The British Commonwealth League was established on Monday 25 May 1925 ...“To secure equality of liberties, status and opportunities between men and women in the British Commonwealth of Nations” ... a society concerned with issues of equal citizenship and influence, and that the claims of women citizens should be understood – and asserted – in the political sphere.
The League’s avowed aim, as no other body existed at that time, was to specialize in building up a strong “Woman’s Empire Political Power”, with the further aim of helping weaker bodies to fight and take united action. Thirteen women were present at the initial meeting: Margery Corbett-Ashby, DME, LLD, the BCL’s first President, Marjorie Chave Collison, MA (Australia) elected Secretary-Organiser, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Myra Sadd Brown, Ruby Rich (Australia), Miss Hodge, Sarah Clegg, Harriet Newcombe, Miss Duncan, Mary Scott Shaw, Mary Scottmenken, Bessie Rischbieth (Australia) and Frances Blanche Innes. Thelma Benjamin, the first woman editor in Fleet Street also joined the BCL in 1929 and later Edith Hedger (Australia), journalist, represented the League at the League of Nations. High-level conferences of 3-4 days were held annually until 1939 when the Second World War intervened.
The name was later changed to the Commonwealth Countries League (CCL) and the CCL’s remit enlarged.
In the 1960’s monies had been donated to help a few girls with their education in the Caribbean and in 1967 Alice Hemming, then CCL President, visited a girls’ orphanage in Sierra Leone where she met a very bright girl who needed funds to continue her education. On her return home, Alice persuaded the CCL to sponsor that girl so that she could continue her secondary education. Monies were raised by holding a garden party at Alice’s home that later grew into the Commonwealth Fair which is held every year in November. Enthusiasm to widen support for girls’ secondary education led to the formation of the Education Fund (CCLEF) – a Secondary Education Sponsorship Scheme for Girls throughout The Commonwealth. The CCLEF became a registered charity in 1982 and has sponsored many girls in over 30 countries across The Commonwealth.
On April 25, 2016, the CCLEF became the Commonwealth Girls Education Fund (CGEF).