July 11, 1920
WIZO, The Women’s International Zionist Organization, was founded in London by Rebecca Sieff, Vera Weizmann, and Edith Eder. Women from Palestine, England, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, Russia and South Africa were present at the inaugural conference.
Sieff, Weizmann and Eder were active in England’s suffragist movement. Married to prominent Zionist leaders, these women sought a greater voice for women in the growing Zionist movement. In 1919, they had toured Eretz Yisrael and according to Vera Weizmann, “Mrs. Eder, Mrs. Sieff and I, as we toured the country, were very impressed by the hard work done in rebuilding Palestine by the devoted Halutzot, a new term at that time, for our pioneer working-women. But we were no less perturbed, and even appalled by the arduous physical conditions of their lives” (Carmel-Hakim, Esther. “Rebecca Sieff.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive).
At the conference, Sieff spoke on the idea that women should work together as a unified body and in so doing, strengthen their collective abilities and powers. Sieff later served as WIZO’s president.
From the time of its inception, WIZO has sought to provide organized childcare; homes and schooling for immigrant girls; home economics education; and other services that are primarily used by women. Today WIZO is active on six continents and has approximately 250,000 members.
To read more about the history of WIZO, click here.
In the photo, Rebecca Sieff speaks at the opening session of the 8th WIZO Congress in Tel-Aviv in 1934. Chaim Weizmann is seated on the dais to her right.