Hisory of the CC
The Commonwealth Countries League (CCL) has a fascinating and exciting history going back to the SUFFRAGETTE Movement...It started life as the British Commonwealth League. The BCL was conceived as an idea in 1923 by a group of women who had been involved in the suffrage movement. While ‘League’ may sound old fashioned now, it was then the height of modernity and ‘Commonwealth’ was a word ahead of its time.
Some Australian women had come to London to march in the suffrage parades in support of the British suffragettes, their main aim being to support women of any ethnicity, in other Dominions and colonies to get the vote. Women also came from India, the Caribbean, South Africa and other countries. But the BCL itself was established to “promote equality of liberties, status and opportunities between women and men, and to encourage mutual understanding throughout the Commonwealth”.
Dame Margaret Corbett-Ashby, BCL’s first president, who stood as a liberal candidate at several elections, was the driving force behind the League before the Second World War. Also founding members were Myra Sadd-Brown and her daughter Myra Stedman, grandmother and mother of our Vice-president Diana Dollery. Myra Sadd-Brown was arrested and imprisoned with hard labour for two months, for throwing a brick through the window of the War Office. Diana says, “In my family it’s always regarded with pride that my grandmother went to prison”.
An exciting beginning for the League indeed!
Pre — CCL History
In the early 1900s, like-minded women who were involved in the Suffrage Societies in Britain, Australia and New Zealand decided to form a union.
In 1914 the British Dominion Suffrage Union, an organisation that gave substantial service during the First World War 1914 — 1918, was founded.
The British Dominion Suffrage Union became the British Overseas Committee of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance with the aim to winning voting rights for all women in the British Empire.
In 1924 members concluded that a society, independent of the international organisation, would have more insight, focus and capability to deal with issues in their specific regions. On Monday 25 May 1925, given the new emphasis, the British Commonwealth League was formed with the main purpose of persuading parliament to give the vote to all British women. Various reform acts in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the period 1832 — 1928 established the franchise for all British women.
In 1929, with the formation of the new Commonwealth, the name of the League was changed to the 'Commonwealth Countries League' (CCL) and its remit enlarged. The league had now to deal with issues of citizenship, educational opportunities, lobbying for influence and so on with the understanding that women would be represented at the political level throughout the Commonwealth. This is still at the heart of the mission of the League today.
At this stage, a number of distinguished women from the new Commonwealth countries joined. Founding members included Dame Margery Corbett-Ashby DME, LLD; Chav Collinson, MA; and Myra Steadmen. Thelma Benjamin, the first woman editor on Fleet Street, joined in 1929.
Dame Margery Corbett-Ashby was the Foundation President and later was elected as 'President of Honour'. She was followed by a Canadian born in London, UK, Mrs. Alice Hemming, OBE, a Journalist who was the first to interview Wallis Simpson the then Duchess of Windsor.
In 1966 President Alice Hemming OBE, visited a girls' orphanage in Sierra Leone where she met a very bright girl needing funds to continue her education. On her return home Alice persuaded the League to sponsor that girl to enable her to continue her secondary education. It was then realised that there must be many girls in the Commonwealth who, for a variety of reasons, were unable to fulfil their potential. This led to the formation in 1967 of the 'Commonwealth Countries' League Education Fund' (CCLEF) a Secondary Education Sponsorship Scheme for Girls throughout the Commonwealth. The Fund became a registered charity in 1982.
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