Hungarian 'militant feminist' Rosika Schwimmer.

Hungarian Rosika Schwimmer (1877-1948) was a self-described “very very radical feminist”. Her passionate commitment to women’s rights and peace led her from a prominent role in the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance before WWI to an ardent commitment to stopping WWI and empowering women’s voices in the US and Europe to advocate for mediation and pacifism.

For a brief time after the war Roskia was appointed Hungarian ambassador to Switzerland, the first women to hold such a post. Later, she sought American citizenship, but was rejected due to her refusal to bear arms.

No book length biography has been written on Rosika in English. Historians, and her compatriots, claim that she was very difficult to get along with. Her lifelong friendship with my grandmother that followed their meeting in 1914 when Lola was 39 and Rosika was 37, is testament to a joint commitment to pacifism and to ending war that carried them through the turbulent ‘20s and ‘30s.

In 1936, dismayed with the growing drumbeat of militarism, and disillusioned with the League of Nations, Lola and Rosika created the Campaign for World Government: Its been called the first World Federalist Organization of the 20th Century.

Inspired by Schwimmer, two of her followers, Edith Wynner, longtime secretary to Schwimmer, and Georgia Lloyd, daughter of LML, wrote a book published in the middle of WW2 entitled Searchlight on Peace Plans; choose your road to world government (1944). Reflecting the urgent concern that the peace treaty of WW2 might, like the Verseilles Treaty of WWI, be dominated by warmakers rather than civilian peacemakers they wrote: “Two billion human beings are engulfed in blood, sweat and tears, dazed and browbeaten into accepting periodic outbreaks of war, while common sense and the instinct of self-preservation intrude the suspicion that war is not inevitable – that peace can and must be organized.” The authors assembled some 200 specific proposals to unite nations, most of them written after 1914. The book can be read online at

Fearing that documents and correspondence relating to women’s peace activism in Europe were endangered by the rising threats of war, and feeling an urgent need to find a repository for herself and her co-workers papers, Rosika collaborated with Mary Ritter Beard to form the World Centre for Women's Archives. With the onset of war, this commendable project was laid aside. Finally, towards the end their lives, Lola and Rosika donated their papers to the New York Public Library. Occupying 1650 linear feet (1361 boxes), much of this unique collection is in Hungarian and German. A photo archive documents the women and the events of the time.

Here is a photo of Rosika and birth control activist Margaret Sanger sharing a cigarette moment.

Here are more links to Rosika Schwimmer:

  1. My reflection on her life during the WWI years.
  2. A critical assessment of Rosika’s life as a Jewish intellectual: Radical Politics in a Reactionary Age: The Unmaking of Rosika Schwimmer, 1914-1930 by Beth S. Wenger
  3. Charlotte Dennett’s account of doing research in the Schwimmer/Lloyd archives: The Thrill of the Hunt: WILPF Archives in New York (the spring 2004 issue of WILPF’s Peace and Freedom (page 12)).