The United Council for Working-Class Women (UCWW) was a short-lived mass organization of the Workers Party of America operating exclusively in New York City. The group was started in the fall of 1923 largely through the volition of Katherine Gitlow, wife of CEC member Benjamin Gitlow.
1. Conference of the Consumers League of the Bronx --- New York City --- Oct. 26, 1923.
On October 26th, 1923, the New York District Organizer of the Workers Party of America, Benjamin Lifshitz, issued credentials to Kate Gitlow, Rose Baron, and Sonia Diamond to attend a conference called by a women's organization by name the Consumers League of the Bronx, notice of a meeting of which had been published in the Socialist Party's Jewish Daily Forward. The meeting was ill-attended, with Gitlow and Diamond being joined by by a small number of representatives of the SP-oriented United Hebrew Trades and the SP's Jewish Verband (federation). Gitlow was elected chairman by a 3-1 vote. The small meeting squabbled for several hours before the SP adherents bolted, with those remaining declaring themselves a "Committee of Action," with the power to call a future conference.
On Nov. 1, 1923, Kate Gitlow and Sonia Diamond met with Lifshitz and Ben Gitlow and cobbled together a program of action for the future mass organization. A "Women's Committee" of the WPA had to first be organized. The program of action was formally accepted at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the "Committee of Action," called for Nov. 10, 1923, and a call was issued for another open conference, to be held Dec. 23, 1923. The agenda for this meeting was prepared by the Women's Committee of the WPA, which saw itself as the controlling center of the new mass organization.
2. "Second Conference" --- New York City --- Dec. 23, 1923.
The Dec. 23 Conference was attended by 80 delegates, representing 46 organizations, only 14 of which were WPA affiliated groups. Although the WPA Women's Committee had planned to have WPA member Margaret Unjus installed as Secretary of the new mass organization, at the 2nd Conference Unjus developed cold feet and declined the nomination, forcing the WPA delegates to scramble for an alternate choice. Kate Gitlow was ultimately elected Secretary of the new organization, and an Executive Committee of 46 (one from each of the represented groups) was also voted in. The group determined to call itself the United Council of Working-Class Women (UCWW) at this gathering.
Over the subsequent year, the UCWW held several mass meetings and distributed 20,000 leaflets agitating for a rent relief proposal based upon the British experience of state or local government building new dwelling units for rent to working class families at cost. The group also staged a march, beginning at 1:30 pm on May 17, 1924, at Rutgers Square in New York City and culminating with a rally at City Hall. The group distributed leaflets under the slogan "Down with the Landlords! Down with High Rents and Fire Traps!" in support of this event.
The use of dues cards and dues stamps was initiated by the UCWW, a plan which was challenged at the July 16, 1924, meeting of the New York District Executive Committee by new DO Charles Krumbein (a loyalist of the Foster-Cannon group, unlike former DO Lifshitz, as well as Kate Gitlow.) The decision of the UCWW to issue dues cards was countermanded at this meeting, pending final decision of the CED of the Party. Kate Gitlow took strong exception to this decision and upon her protest the CEC appointed a 3 person sub-committee on July 17, consisting of Jay Lovestone, Alex Bittelman, and Jim Cannon, to study the question of a national organization of women and its form and structure. The WCWW was forbidden to make use of dues cards until this decision was rendered, although the cards were actually printed (a specimen existing in the CPUSA's archive in Moscow as f. 515, op. 1, d. 362, l. 11).
The CEC ultimately rendered its decision in October 1924, with the WCWW to be "transformed into the Woman's department" with "all new campaigns among women" to "be started in the name of the Workers Party after the approval of the respective party units," according to an Oct. 14, 1924, letter from Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg to Kate Gitlow.
The UCWW seems to have continued after this decision, however, with forthcoming elections for the United Council of Working-Class Women noted in a Dec. 18, 1924 letter from the District 2 [New York] Executive Committee on Women's Work to the District Executive Committee. The organization probably terminated some time in 1925.
[fn. Kate Gitlow, "Women's Committee, Workers Party of America: Resumé of Year's Activities," Oct. 12, 1924; Various documents in Comintern Archive, RGASPI f. 515, op. 1, d. 362.]