Rosika Schwimmer Collected Papers
Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399
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Overview and metadata sections
Rosika Schwimmer was born on September 11, 1877 in Budapest, Hungary. She received eight years of formal schooling, as well as private tutoring in music and languages. From the ages of 20 through 37, Schwimmer was a suffragist-feminist leader for women in Hungary and around the world. She founded the Hungarian Feminist Association of women and men to promote trade unionism, land reform, feminism, suffrage and pacifism. Schwimmer toured Europe to lecture on suffrage; under her leadership, suffrage was won in only 16 years (in 1920). For 13 years she edited the Hungarian feminist-pacifist magazine A No [The Woman] . Her other activities included helping to form the Hungarian National Council of Women, organizing the first Women's Trade Union in Hungary, serving as a board member of the Hungarian Peace Society; and leading the national organization of Women Clerks. In addition, Schwimmer participated in drafting legislation for the care of under-privileged children; in recognition of her work, the Minister of the Interior appointed her to the national governing board of child welfare in 1909.
Schwimmer's second area of influence came during World War I, when she concentrated her efforts on promoting peace. In 1914, she was living in London, serving as International Press Secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and as correspondent of important European newspapers. Her wide knowledge of international affairs gave her an understanding of the imminence of war; on July 9th she met with David Lloyd George to share her premonitions. In extensive lecture tours (made possible by the huge network of suffrage organizations in Europe and the United States with which she had established ties), she called the U.S. President and European leaders to concerted action to end the war. Her eloquence galvanized the formation of a number of peace groups, such as the Emergency Peace Federation, and the Woman's Peace Party, of which Jane Addams was President and Schwimmer was International Secretary (later, Schwimmer was involved for many years with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the successor to the WPP). During World War I, two thousand women from belligerent and neutral nations assembled for the Hague Congress of Women (April 28 - May 01, 1915). The Congress unanimously adopted Schwimmer's proposal for a Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation. It appointed Jane Addams to head a delegation of women to personally submit the proposal for Continuous Mediation to the rulers and government leaders of the belligerent nations, and appointed Schwimmer to lead a like delegation to the neutral nations. Later, Schwimmer and others toured the United States to lobby its citizens to demand that President Wilson call a Neutral Conference. Her hopes of success were waning when she met Henry Ford, who agreed to support it. He chartered the ocean liner Oscar II and the Henry Ford Peace Expedition sailed to Europe in December 1915; in February 1916 the Ford Neutral Conference, composed of delegates from five of the European Neutral countries and the United States, met in Stockholm. However, unhappy with the internal dissension of the expedition's leaders and the emphasis on theoretical arguments at the conference, Schwimmer resigned from the Ford organization and, with others, organized the International Committee for Immediate Mediation in June 1916. This group sent private delegations to England, Germany and Russia, and their unofficial peace efforts were followed closely by various governments. Hungary became a democratic republic in November 1918, and its Prime Minister appointed Schwimmer to be Minister to Switzerland. The appointment of a woman to a diplomatic post was unprecedented. Her task of ameliorating Hungary's desperate situation was very difficult, since Hungary was still considered an enemy state by the Allies. The third phase of Schwimmer's life began with the overthrow of the government by the communist dictatorship of Bela Kun. Her opposition to Bela Kun's government, and to the succeeding regimes, was uncompromising. Her final years in Hungary were marked by great hardship and physical danger. She escaped to Vienna in February 1920 and emigrated to the United States in 1921. Schwimmer was shocked to find herself slandered and blacklisted in the United States. Much of the rest of her life was spent in a struggle to clear her name. She won a libel suit against Fred Marvin, who had called her a "German spy and Bolshevist agent," and she was awarded $17,000. However, she lost her five-year battle for American citizenship when the Supreme Court denied her application in 1929 because of her refusal to bear arms in defense of the constitution of the United States. Schwimmer continued to live in the United States until her death. During the latter part of Schwimmer's life, she worked diligently to promote the movement to create a world federal government. One outgrowth of this effort was the formation of the Campaign for World Government in 1937, which Schwimmer started with her close friend, Lola Maverick Lloyd. This was begun in conjunction with Schwimmer being awarded the World Peace Prize ($8,500), which was sponsored by an international group of her former associates in various reform movements. In 1942, Schwimmer and Lloyd donated their papers to the New York Public Library in an attempt to form the nucleus of a World Centre for Women's Archives (Schwimmer's uncle, Leopold Katxcher, also donated a great deal of correspondence of Baroness Bertha von Suttner to the NYPL). During 1947-1948, Schwimmer was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 33 parliamentarians from Great Britain, Sweden, France, Italy and Hungary (it was not awarded to her; in fact, no one received the prize in 1948). She died on August 3, 1948 in New York City.
[Source: "Biographical Dictionary of Internationalists"]
This collection includes material by and about Schwimmer, information about the Henry Ford Peace Expedition, Schwimmer's application for U.S. citizenship, the World Peace Prize, and her nomination for the Nobel Prize.
The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is not the official repository for these papers/records.
For the catalog record for this collection, and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog
Processed by SCPC staff; checklist prepared by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, March 1999; added to May 2007
- Pacifists -- Hungary -- History -- Sources
- Pacifists -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Feminists -- Hungary -- History -- Sources
- Feminists -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Women and Peace -- History -- Sources
- Conscientious objection -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Aliens -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Swarthmore College Peace Collection
- Access Restrictions
- Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
- Use Restrictions
includes information about the Henry Ford Peace Expedition
includes information about court case re: her application for U.S. citizenship
includes information about court case against Fred Marvin and reaction to the denial of her application for U.S. citizenship
includes pamphlet by Schwimmer "Union Now for Peace or War? The Danger in the Plan of Clarence Streit," Aug. 1939; and pamphlet (2nd ed.) by Lola Maverick Lloyd and Schwimmer "Chaos, War, or a New World Order?," May 1938