'A World Fellowship': the founding of the International Lyceum Clubs for Women Artists and Writers

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic talk, debate, discussion


In May 2004, the International Association of Lyceum Clubs celebrated their centenary with a conference held in Basel, Switzerland, where they discussed the future of their organisation and reviewed its beginnings. A world-wide network, the Lyceum caters for professional women with an interest in lifelong learning and international exchange. This article examines its early purposes in the context of the contemporary growth in women’s organisations, debate about women’s rights and employment, controversy surrounding imperial expansion, and the rise of a secular peace movement. Drawing on the memoirs, novels and unpublished letters of Constance Smedley, the Lyceum’s foundress, it demonstrates the epic scale of her ambition to create a global sisterhood, and explores the radical feminist and pacifist ideals that motivated her. Though not the first women’s club, the Lyceum was pioneering in its aspirations. It offered women artists, writers and professionals the opportunity to meet in luxurious and prestigious surroundings, to compete equally with men, and to forge links with like-minded women across the world. It also insisted on the autonomy and equality of its different branches, and, through a programme of cultural cooperation between countries, contributed to international diplomacy before the First World War.
Period22 May 2004
Event titleCentennial Congress of the International Association of Lyceum Clubs
Event typeConference
LocationBasel, Switzerland


  • Lyceum Clubs
  • Constance Smedley
  • pacifism
  • internationalism
  • art