of the Bishops of Malines and Paris, the following decisions were taken :

This International Federation of Catholic Women’s leagues unanimously adopted the statutes which opened as follows :

Art. 1: An International Council is formed between the Catholic Women's Leagues, independent of all political parties, the aim of which is to work to maintain Faith, defend religious liberties and organise Catholic social action in a spirit of full and constant submission to the ordinances of the Sovereign Pontiff.

Art. 2: The Council adopts the name of “International Council of Catholic Women’s Leagues”. A meeting will be held each year and a central communication secretariat will be open in Paris for a period of five years.

1911

Second International Council in Madrid (Spain): danger of freemasonry; work and women’s salaries; morality. Six new leagues asked to join the International Council. They came from the following countries: Argentina, Canada, the United States of America, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland.

1912

Third International Board in Vienna: Morality, Religious education, Women in the work place. So that the Holy See could approve the Statutes, the League in England undertook the drafting of amendments, to be voted at the next Board. Miss Fletcher, President of the English League, took on the considerable responsibility involved in co-ordinating this work.

1913

Fourth International Board in London. The Statutes were amended and approved by Pope Pius X. The “Federation” adopted the name “International Union of Catholic Women’s Leagues”, simply called the “Union” which henceforward would have a Cardinal Protector. The Union comprised 27 Leagues from 17 countries. The Holy See appointed the Countess Wodzicka (Poland) as president.

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