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FAWCO (Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas, Inc.) was founded in 1931 by Caroline Curtis Brown, then President of the American Women's Club in London, who believed that enlightened women, working cooperatively throughout the world, could do much to help achieve international peace. Its objectives, defined at a meeting of seven clubs in London, were to "work towards international goodwill and the preservation of world peace, to help one another solve problems common to them all and to aid women whose citizenship rights were being ignored or restricted."
International Peace and Equal Rights - The Early Years
In its early years, the Federation was mainly concerned with "big" issues: furtherance of international peace, the Equal Rights Bill in the United States and citizenship status for U.S. women married to foreigners, as well as the creation of a scholarship program.
All activities were suspended from 1939 to 1949, but in the ten post-war years, the Federation grew from 8 to 18 member clubs, established a Citizenship Committee to work on questions of absentee voting, reinstated its scholarship program and made its first "Mutual Aid" donation to earthquake victims in Thessaly.
Family and Education - The Sixties
During the Sixties, FAWCO turned its attention to changing patterns in family life and investigation of the particular richness of dual-cultural heritage. The FAWCO Foundation was established in 1967 and has since developed a large-scale awards program for study in the United States and abroad. From its first grant of $1,000 in 1971, it has expanded to an annual program totaling over $40,000. In addition to its scholarship awards, it also administers a Development Grants program to projects proposed by individual club, ranging from the photo-tracing of Rwandan children in the refugee camps of Tanzania to a literacy project for women and girls in Morocco. Each year it also raises funds for a local project in the country of the club hosting the annual FAWCO conference.
U.S. Citizenship and Voting - The Seventies and Eighties
Citizenship and voting were key FAWCO issues in the Seventies, when it was instrumental in obtaining the vote for overseas U.S. citizens in 1975 and began work on transmission of citizenship to children born abroad of one American parent, joining with other American organizations to advocate equitable treatment for American citizens abroad. FAWCO expanded from 23 to 44 member clubs during the Eighties, incorporated and obtained tax-exempt status, established a Relief Fund and made donations to Mexico earthquake victims and a Women's Development Association in Sierra Leone, set up a permanent Resource Center in The Hague and held its first annual meeting outside Europe, in Casablanca, in 1986.
World Federations Abroad and United Nations NGO - The Nineties
In 1990, FAWCO joined forces with the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO), American Citizens Abroad (ACA) and the European Council of American Chambers of Commerce (ECACC) to form the World Federation of Americans Abroad (WFAA), whose representatives have gone regularly to Washington to meet with policy makers on behalf of the more than three million Americans who live abroad. Recognized by the United Nations as a Non Governmental Organization in 1995, FAWCO defined a platform at its 1995 Biennial conference, held in Nairobi, which was defended at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in autumn 1995. It was also represented at Habitat II in Istanbul and sent representatives to the Peace Conference in The Hague in May 1999.
Today, FAWCO's clubs stretch across six continents, from Norway to Kenya, and from Antigua and Barbuda to Australia. The issues that led to its creation continue to be addressed through voter registration drives worldwide; dissemination of information on education, U.S. citizenship, living and working abroad; support for literacy and training programs for women and children in Third World countries; and environmental protection projects.