Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Emmy Freundlich

Margaret Llewelyn Davies grew up in a family with strong convictions and a commitment to involvement in public life. Her father was a Christian Socialist and strong supporter of women's rights. Her aunt, Emily Sarah Davies had helped to found Girton College Cambridge, where Margaret studied from 1881 to 1883.

  

Margaret Llewelyn Davies joined the Women's Co-operative Guild soon after it was founded in 1883 and became its General Secretaryin 1889. She continued in this role for 32 years, during which time she never accepted a salary. The papers of the Women's Co-operative Guild are held at Hull University Archives.


 

Report by Margaret Llewelyn Davies

 

During her leadership the WCG campaigned for a minimum wage for all women co-operative employees (achieved in 1912) and campaigned for reform to divorce laws, with Llewelyn Davies giving evidence to the Royal Commission. She also campaigned for ante-natal, natal and post-natal care, and in 1915 published a moving and influential book about women's experiences of child-birth and child-rearing, Maternity: letters from working women. The success of the WCG continued after the retirement of Margaret Llewelyn Davies, partly illustrated by its large publishing output. There was a change in direction after the end of the Second World War and by the 1960s Margaret Llewelyn Davies's socialism remained intact but her feminist ideas appeared to have gone into retreat as domestic issues prevailed.

 

The WCG took a pacifist stance during the First World War. Llewelyn Davies was regarded as an oustanding campaigner in the pacifist cause and was elected to the General Council of the Union of Democratic Control, which called for a negotiated peace settlement. In 1921 Llewelyn Davies helped to found the International Women's Co-operative Guild.

 

Emmy Freundlich was a democratic socialist member of the Austrian parliament and become involved in the co-operative movement in Austria, playing a leading role from 1919 onwards. She was the first president of the International Guild of Co-operative Women, formed at the International Co-operative Congress in Basle in 1921 and based in Vienna. As Austrian representative, she was the sole woman delegate to the Committee of the League of Nations in 1928; and was a noted writer, with articles on politics and economics published in Europe and America.

 

Freundlich seems to have had her first contact with the English WCG in 1913 and soon built up a strong friendship and partnership with Honora Enfield, active in the English Guild and the IWCG's first secretary. The 1920s and 1930s were arguably the International Guild's most productive and successful decades. The new spirit of international co-operation influenced national guilds, one lasting example is the English Guild's white poppies for peace campaign in 1932.

 

Report about the arrest of Emily Freundlich

 

Following Emmy Freundlich's arrest in February 1934, during the Austrian civil war and subsequent crackdown on the Social Democratic Party, the IWCG petitioned and campaigned for her freedom. When she was released she spent some time in England, but soon returned to Vienna and continued her political activities and writing, until she was forced to more to England permanently in 1939. During the war the ICWG continued to work for peace and disarmament, in collaboration with the League of Nations. Freundlich moved to America in 1947 and represented the ICWG on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.