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.


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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?



MOTHERS’ CHARTER OF RIGHTS[1930]


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.


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