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South Kortright hosts the International Assembly of Women in 1946
The little hamlet of South Kortright was filled with about 200 women from over 50 nations for ten days, October 13-20, 1946. Of those attending about 50 delegates were from the USA. Mrs. Alice Throckmorton McLean hosted the event at her Ashridge Farm, now Phoenix House, on Back River Rd. Eleanor Roosevelt co-sponsored the event with Alice. Twenty women’s organizations gathered there to discuss political, economic, social and spiritual problems of the day. Their main goal was to bring peace to the world; remember 1946 was shortly following the end of World War II.
Alice McLean was born into wealth in New York City in 1886 and died in Baltimore, at the home of one of her sons, in 1968. She married Edward Tinker when she was 17 years old, had two sons, was divorced in 1919 and took her maiden name back. Alice had two sisters but she was the son her father never had, so she inherited the family fortunes including the mansion in South Kortright following her parent’s deaths. One of her major accomplishment was to organize the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) in 1940. The AWVS provided support services before and during WWII. Alice spent numerous summers in South Kortright and lived there from about 1944-1948.
Some of the women had a rough road to travel in getting to the USA and no delegates came from Russia. The French delegate was, at first, not granted a visa to enter the USA due to her communist connections, but she finally was able to come. The German delegate was said to be the first to receive a visa to enter the USA following the war. Most of the women wore their native attire at the gatherings. The women stayed at local inns and hotels during their 10 day stay.
The first gathering of the women was for a service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hobart followed by an afternoon Assembly in the McLean coach house. Mrs. Edward Carter, chairman of the steering committee, laid the ground work at the opening meeting with the following paraphrased from the October 14, 1946 NY Times: No smoking in the carriage house as there is hay up above - go easy on the soap while here as we haven’t a great deal – there is a shortage of help so difficult to get laundry done – you might have to eat on paper plates and use paper towels – those staying in the village would have to make their own beds – Mrs. McLean is serving up to the women of the world her farms choicest food, including turkey, ham, butter, cream, vegetables, maple syrup and four steers which she recently killed.
Some of the gatherings were held at South Kortright and Stamford Central Schools and many local women and students attended these. The delegates were broken up into discussion groups and met in a round table format throughout the Assembly.
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was the main speaker for the final formal Assembly on October 20th in the carriage house. She emphasized that the findings of the Assembly were to be sent to the United Nations Organization. Following the final Assembly Mrs. Roosevelt spoke again to local residents and delegates from the front steps of the McLean mansion. A fireworks display closed out the evening.
During the week after the Assembly the delegates were invited to: visit the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park, a tea at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, Hartford, CT for a meeting of women’s organizations, assemble in NYC at the Waldorf Hotel, tea at the Cosmopolitan Club in NYC sponsored by McCall’s Magazine and a tour of Philadelphia.
The Stamford Village Library houses the scrapbook, author unknown, that I used for this article. The scrapbook contained very large
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