The Ukrainian National Women's League of America
(UNWLA) is a charitable and cultural organization that unites women of Ukrainian descent as well as those who are active in the Ukrainian communities of the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
. Established in 1925, the organization is guided by the principles of political non-partisanship, religious tolerance, and universal respect for human rights.
Founding the UNWLA
The UNWLA was established in 1925 by five Ukrainian women's associations in New York City and vicinity. The reason for unification was the exclusion of the National Council of Women (NCW) of Ukraine from the International Council of Women
The International Council of Women was the first women's organization to work across national boundaries for the common cause of advocating human rights for women. In March and April 1888, women leaders came together in Washington D.C...
at the ICW's General assembly held in Washington, D.C., in May 1925. The NCW of Ukraine had been a member of the ICW since 1920. Its exclusion from the ICW occurred as a direct result of Ukraine's loss of national independence
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...
, a prerequisite for ICW membership.
At the meeting of Ukrainian women's associations in New York City, following the delegation's return from Washington, it was decided to form a centralized organization. This decision was approved in June 1926, and the name given to the new organization was "Soyuz Ukrayinok Ameryky" - Ukrainian National Women's League of America. The goal of unification was to inform the free world
The Free World is a Cold War-era term often used to describe states not under the rule of the Soviet Union, its Eastern European allies, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and other communist nations. The term often referred to states such as the United States, Canada, and Western European states such as the...
about events in Ukraine, to support the homeland both spiritually and materially, and to promote the preservation of Ukrainian national identity, cultural heritage, and ethnic traditions in the United States.
International Women's Movement
In 1948 The UNWLA was the first ethnic organization in the United States to become an associate member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs
The General Federation of Women's Clubs , founded in 1890, is an international women's organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service...
. Joining the GFWC gave the UNWLA an opportunity to participate in national and international events on an equal footing with other American women's organizations.
In 1952 the UNWLA became a member of the National Council of Women of the United States
The National Council of Women of the United States is the oldest, nonsectarian organization of women in America. Officially founded in 1888, the NCW/US traces back to the anti-slavery movement and is now an accredited non-governmental organization with the Department of Public Information and in...
(NCW/USA). UNWLA presidents are ex officio
members of the Board of Directors of the NCW/USA, and UNWLA members have been elected to serve on its Executive Committee. In 1992, for the first time in the NCW's 108-year history, a UNWLA member - Iryna Kurowyckyj - was elected President. Membership in the NCW/USA entitle UNWLA members to participate in its meetings and attend the triennial General Assembly of the International Council of Women (ICW). The 2006 ICW General Assembly was held in Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....
, the capital of Ukraine.
The UNWLA is also a founding member of the World Federation of the Ukrainian Women's Organizations (WFUWO) - an international federation founded in November 1948 that is currently uniting 23 non-profit women's organizations from 12 countries.
Connections with Ukraine
Events in Ukraine often influence the path of UNWLA projects and programs. Initially, the UNWLA worked to inform the world about cultural and political repression
Political repression is the persecution of an individual or group for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take political life of society....
in Ukraine under Soviet domination. The UNWLA organized demonstrations and protests, and forwarded petitions and telegrams to the attention of U.S. and European governments, to the League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...
, and after World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
to the United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...
Since 1991, the year Ukraine proclaimed its independence, UNWLA members have been sending petitions to senators and congressional representatives, requesting their support for the advancement of Ukraine's political and economic reform. One example of the UNWLA's work in this respect was the organization's active participation in the Jackson-Vanik Coalition, which was instrumental in the successful push to turn the Jackson-Vanik amendment
The Jackson–Vanik amendment is a 1974 provision in United States federal law, intended to affect U.S. trade relations with countries with non-market economies that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights...
into law, thereby normalizing trade relations between Ukraine and the United States. The UNWLA continues to disseminate accurate information about Ukraine and Ukrainians and to correct media misinformation about the country and its people.
- Julia Shustakevych (1925)
- Julia Jarema (1925-1931)
- Olena Lotocky (1931-1934, 1943-1965)
- Anneta Kmetz (1934-1935, 1939-1943)
- Anastasia Wagner (1935-1939)
- Stefania Pushkar (1965-1971)
- Lydia Burachynska (1971-1974)
- Ivanna Rozhankowsky (1974-1987)
- Maria Savchak (1987-1993)
- Anna Krawczuk (1993-1997)
- Iryna Kurowyckyj (1999-2008)
- Marianna Zajac (2008-)
Today, the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, Inc. (UNWLA), is the largest and oldest Ukrainian women's organization in the United States. It works independently as a charitable and cultural organization and has been granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service is the revenue service of the United States federal government. The agency is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, and is under the immediate direction of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue...
The organizational structure of the UNWLA consists of a National Board and Executive Committee, Regional Councils, Branches, and Members at Large. UNWLA by-laws
By-law can refer to a law of local or limited application passed under the authority of a higher law specifying what things may be regulated by the by-law...
define the internal organizational structure and the division of responsibilities and duties. The highest legislative body
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...
of the UNWLA is the UNWLA Convention, which is held every three years.
The purpose of UNWLA is to unite women of Ukrainian descent and those affiliated with the Ukrainian community in order to:
- Foster Ukrainian cultural heritage and promote knowledge of Ukrainian culture.
- Provide financial assistance to Ukrainians within and outside the United States, especially for studies and research of Ukrainian history and culture.
- Initiate and uphold ties with other Ukrainian as well as American and international organizations for educational and charitable purposes, especially with women's organizations.
- Support the Ukrainian Museum in New York.
- Participate in the Ukrainian, American and international women's movement.
The UNWLA has been active in providing assistance to people in Ukraine in cases of natural disasters and emergencies, such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...
The organization maintains the Scholarship Fund
, having donated millions of dollars in scholarships to enable secondary school and college students in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...
and the diaspora
The Ukrainian diaspora is the global community of ethnic Ukrainians, especially those who maintain some kind of connection, even if ephemeral, to the land of their ancestors and maintain their feeling of Ukrainian national identity within their own local community.-1608 To 1880:After the loss...
to complete their studies.
Through its Social Welfare Fund
, the UNWLA provides medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and other countries of the world, in particular assisting orphans and elderly women in Ukraine.
Since 1926, the UNWLA has been organizing exhibits of Ukrainian folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....
at American institutions with the goal of familiarizing the public with the diverse cultural heritage of Ukrainians. One of the major initial efforts was the exhibition of the Ukrainian folk art at the Chicago World's Fair
A Century of Progress International Exposition was the name of a World's Fair held in Chicago from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation...
in 1933. Between 1967 and 1973, the UNWLA maintained the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art until it founded the Ukrainian Museum in New York, NY, in 1976.
The Ukrainian Museum was presented as a gift to the Ukrainian community, however, the UNWLA retains 51% of the votes on the Board of Directors of the Museum.
Since 1944, the UNWLA has been publishing a bilingual monthly magazine Our Life
. The magazine is a source of information about the UNWLA, its activities and goals. It also features articles about Ukrainian culture, art, people, events in Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora.