The Inter-Allied Women’s Conference as a response to Paris Peace Conference

Bob Stradling Partners

On 1 February 1919 a group of French women suffragists met with Wilson at his residence in Paris to request that women delegates participate in the Peace Conference. Wilson replied that women’s labour issues could be part of the conference agenda but women’s civil and political rights were domestic issues. The French Union for Women’s Suffrage now invited colleagues from other countries to join them in Paris to hold a parallel conference, The Inter-Allied Women’s Conference, starting 10 February 1919. Delegates attended from Armenia, Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, South Africa and the United States. On 11 February an international delegation from the Women’s Conference met with Woodrow Wilson and received the same response as the French delegation ten days earlier. On 11 March a delegation from the Women’s Conference met the Supreme Council and identified a number of issues relating to votes for women, women’s employment rights, prostitution, prison reform, child marriage and trafficking of women and children.  The Supreme Council responded that women’s civil and political rights should be settled by national governments but they did propose that the women present their case to the Commission on International Labour Legislation and the League of Nations Commission.  A women’s delegation presented its case to the Commission on International Labour Legislation on 18 March 1919. Their recommendations on equal pay, maternity leave, limits to working hours and child labour were adopted by the International Labour Organisation as international standards for employment.  They met with less success when a delegation presented its case for civil and political rights for women to the League of Nations Commission. However, Article 7 of the Covenant of the League of Nations did specify that all positions at the League, including the Secretariat, “should be open equally to men and women.” By 1925 just under 250 women were employed at the League of Nations; most of them were typists or working in office administration. Only two women had risen to be Heads of Service, one in charge of the typing pool and the other in charge of the stenographers who transcribed speech into shorthand. Both were paid less than men in charge of other services

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Faisal–Weizmann Agreement

Bob Stradling Partners

In June 1918 Dr Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Organisation travelled to Transjordan to meet Emir Faisal, son of King Hussein of Hejaz. They informally agreed that the Zionist organisation would support the creation of an Arab Kingdom after the war while Faisal and his associates would support a Jewish settlement in Palestine. The two met again in London in January 1919 where Colonel T.E. Lawrence translated from English into Arabic a document drafted by Weizmann and his associates. Its preamble stated that “mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consumation of their natural aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine” the two parties agreed to recognise and implement the Balfour Declaration of 1917 calling for a Jewish national home in Palestine; to accept freedom of religion and worship there; to accept Muslim control of  Muslim holy sites there, and the Zionist Organisation would help to develop the economic resources of an Arab State. Weizmann signed the Agreement on behalf of the Zionist Organisation while Faisal signed it on behalf of the Kingdom of Hejaz. However, he added a caveat to the document to the effect that: “If the Arabs are established as I have asked in my manifesto of Jan 4, addressed to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I will carry out what is written in this agreement. If changes are made I cannot be answerable for failing to carry out this agreement.” Faisal submitted a written statement to the Supreme Council on 27 January and Weizmann did the same on 3 February. Faisal made a personal appearance to argue his case on 6 February and the Zionist delegation appeared before the Council on 27 February. Both groups then waited months for a decision. At the Conference of London in the spring of 1920 it was announced that Syria would be mandated by the League of Nations to France while Palestine and Iraq would be mandated to Britain. Since this was different to what Faisal had discussed with the British government the Weizmann-Faisal Agreement was now null and void as far as Faisal was concerned.

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