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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4175
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1901-2007
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 11.7 linear metres
Name of creator(s): British Women's International Zionist Organisation


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Federation of Women Zionists of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1918. It is the British Branch (British WIZO) of the World Women's International Zionist Organisation (World WIZO). The Federation's founder and first President was Rebecca Sieff.

Rebecca Sieff (born Marks) spent most of her childhood in Manchester, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a centre for Zionism in Britain. Chaim Weizmann (later the first President of Israel) lived there from 1904 and gathered around him many Zionist supporters including Rebecca, her husband Israel Sieff and members of the Marks family. Women were at this time not encouraged to contribute to the cause any more than joining in the fund raising and supporting activities.

During the First World War Rebecca Sieff joined the Manchester Daughters of Zion and raised funds for Polish Jewish Relief. In 1917, the year of the Balfour Declaration, Rebecca and other like-minded women formed the "Ladies Committee" of the English Zionist Federation. Some members of this Committee went onto serve as members of the EZF Council. From her work on the EZF Rebecca came into contact with the small number of women's Zionist societies which did exist and realised that there were comparatively few active female Zionists.

Following discussions with sympathizers, notably Vera Weizmann, Olga Alman and Romana Goodman, Rebecca Sieff asked the Council of the EZF to allow the formation of a separate women's federation which would incorporate the existing small women's groups. Such an organisation, it was believed, would encourage Jewish women to support Zionism in more active ways. After some debate, permission was given and the Federation was created. It was founded as a non-party organisation which sought to attract members from all sections of the Jewish community. In 1920, following Rebecca Sieff's first visit to Palestine, the Federation of Women Zionists called a conference of women from Europe, the United States and South Africa in London. The resolution was passed to "form the Women's International Zionist Organisation to promote the welfare of women and children in Palestine and to carry out specific works in the reconstruction of Palestine". Thus WIZO itself was born.

WIZO aimed to train Jewish women in Palestine and the Diaspora for work in a Jewish homeland and provide care for mothers and children in Palestine. During the 1920s British WIZO raised the funds to found an agricultural school, a domestic science training hostel, child welfare centres and other facilities in Palestine. Members were also encouraged to promote and publicise the Zionist cause. The headquarters of the movement was based in London but numerous affiliated societies were set up around the country. Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 British WIZO became involved in providing a wider variety of help. In the decades that followed the organisation flourished and was by the 1960s "..probably the most alive and most admired Jewish organisations in the country" (Chaim Bermant, Troubled Eden, p.118) and raised thousands of pounds every year for Israel.

At the end of the twentieth century British WIZO has some 200 affiliated societies with around 14,000 members and continues to be one of the country's most significant Jewish (and Zionist) organisations. Historians have noted that WIZO's growth has encouraged Jewish women to participate in communal political life on a national and international stage.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the British Women's International Zionist Organisation, including minutes of the organisation with a few volumes of minutes from affiliated groups; administration including correspondence and conference reports; publications and printed material including some audio-visual items; donors' certificates for the Jerusalem Babies Home and WIZO Vocational Schools in Israel.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English with some items in German

System of arrangement:

Records arranged in four sections: Committees (LMA/4175/01); Administration (LMA/4175/02), Publications and Printed Material (LMA/4175/03) and Jerusalem Baby Home and Vocational Schools (LMA/4175/04)

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in multiple accessions between 1998 and 2012.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: (URL correct Feb 2010).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Description prepared in March 2010, updated May 2015.

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