Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association of the U.S.A. Records
The Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association (PPSEAWA) was founded in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1930 with the intention to "strengthen the bonds of peace among Pacific peoples by promoting a better understanding and friendship among the women of all Pacific countries." The women organizers also sought to "promote co-operation...for the study and betterment of existing conditions" throughout the Pacific Rim. The Association initially conducted its work primarily through international meetings where delegates shared information and raised awareness about international women's issues.
PPSEAWA evolved to encompass an international umbrella organization and autonomous national associations, which had local chapters. Beginning in 1930, the national chapters of PPSEAWA, which include countries of the South Pacific and Pacific Islands, Southeast and East Asia as well as the United States, convened triennially for international conferences to share information and coordinate programming. The groups also kept in contact through newsletters.
The American section of the international membership organization-the Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association of the U.S.A. (PPSEAWA-USA), the entity that generated the records in the Sophia Smith Collection-has had chapters in cities that ranged from New York City to Stockton, California and Valdosta, Georgia. The Toledo, Ohio and New York City chapters became the most active U.S. chapters in the 1950s and 1960s, a time in which PPSEAWA was among a group of internationalist organizations promoting stronger alliances between the U.S. and Pacific Rim countries. In the early 1950s, PPSEAWA International established consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO as a non-governmental organization. Although PPSEAWA was not oriented toward political advocacy, this network exerted an influence on and was shaped by liberal Cold War foreign policy. Declaring its "unique function" to bring together women "not as specialists or as feminists but as people interested in exchanging ideas and practical experiences," PPSEAWA-USA sponsored programs that brought together clubwomen activists with diplomats and cultural ambassadors. Events such as lectures and fashion shows were designed to foster personal interactions as well as intercultural appreciation. PPSEAWA leaders in the New York area provided hospitality services for visitors and emigrants to the U.S., and they participated in United Nations efforts.
PPSEAWA remains active. In the United States, it has been primarily an educational organization that promotes contact among women interested in Asian and Pacific issues. Notable members of PPSEAWA-USA have included Ella Stewart, the first licensed African-American woman pharmacist in the United States, Goodwill Ambassador to the Department of State, and president of the National Association of Colored Women; and social work educator Elmina Lucke. Internationally, chapters carry out community development and women's health programs while remaining closely involved with United Nations activities.