Today in Feminist History: United Nations Asked to Liberate Their Own Female Citizens (May 10, 1942)

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

May 10, 1942: Freedom and equality for women now—not after the war—was demanded of the Allies today by Alice Paul and the World Woman’s Party for Equal Rights.

Four months after representatives of 26 countries met and pledged to fight alongside each other until the Axis powers surrender unconditionally, these “United Nations” have been asked to liberate their own female citizens now. The message sent today says:

“The members of the United Nations Council have declared their object to be freedom for the whole world. We, representing the World Woman’s Party for Equal Rights, desire to lay before the United Nations Council the fact that freedom for women is one freedom that could and should be established now in the territory of the United Nations without waiting for the conclusion of the war.

“We ask for equality for women under the law. We ask power for women, equal with the power of men, in directing our national and international life. We urge the United Nations Council, meeting in Washington, to take immediate action to bring this freedom to half their own peoples not having it—women—not as a post-war program but today.

“Women have always made and are making today a magnificent contribution to society, in spite of inequalities and restrictions. No one knows what women could make and will make when these inequalities and restrictions are removed. For the sake of a new and better world, as well as in justice to women themselves, we call upon the United Nations to establish freedom for women in all territory under their jurisdiction.”

In was on January first of this year that 26 Allied powers issued the “Declaration of the United Nations” stating their war aims, and adopting President Roosevelt’s suggestion of “United Nations” as the formal name for those countries taking part in the Allied effort.

The United Nations are: The United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, and the Governments-In-Exile of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia.

The World Woman’s Party for Equal Rights was formed in 1938, and has the same aim on a global scale as the National Woman’s Party has in the United States: full equality for women. 

Hopefully, today’s demand will remind many Allied leaders of their own pronouncements on freedom and equality as basic principles underpinning our fight against the Axis, and therefore values to be fully implemented in their own nations as proof of their commitment to the basic human rights our enemies are determined to destroy.


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.