Clio Talks Back

I.M.O.W.'s debut blog, Clio Talks Back, will change the way you think about women throughout history! Be informed and transformed by Clio Talks Back, written by the museum's resident historian Karen Offen.

Inspired by Clio, the Greek muse of History, and the museum's global online exhibitions Economica and Women, Power and Politics, Karen takes readers on a journey through time and place where women have shaped and changed our world. You will build your repertoire of rare trivia and conversation starters and occasionally hear from guest bloggers including everyone from leading historians in the field to the historical women themselves.

Read the entries, post a comment, and be inspired to create your own legacies to transform our world.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Mothers’ Charter of Rights – 1930

To commemorate Mother’s Day 2010, Clio has revisited her files.

For centuries women have argued for better conditions for maternity. But problems remain – and not only in the “developing” world.

The Mothers’ Charter of Rights (1930) is a manifesto produced by the International Council of Women in 1930. It was “drawn up by Dr. Thuillier-Landry [France] and accepted by [the Public Health Standing] Committee for submission to Council and now approved by Council at Vienna for circulation to National Councils for their consideration and adaptation to their own condition.” (I.C.W. Report, 1930, p. 641). The study mandate of the I.C.W.’s Public Health Standing Committee for the years 1925-1930 included a number of questions about maternal mortality, infant death, and ill heath of children, international cooperative efforts, and recreation and playgrounds for children.

Eighty years have since passed, and the physical and mental health of mothers and children worldwide still leaves a great deal to be desired.

What are the best ways of taking action to resolve these ongoing problems?


The International Council of Women representing more than 40 millions of women belonging to 45 different countries makes the following Declaration:

1. Every Mother who courageously accepts maternity has a right to respect.
The woman who accepts the responsibility of suffering and duties of maternity should be respected by all.
Habitual modes of designation and customs should not expose the unmarried mother to a lack of respect from her child.

2. Every mother has the right to conditions that secure her own and her child’s health.
In order that the mother should obtain maintenance, rest and cure which will enable her to bring into the world a healthy and vigorous child without maternity entailing privation or preventable suffering ---
(a) The mother should be able to take necessary rest before and after child-birth whilst receiving adequate subsistence allowance to ensure her livelihood, and without her contract of employment being cancelled.
(b) She should receive at Clinics, Hostels, or Hospitals prenatal instruction, and instruction in the care of infants, and the care necessary to her condition, and should be welcomed when indigent, deserted, or suffering from illness.
(c) She should be able to give birth to her child either in hospital or at home with the guarantee of free medical and nursing assistance in case of need.

3. Every mother has the right to nurse and care for her child. In order that the mother may accomplish her primary duty of nursing and bringing up her child, she should be guided in this task and have the assistance of qualified organisations and be enabled to claim the necessary time. Time alloted to this purpose should be taken out of working hours for mothers engaged in work and should not result in diminution of pay.

4. Every mother has the right to maintenance and education for her child.
(a) The married mother should be able to claim that a sufficient share of the husband’s income should be allocated to the education and maintenance of the children according to their needs and number.
(b) The unmarried, deserted, or divorced mother should be able to gain practical recognition of the father’s responsibility and to obtain from him a share in the cost of maintenance and education of the child.
(c) In the absence of sufficient financial resources the mother should receive from the community the necessary assistance to enable her to maintain and educate her child.

5. Every mother has the same rights over her child as the father. “Parental” should be substituted for “Paternal” powers, and the rights of the mother in matters of guardianship, education, religion, choice of profession, etc., of the child should be equal to those of the father.

6. Every mother has the right to take part in the public affairs of her country as the destiny of her child depends thereon.
Women suffrage and the participation of women in public affairs enables the mother to exert her influence on all questions of hygiene, education, military service, and of War and Peace between the nations.

Source: “Mother’s Charter of Rights,” International Council of Women. Report on the Quinquennial Meeting, Vienna, 1930, ed. The Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, President of the I.C.W. (Tarland, Aberdeenshire, Scotland: International Council of Women, n.d.), pp. 641-643.

Vintage News Source Photos

How long have women been campaigning for equal pay for equal work?

How long have women been campaigning for equal pay for equal work?

Clio finds evidence of this demand for centuries!!! Women in Europe were particularly vocal on the subject, since commercial and industrial development happened there first.

Let’s read the words of a Dutch woman, Martina G. Kramers (1863-1935), a seasoned multilingual activist in the international movement for women’s suffrage and organizer of the “International Correspondence.”

Below you will find what Kramers wrote about “equal pay for equal work” in early 1918, at the end of one of the world’s bloodiest and most costly wars.

Due to sustained pressure by feminist lobbyists at the end of the war, the political leaders who negotiated the Treaty of Versailles did include a provision on behalf of equal pay for equal work, and the treaty made specific provision for the inclusion of women in the work of the International Labour Organization and the League of Nations. But it was one thing to put the words into a treaty and another thing to make them a reality – as we know all too well today. Equal pay for equal work is no April Fool’s joke but an essential requirement enroute to gender equity.

Here is Martina G. Kramers (1918):

“This [equal pay for equal work] is a question of paramount interest for all women, and it is sure to receive the greatest attention from women in governing bodies, and, indeed, from all enfranchised women......

“From the moment women began to take men’s places in industrial work, the question of equal output and equal pay, irrespective of the sex of the worker, has become a burning one. But its solution is beset with great difficulties. First, there is the exact equality of the work, for it is not always as with the work of a tram or ‘bus conductor, which is incontestably the same as the man’s whose place the woman has taken; and then there is the desire of the worker herself to be engaged by the employer, which makes her agree to have her output valued less than her predecessor’s for the sake of the paltry wage so sadly needed. There are endless stratagems that make it possible to elude the enforcement of the seeming simple principle, equal pay for equal work.

“In order to have their claim heard and their demand enforced, women workers will have to organise, if possible internationally. But that is no easy thing to do, even if we can have an International Women’s Congress at the conclusion of peace.

“Among the old conventions and “scraps of paper” turn up by the war, the first that disappeared or were disregarded were the labour laws, limitations of hours, obligations of employers with regard to conditions of labour, etc. With these disappeared the women’s disabilities and restrictions, and in the belligerent countries women flocked to the munition and other trades. It was easy to explain their small salaries by their being untaught and unskilled.

“Now, since 1911, there exists an International Correspondence of women that has for its object the promotion of labour legislation which shall not put more restrictions upon women as compared with men workers than is strictly necessary for the protection of motherhood. At present the writer of this article is its International Secretary, and ten countries have appointed Correspondents. At the outbreak of the war our sphere of action changed, and the majority of the Correspondents with whom we could remain in contact agreed to take up the question of equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, it is not an easy matter to get exact and exhaustive statistics on women’s work and wages ; only France, Denmark and Switzerland have contributed information. Mme. Duchêne sent a most interesting pamphlet from Paris, stating the wages women got in the first year of the war, when they replaced men, and relating the establishment of a Committee against the Sweating of Women, consisting of six men’s trade unions. In Denmark a State Commission was appointed to deal with the question of a bonus to help men and women State employees through the crisis. From Switzerland we hear than in the tailoring, printing, and metal trades women are paid less than men. In Holland this is also the case, but in general the State awards the same salary to men or women employees, only giving women less chances of advancement.

“The International correspondence received from the Fédération Féministe Universitaire de France a list of resolutions passed by several meetings and unions in many lands, all advocating equal pay irrespective of sex. We are thankful that these show the movement to be an international one; but our object is to obtain statistics as well, and these seem to be difficult to get. The Trade Unions Congress at Berne in 1917, attended only by delegates from the Central and the neutral States, declared itself in favour of equal pay for equal output, which in the case of women may mean longer time.

“Congresses, especially international ones, have power to impose their decisions; our International Correspondence is content to collect information on the subject of equal pay for equal work.”

Source: Martina G. Kramers, “Equal Pay for Equal Work,” Jus Suffragii: The International Woman Suffrage News, 12:6 (1 March 1918), p. 86.

Further reading: Biografisch Woordenboek van het Socialisme en de Arbeidersbeweging in Nederland, s.v. Kramer, Martina Gezina.

Why Women's History?

Here are some of Clio's favorite quotations about the importance of women's history. This topic was already discussed and debated in the nineteenth century in Europe. Since then historians in every country in the world (mostly but not all women) have made enormous progress digging out women's pasts.

The first quotation is from Jane Austen, in her novel Northanger Abbey(1803):

“…History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in. Can you?”
“Yes, I am fond of history.”
“I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome.”


The second, published the same year, comes from the vicomte de Ségur, Women: Their Condition and Influence in Society(1803):

“The proper study of mankind includes the study of both sexes.” But, he added: “we must write their [women’s] history.”


A third celebrated observations comes from Charles Fourier, Théorie de Quatre Mouvements(1808); this thought had been developed by Scottish historians and missionaries during the later eighteenth century, but Fourier's rendition made it famous:

“Social progress and historic changes occur by virtue of the progress of women toward liberty, and decadence of the social order occurs as the result of a decrease in the liberty of women.” … “The extension of women’s privileges is the general principle for all social progress.”


The fourth quotation is from a Belgian feminist, Zoe Gatti de Gamond, who signed as Marie de G***, Revue Encyclopédique (December 1832). She called for a REAL history of women and better education for women. She wanted an historical resume of the condition of women in past centuries “which would serve to demonstrate the gradual improvement that has taken place in their condition: the study of the improvements realized in the past would allow conjecture on the improvements to come;” and finally “a clear picture of the present condition of women, on which one could indicate the successive improvements that the partial efforts of men could achieve, within the framework of the general views of Providence.”


A fifth author, Henriette Wild, known as "Henriette, artiste," published her observations in La Voix des Femmes during the 1848 revolution in Paris:

“Like man, woman is called to explore the domain of history. As in all other things, there is room for both [sexes] and both also have differing and specific attributes. The best will in the world is insufficient to advance certain works, and in those places where observation is divided in a fundamental yet imperceptible manner, how could it be given to a single observer to follow simultaneously two lines that are incessantly diverging from one another? This is why, for woman, history is a lie and why the truth will only appear once feminine observation and intelligence enter into it and, specifically, link it to women’s interests.”

And, she added:

“What! such things have happened and no women were taught about them, and they were not engraved in the memories of every young girl? Women, women! And you are astonished at your own fall and your abjection. And you ignore the means of your own regeneration.”


Our sixth witness is Jenny P. d’Héricourt, who published these lines in her book, A Woman’s Philosophy of Woman (1860, 1864 in English). Jenny was very clear about the fact that there was a sexual politics that affected all knowledge, including historical knowledge:

“Hitherto institutions, laws, sciences, philosophy [and history] have chiefly borne the masculine imprint; all of these things are only half human; in order that they may become wholly so, woman must be associated in them ostensibly and lawfully.”

Clio applauds the insights of these women and men, who knew already centuries ago that women's history was the missing element in our understanding of the past.
Natalie Zemon Davis, winner of the Holberg Prize 2010 شاهدي شاشة أكبر >

Historian Natalie Zemon Davis wins Holberg Prize for 2010

In celebration of Women's History Month, Clio is thrilled to announce that her distinguished colleague Natalie Zemon Davis has won the Holberg Prize for 2010 - the press release is posted below.

Natalie Davis has championed women's & gender history since the beginning of her stellar career.

Press Release 16 March 2010

Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor at University of Toronto, is awarded Holberg Prize 2010.

The Holberg Prize is worth 785.000 USD/530.000 Euro and will be awarded 9. June in Bergen in Norway.

Excerpts from the citation of the Holberg Prize Academic Committee:

“Natalie Zemon Davis is one of the most creative historians writing today, an intellectual who is not hostage to any particular school of thought or politics. Her writing is richly textured, multi-faceted and meticulously documented. She shows how particular events can be narrated and analyzed so as to reveal deeper historical tendencies and underlying patterns of thought and action. Her work brings gender to the fore, while insisting that the relationship between men and women is always embedded in the cultural discourses and social organizations specific to their time.“

“Davis’ imaginative approach to history, coupled with intensive archival research, makes the past come alive; her fundamental method is to pursue a dialogue between the past and the present. The uniqueness of her work lies in connecting early modern Europe with new areas of comparative history, exploring cultural, geographical and religious interchange.” (…)

“Her current work examines slavery in Suriname through the lens of generational encounters and crossings between slave and free, black and white, and people of different religions.“

“Natalie Zemon Davis’s contribution has provided many opportunities for innovative cross-fertilization between disciplines. She writes beautifully and knows how to tell a story, while at the same time remaining scrupulous in handling her empirical sources. The creativity and fearlessness of her work have inspired many younger historians, encouraging them to follow their own curiosity. As she herself has said: “I want to be an historian of hope who makes people aware of possibilities in the future”.”

Short biography:
Davis is adjunct professor of history and professor of Medieval studies at U of T, and the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emerita at Princeton University. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, she graduated from Smith College and then received her master’s degree at Radcliffe College in 1950. She received her doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1959 and has since been awarded many honorary degrees. Her teaching career has taken her to Brown University, the University of Toronto, the University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University. Professor Davis was also president of the American Historical Association in 1987, the second woman to hold the position.

The Holberg Prize, which was established by the Norwegian Parliament in 2003, is awarded annually by the Board of the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund. Holberg Prize is for outstanding scholarly work in the academic fields of the arts and humanities, social sciences, law and theology. Holberg Prize Laureates: Ian Hacking (2009), Fredric R. Jameson (2008), Ronald Dworkin (2007), Shmuel N. Eisenstadt (2006), Jürgen Habermas (2005), Julia Kristeva (2004).

For more information and to download photos of the prize winner: