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Formation of the EAWL

Sixty years ago a group of courageous women of vision and a deep-seated "civic" sense banded together with the aim of working for the improvement of the conditions of life for women in the new country, then known as British East Africa.

Led by Mrs. McGregor Ross and Mrs. Andrew McCrae, they called a Public Meeting at the New Stanley Hotel on 14th March 1917. Fifty-five people of both sexes attended to debate the proposal 'That it is desirable that the East Africa Women's League be formed.'


Isabel Ross had been at the forefront of the women's movement in Great Britain. She found it "a little odd", she said, that the franchise for the proposed Legislative Council, which was to be formed after the War, was only to apply to men. In her speech at the Meeting she said:


'Though at present the League's primary work would be to press for a vote here, it would not, I hope, die when it has won it. We women realize fully that the vote is but a means to an end and when we have the vote, then our public constructive work will have a chance of growing.'


A proposal that men should also be eligible for membership was defeated. Colonel E. S. Grogan saying, "That the ladies should be allowed to have their League". The East Africa Women's League was duly voted into existence, with Mrs. McGregor Ross as its first President. From the start it received public support. The East African Standard leading article said;


' ... the formation of the East Africa Women's League-is another landmark in the progress. Of British East Africa ... We offer it an honest and cordial welcome and we are convinced that the organized intelligence of women will render valuable assistance in the solution of some of our most urgent problems.'


In 1919 the vote was given to women at the same time and on the same terms as it was granted to men. This might have been the end of the story-but it was the beginning. The way was now open for the "public constructive work of which Mrs., McGregor Ross had spoken, to begin.


The long-term aim of the East Africa Women's League, as agreed upon at its inauguration, was to study and take action on, where necessary, all matters affecting the welfare and happiness of women and children of all races in East Africa.


This aim has been faithfully followed for sixty years. These pages show some of those whose work has been outstanding, and some of the projects and achievements of the EAST AFRICA WOMEN'S LEAGUE.

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