International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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History of Vegetarian Societies in North America - and their role in IVU


  • 1837-1908 - Vegetarian Societies in North America - see also the excellent 'Vegetarian America - A History' for lots more. Available from on the right.

  • 1908 - 1st IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Dresden, Germany - "the President read the names of the Societies, which while in fullest sympathy with the formation of an International Vegetarian Union, had been unable to send delegates. The American, [and 10 other] Vegetarian Societies all sent letters and telgrams of greeting and good wishes."

  • 1909 - 2nd IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Manchester, England
    Mr. Scott spoke for the "Battle Creek Idea," and explained how from very small beginnings Dr. Kellogg's movement had now grown to what one might fairly call gigantic dimensions. Vegetarianism is not their only tenet, but it is a very important one. [refers to the Sanitorium in Michigan. In 1895 a Mr. Scott was President of the New York Vegetarian Society, probably the same man.]

    Reports of the 3rd IVU Congress, held in Belgium 1910, made no mention of anyone from North America.

  • 1911 - Millennium Guild founded in Boston, MA; Toronto Food Reform League founded (ended at WWI)

  • 1913 - 4th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, The Hague, Holland - "The following countries sent delegates :- . . . America. The last named was represented by Mrs. Wright-Sewall, the Hon. President of the International Council of Women of U.S.A., and Chairman of the International Council's Committee on Peace amid Arbitration. She was the bearer of an inivitation to the International Vegetarian Union to hold its next Congress, in 1915, at San Francisco, in connection with the International Exposition, but it was not found practicable to accept this invitation."
    from the list of papers:
    Mrs. Wright-Sewall, of America, "Vegetarianism and the Great Moral Reforms."
    Dr. Kellogg, of Battle Creek (U.S.), "Recent Scientific Discoveries con-firming the Principles of Natural Food Reform." (probably not present in person)

  • 1923 - 5th World Vegetarian Congress, Stockholm, Sweden - There was no mention of an official delegate from the USA, but two speakers were listed:- Halsingar "Report for National Vegetarian Society, U.S.A.," and J. W. Rose ''Report for Vegetarian Publishing Company, New York,". The August 1923 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger also printed a letter from Dr Kellogg in Battle Creek. [the 'National Vegetarian Society, U.S.A.' was probably Rev. Clubb's Vegetarian Society of America.]

  • 1926 - 6th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, London, England, listed two official delegates :- 'Miss B. M. Donaldson and Mrs. Alice Park (America)' We don't know who Miss Donaldson represented, but Miss Park seems to have been a delegate for the Millennium Guild. The same report, in the Vegetarian Messenger, August 1926, included the following:
    " Mrs. ALICE PARK (California), read a message from Mrs. R. Freshel, President of the Millennium Guild (U.S.A.), an organisation which has engaged in the propagation of vegetarian principles in America. She referred to the fact that the largest, and probably the finest, hospital in New York City was conducted on strictly vegetarian lines, neither meat nor animal products being used. In a public announcement the hospital authorities had said that meat and animal produce were excluded since it had been scientifically proved that many diseases would not yield to treatment if meat were taken, and that all diseases would give a better response to treatment without it. It was further stated that animal products were not necessary for growth or development, and that complete substitutes could he obtained from non-animal sources."

  • 1927 - Vegetarian Society of the District of Columbia founded - still exists as the oldest ongoing Veg Society in North America

  • 1932 - "As for Vegetarian Societies, Mrs. Margaret Cousins, one of the pioneer workers for Vegetarianism in Ireland, found in 1931 that a former Vegetarian Society in New York had been extinct for about fifteen years [ie 1916], and, after a survey of the various vegetarian restaurants and health food stores, with the help of Mr. Manbach, a new Society was formed on 11 January 1932." [from a report in 1957, it was mentioned again in 1968]

    The IVU Congresses held in Czechoslovakia, 1929; Germany, 1932; and Denmark 1935 appear to have had no representation from North America.

  • 1938 - 10th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Norway
    "Apologies for absence and expressions of good wishes were read from ... Professor Dr. John Hughes (California) ... " We currently do not know which society Prof. Hughes represented.

  • 1943 - Calgary Vegetarian Society founded, appears to have been the first in Canada
  • 1945 - Toronto Vegetarian Association founded - still going.

  • 1946 - The following is from The Vegetarian (VSUK magazine), Summer 1996 issue, looking back 50 years to 1946:
    On the other side of the Atlantic, The American Vegetarian was a broad-sheet style monthly newspaper published by E L Pratt, Pismo Beach, California. We have a few bound copies of this, but we don't really know much about it. The 1945-46 volume was number 4 in the series so we assume it must have started around 1940. It seems to have been enjoyed by British readers as well as American - the July issue has a rather wistful letter from a Mrs Williams of Hull, musing about the many ads for nuts and tinned fruits the paper contains and wondering if American vegetarians realised how lucky they were! "American vegetarians have so vast a variety of foods to choose from. One advertisement names the Marzipaned Prunes. Couldn't I just enjoy a taste of these prunes for my birthday? Tinned fruits are such a luxury, one person out of ten will be lucky to get some. I have not tasted any since before the war." The editor, I'm pleased to say, took pity on Mrs Williams and sent her two large tins of California peaches!

  • 1947 - 11th IVU World Vegetarian Congress in England - North Americans at the Congress - Calgary Vegetarian Society mentioned
    - July 28: the American Vegetarian Party was launched by Symon Gould.

  • 1948
    - from the Vegetarian World Forum, Summer 1948:
    WORK IN AMERICA : As you know, there is no national organisation over here - only local societies, often very local and of very limited importance. It is all very strange when we consider the overwhelming possibilities nature offers here . . . fruit and vegetables of every thinkable kind, and plenty.
    The only way to obtain real and true American representation is to work for an All American Vegetarian Union which could become a member of the I.V.U.
    On March 10th we held a meeting in New York at which about fifty interested vegetarians were present, representatives coming from the Vegetarian Societies in New York, Washington, and Brooklyn. Dr. Maxwell, of Chicago, came specially for the occasion.
    The main result of the meeting was the setting up of a body called The National Convention Promotion Committee, with Dr. Gehman, of New Jersey (President of the American Naturopathic Association) as Chairman.
    The meeting adopted my suggestion to call an All-American Vegetarian Conference for mid November, to be held at a big Health Sanatorium near New York, to discuss the building up of an American Vegetarian Union and its affiliation to the I.V.U.
    In the meantime, I am contacting all the societies and movements interested in vegetarianism: visiting vegetarian restaurants and health food manufacturers: meeting doctors (M.D. and Nature Cure): philosophers, businessmen - all who can make contributions of many different kinds to the promotion of the vegetarian way of living. - New York, Kaj Dessau, Secretary, I.V.U.
    - Dr John Maxwell, age 85, nominated in the US Presidential elections by AVP. Symon Gould nominated for Vice President. Gould was also associate editor of the American Vegetarian - presumably the same one mentioned above.
    - Dr. Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz formed a Vegan Society in California which ran until 1960.
    - Fifth Anniversary : Calgary Vegetarian Society

  • 1949 First American Vegetarian Convention Wisconsin, USA. This Convention saw the launch of the American Vegetarian Union with Dr Jesse Mercer Gehman as the first president.

  • 1950
    - Chicago Vegetarian Society
    from the Vegetarian World Forum, Autumn 1950
    - 12th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Oosterbeck, Netherlands -
    North Americans at the Congress - Los Angeles Vegetarian Society mentioned
    Gloria (Maude) Gasque [photo right]. of California started funding IVU to provide a full time Secretary and office.
    - Canadian Vegetarian Union founded and joined IVU along with the American Vegetarian Union.
    "More than all else, the Congress was noteworthy for the participation, for the first time, of delegates from North America." [This referred to the first formal delegates of member societies, rather than just speakers]

  • 1951 - The minutes of the IVU Executive Commitee, July 17, 1951, record: " The nomination of the I.V.U. for the Nobel Peace Prize by Symon Gould was discussed and not taken seriously. The feeling was that this was possibly a publicity stunt for his newspaper." Symon Gould was a controversial character, adopting a much higher profile than most vegetarians at the time. Which did not go down well with the traditionalists but perhaps he was just ahead of his time considering some of the campaigns in the US today.

  • 1952 - Extracts from the minutes of the IVU Executive Committee meeting, April 10/11, 1952, held near Haarlem, Holland - showing Mrs Gasque's considerable involvement.

  • 1953 - 14th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Sweden - North Americans at the Congress - Chicago Vegetarian Society mentioned.
    - Mrs Gasque was elected as the first non-European President of IVU, Mr Woodland Kahler (USA) elected to the IVU Executive Committe.
    - General Herbert C. Holdridge nominated by the American Vegetarian Party for the US Presidential elections.

  • 1954 - In the IVU Council minutes of 1954 the American Vegetarian Unon is referred to as having 'petered out' (but it came back until 1976). Vice President Scott Nearing (from Maine, USA) had sent some suggestions for furthering the work of the IVU.

  • 1955 - 14th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Paris, France - North Americans at the Congress
    right Mrs. Gasque, IVU President arriving in style at the Paris Congress:

  • 1957 - 15th World Vegetarian Congress, Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India - North American at the Congress - mentions Vegetarian Societies in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and the Millenium Guild, American Natural Hygiene Society, The American Vegetarian (magazine, Pismo Beach), and the American and Canadian Veg Unions.

    from the Vegetarian World Forum, Spring 1957 (click on the photo for a bigger version):
    The board of directors of The Vegetarian Society of New York inc.(founded 1931).
    Seated (left to right): Mrs. Lillian Epstein, Director of Children's Activities; Mr. J. H. Blazej, President; Mrs. Meta Ferreira, Secretary; Mr. Jack Ferreira.
    Standing (left to right): Mr. Charles Kroll, Educational Director; Mr. Jack Julius, Mrs. Augusta Kroll, Public Relations; Mr. Murray Mickenberg, past President; Mrs. Martha Winters, Mr. Henry Raphael, Treasurer; Mrs. Fannie Leavitt, and Mr. Jacob Fine.

  • 1958 - Dastur F. Bode became the first 'IVU Regional Secretary for the Americas'
    - The Vegetarian World Forum, July 1958, carried a complete list of IVU " Affiliated Societies - and others in association with the I.V.U." These included:
    - Canadian V. Union, Miss R. Playle, Apt. 306, 451 Bloor St. E. Toronto 5, Canada
    - Canadian V. Union, Calgary Unit, Mrs. J. C. Whitman, Suite 5, 1006 12th Ave. W, West Calgary, Canada
    - Canadian V. Union, Toronto Unit, Miss E. Budd, 28 Walker Av., Toronto 7.
    - American V. Union, Mr. J. Lickert, 102 West Fleming Av., Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.A.
    - Chicago V.S., Mrs. F. K. Wilson, 5640 s.Lake Park Av., Chicago 37, Illinois, U.S.A.
    - Jewish V.S., 772 Vermont St., Brooklyn, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.
    - New York V.S., Mr. C. Kroll, 1150 Grand Concourse, Bronx 56, New York, U.S.A.
    - Michigan V.S., Mrs. C. S. Steele, 1044 North Elizabeth, West Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.A.
    - Los Angeles V.S., Mrs. E. Coles, 2146 Brandeb St., L.A., Calif., U.S.A.

  • 1959 - Mrs Gasque died on December 23rd.

  • 1960 - 16th World Vegetarian Congress, Hannover and Hamburg, Germany - North Americans at the Congress - lists IVU Member Societies in Calgary, Toronto (Canadian VU), Chicago, Michigan, New York (American VU) - Mrs Gasque had died and Woodland Kahler (USA) photo right - was elected President.
    - Dr Jesse Mercer Gehman (USA) appointed as IVU Regional Secretary for The Americas, he remained in the role until 1975.
    American Vegan Society founded by H. Jay Dinshah - still a member of IVU today.

  • 1963 - 17th World Vegetarian Congress, Barcelona, Spain - North Americans at the Congress

  • 1965 - 18th World Vegetarian Congress, Swanwick, England - North Americans at the Congress

  • 1967 19th World Vegetarian Congress, Delhi/Bombay/Madras, India - North Americans at the Congress
    - Mr H. J. Dinshah (USA)
    elected to the IVU Council

  • 1968 - An Invitation to North America (1968) - a tour by the IVU General Secretary with photos, a brief 'History of Vegetarianism in North America', and a list of national and local societies in 1968.
    - San Francisco Vegetarian Society founded

  • 1969 - Vegetarians from an International Outlook - an article by the IVU President, Woodland Kahler, originally from the USA, then living in Spain..

  • 1971 - 21st World Vegetarian Congress, The Hague, The Netherlands - North Americans at the Congress

  • 1973 - 22nd World Vegetarian Congress, Ronneby Brunn, Sweden - North Americans at the Congress

  • 1974 - North American Vegetarian Society founded
    - Food for Life founded (became Food for Life Global in 1995)

  • 1975 - 23rd IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Maine, USA - right: "The man who powered it all - Jay Dinshah, whose total dedication and incredible energy made possible the first-ever World Vegetarian Congress to be held in the USA." . . . "Arguably it was the most important gathering of vegetarians in the United States in the twentieth century."
    - Brian Graff (USA) appointed as IVU Regional Secretary for North America
    - Vegetarian Society of Colorado founded

  • 1976 - Vegetarian Information Service founded

  • 1977 - 24th World Vegetarian Congress, Delhi/Bombay/Calcutta/Madras, India - North Americans at the Congress - includes a list of IVU Member Societies in North America.

  • 1979 - 25th World Vegetarian Congress, Loughborough, England - North Americans at the Congress - includes IVU Member Societies and a long list of NAVS local affiliates.

  • 1981 - FARM founded at ‘Action For Life,’ a national conference

  • 1982 - 26th World Vegetarian Congress, Neu-Ulm, West Germany - North Americans at the Congress
    Madge Darnielle
    , Patricia Takacs
    and Melinda Marks (all USA) elected to the IVU Council

  • 1983 - World Farm Animals Day launched by FARM

  • 1984 - 27th World Vegetarian Congress 1984, Baltimore, USA
    - Alex Hershaft (USA)
    elected to the IVU Council
    - Jewish Vegetarians of North America founded
    - Vegetarian Resource Group founded

  • 1985 - Great American Meatout launched by FARM

  • 1986 - 28th World Vegetarian Congress, Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia - North Americans at the Congress
    - Keith Akers
    appointed Regional Secretary for North America, and Mitch Darer elected to the IVU Council - there were now 6 Americans on the International Coucil and two more in Honorary roles.
    - Boston Vegetarian Society founded
    - Triangle Vegetarian Society founded

  • 1987 - Vegetarian Union of North America founded at a conference organized by the Toronto Vegetarian Association in Canada.

  • 1988 - EarthSave International founded

  • 1989 - Vermont Vegetarian Society founded
    - VUNA Conference in Arcata, California, USA - organized and co-sponsored by the American Vegan Society

  • 1990 - Vegetarian Society of Hawaii founded

  • 1991 - VUNA Conference in Denver, Colorado, USA - co-sponsored by the American Vegan Society and the Vegetarian Society of Colorado

  • 1993 - Winnipeg Vegetarian Association founded
    - VUNA Conference in Portland, Oregon, USA - co-sponsored by the American Vegan Society and Portland Vegetarians

  • 1994 - Saurabh Dalal appointed as Regional Secretary for North America, and Julia Jacquel elected to the IVU Council

  • 1995 - Vegetarian Society of Richmond, VA founded
    - International Vegan Festival, San Diego - jointly organized by VUNA, the American Vegan Society and Vegans International

  • 1996 - 32nd World Vegetarian Congress, Johnstown, PA, USA
    - Howard Lyman (USA) elected President of IVU; Patricia Carney (USA) elected to the IVU Council
    - Kevin Pickard (Canada) the first, and so far only, Canadian elected to the IVU Council
    - Vegsource founded

  • 1997 - VegFest DC - jointly organized by VUNA and the Vegtarian Society of the District of Columbia

  • 1999 - Paul Turner (USA) elected to the IVU Council
    - HappyCow's vegetarian restaurants guide launched
    - Guide to Vegetarian Restaurants launched

  • 2000 - 34th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Toronto, Canada
    - Gerry Coffey (USA) appointed as Regional Coordinator for North America
    - Christian Vegetarian Association founded

  • 2001 - Vegetarians of Washington founded

  • 2002 - 35th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Edinburgh, Scotland
    Jeff's Congress Journal - by Jeff Freedman of Toronto, sent out daily during the Congress.
    - Congress Report - by Rynn Berry, USA

  • 2005 - Caryn Hartglass (USA) elected to the IVU Council

  • 2006 - Dilip Barman (USA) elected to the IVU Council

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