Open main menu

Rosika "Rózsa" Bédy-Schwimmer (best known as Rosika Schwimmer, September 11, 1877 – August 3, 1948) was a Hungarian-born pacifist, feminist and female suffragist. She was one of the first world federalists, and served as one of the world's first female ambassadors (from Hungary to Switzerland) in 1918.[1]

Rosika Schwimmer
Rosika Schwimmer.jpg
Native name
Schwimmer Rózsa
Born(1877-09-11)September 11, 1877
DiedAugust 3, 1948(1948-08-03) (aged 70)
Known forsuffragist
women's rights advocate
Rosika Schwimmer


Early yearsEdit

The daughter of a produce merchant, Schwimmer was born to a Jewish family in Budapest[2] in Austria-Hungary. She studied music and languages but when family finances deteriorated in 1896, she began to work as a bookkeeper.

Political careerEdit

In 1897 she organized the Association of Hungarian Women Clerks[3] and in 1904, Schwimmer founded the Hungarian Feminist Association (Hungarian: Feministák Egyesülete (FE)), along with other prominent feminists like Eugénia Miskolczy Meller.[4] She helped to found Hungarian National Council of Women, and was a board member in the Hungarian Peace Society. In 1909, the Minister of the Interior appointed her to the governing board of child welfare.[3]

In 1913, she became a corresponding secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). Schwimmer toured Europe with Carrie Chapman Catt to lecture on female suffrage. She also edited the magazine A nő (The Woman).[2] In 1914 Schwimmer moved to London and worked as a correspondent of various European newspapers and press secretary for IWSA.[5] When World War I broke out, she could not return home and began to agitate for the end of hostilities. In 1914, she toured the US to demand President Woodrow Wilson form a neutral conference to end the war. In 1915 she took part in the formation of the Woman's Peace Party.

International Congress of Women in 1915. left to right:1. Lucy Thoumaian - Armenia, 2. Leopoldine Kulka, 3. Laura Hughes - Canada, 4. Rosika Schwimmer - Hungary, 5. Anika Augspurg - Germany, 6. Jane Addams - USA, 7. Eugenie Hanner, 8. Aletta Jacobs - Netherlands, 9. Chrystal Macmillan - UK, 10. Rosa Genoni - Italy, 11. Anna Kleman - Sweden, 12. Thora Daugaard - Denmark, 13. Louise Keilhau - Norway

At the International Congress of Women, 28 April - 10 May 1915, The Hague, Netherlands Schwimmer's proposal for a Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation between the governments of the belligerents was adopted. Later that year, she gained the support of Henry Ford, who chartered a Peace Ship to Stockholm. Disappointed with Ford's efforts, she later organized the International Committee for Immediate Mediation in June 1916. After the armistice, Schwimmer became vice-president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

When Hungary gained independence from Austria-Hungary in 1918, prime minister Mihály Károlyi appointed Schwimmer to be ambassador to Switzerland.[6] When the communists gained control of the government in 1919, she opposed them and lost her civil rights. In 1920, when Miklós Horthy's government ousted the communists, she fled to Vienna and in 1921 to the USA. She settled in Chicago and did not move back to Hungary, where she had contributed to building the foundation for future women in Hungarian politics.

Her pacifist beliefs got Schwimmer labeled as a socialist in the US. She spent most of her remaining life fighting slander against her person. When Fred Marvin accused her of being a German spy and a Bolshevist agent, she sued and received $17,000 in damages. However, she could not gain US citizenship because of her pacifism; the US Supreme Court ruled against her in United States v. Schwimmer (1929). In 1946, United States v. Schwimmer was overturned in Girouard v. United States. She spent the rest of her life in the country as a stateless person.

Later in life, Schwimmer tried to create a world government. In 1935, she formed the World Centre for Women's Archives with Mary Ritter Beard. She received the World Peace Prize in 1937. At the same year she formed the Campaign for World Government with Lola Maverick Lloyd, the first World Federalist organization of the 20th century. Later in the 20th century, the federalist movement have successfully led the campaign and coalition to create an International Criminal Court,[7] which Schwimmer rarely gets credit for.[8] In 1947 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but had no chance of obtaining it as the prize was not awarded the next year.

Death and legacyEdit

Rosika Schwimmer died of pneumonia on August 3, 1948 in New York City.


  1. ^ Peter Pastor, "The Diplomatic Fiasco of the Modern World's First Woman Ambassador, Roza Bedy-Schwimmer." East European Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4, 1974: 273–282
  2. ^ a b Frojimovics, Kinga. "Schwimmer, Rózsika". The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Archived from the original on 21 January 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Wenger, Beth (20 March 2009). "Rosika Schwimmer (1877 – 1948)". Jewish Women's Archive. Brookline, Massachusetts: Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 13 June 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  4. ^ Papp, Claudia; Zimmermann, Susan (2006). "Meller, Mrs Artur, Eugénia Miskolczy (1872–1944)". In de Haan, Francisca; Daskalova, Krassimira; Loutfi, Anna (eds.). Biographical dictionary of women's movements and feminisms in Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe: 19th and 20th centuries. Budapest, Hungary: Central European University Press. pp. 331–335. ISBN 978-963-7326-39-4 – via Project MUSE.
  5. ^ Gerit von Leitner. Wollen wir unsere Hände in Unschuld waschen? Gertrud Woker (1878–1968), Chemikerin & Internationale Frauenliga 1915–1968. Berlin: Weidler, 1998, ISBN 3-89693-125-3, p. 99.
  6. ^ Tibor Grant, "Against All Odds: Vira B. Whitehouse and Rosika Schwimmer in Switzherland, 1918." American Studies International, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2002: 34–51
  7. ^ "World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy Annual Report 2009" (PDF). Coalition for the International Criminal Court. World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  8. ^ Ruttum, Laura (October 2005). Lola Maverick Lloyd Papers: 1856–1949 (PDF). New York Public Library.

Further readingEdit

  • The Case of Rosika Schwimmer: Alien Pacifists Not Wanted! New York: American Civil Liberties Union, June 1929.
  • Peter Pastor, "The Diplomatic Fiasco of the Modern World's First Woman Ambassador, Roza Bedy-Schwimmer." East European Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4, 1974: 273–282
  • Tibor Grant, "Against All Odds: Vira B. Whitehouse and Rosika Schwimmer in Switzherland, 1918." American Studies International, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2002: 34–51

External linksEdit