International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Mathilde Hompes

First IVU General Secretary, 1913-1923

We know that Mathilde Hompes was writing for The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) from at least October 1896. Her column was entitled 'Foreign Notes' which provided a summary of world vegetarianism, she continued with this until at least 1909 and it has proven extremely valuable for historical research.

In 1900 she was "sent to the Paris Exhibition by the Southport Food Reformers as their representative" at the International Vegetarian Congress, and she was a speaker at one of the sessions.

Her obituary was published in The Vegetarian Messenger in the 1924. It stated that she was of German-Jewish origin but had lived in Manchester, England since the early years of the 20th century (the above shows that it was slightly earlier than that). We hope to reproduce the obituary here in due course.

The first mention of her in connection with IVU was in the report of the 2nd IVU Congress, held in Manchester in 1909:

Miss Hompes assured the guests from the knowledge gained by her long residence in this city, that nowhere could they meet with greater courtesy and kindness. She knew that when their visit came to an end they would agree with her that the opinion so often expressed on the Continent of Europe that Englishmen were not polite, was a fiction based on imperfect knowledge ; and so well did our English friends bear themselves that several of the delegates did actually witness the truth of Miss Hompes' prophecy. They vowed that they had "quite changed their opinion about English people."

The author of that detailed report on the Congress was 'M.Hompes'. She was again the author of the report on 1910 Congress for the Vegetarian Messenger, giving brief reference to herself:

The two delegates from Manchester, representing the Vegetarian Society, were Dr. Wm. E.A. Axon and Miss Hompes. Dr. Axon gave a few words of greeting in true hearty English, and then Miss Hompes read a fairly full report - substantial Dr. Nyssens called it - of the organisation and work of our Society, ... It is probable that Miss Hompes report may be printed later.

The report on the 1913 Congress was credited a little more boldly at the top, instead of at the bottom as in the previous two: 'International Vegetarian Congress at The Hague. By Mathilde Hompes'. Again she makes brief references to herself:

The delegates of the Vegetarian Society, Rev A.O.Broadley and Miss Mahilde Hompes, spoke respectively on "The Vegetarian Church in Salford" and "Vegetarianism and Peace." The latter was read in Dutch before the Public Meeting on Monday evening. Both were well received. ...

... On Tuesday evening it was suggested that the International Union should nominate a Secretary, and that the various Societies belonging to it should contribute towards a fund for the Union. This was deferred to the General Committee, which met later in the day. Rules for raising a fund were drawn up and Miss Mathilde Hompes, of Manchester, was elected Hon. Secretary of the International Vegetarian Union.

Mathilde Hompes at the 1923 Congress,
a year before she died.

By this time Miss Hompes had become the Editor of the Vegetarian Messenger, and retained that post throughout the first world war - a significant achievement in view of the anti-German hysteria in Britain at that time. The IVU Congresses were inevitably cancelled and did not resume until 1923, in Sweden, from where Mathilde was again reporting for the Messenger:

[from a pre-Congress notice] : Miss Hompes, 26 Denham Street, C-on-M, Manchester, is the General Secretary.

... the Roll Call of the Delegates... England - Miss Mathilde Hompes (Editor of Vegetarian Messenger, General Secretary of the International Vegetarian Union), ...

... The Hon. General Secretary of the International Vegetarian Union, Miss Mathilde Hompes (Manchester), read a full report or the work of the Union,...

... General Secretary : Miss Hompes expressed her desire to retire. This was reluctantly and regrettully accepted and she was elected General Secretary Emeritus for Life, with consulting and voting powers. Miss Hompes proposed the Honorable Miss Ortt of the Hague as her successor and Miss Ortt was duly elected ...

At the next Congress, 1926 in London, England, the new General Secretary gave her report:

The report opened with a sympathetic reference to the passing away, on the 3rd of March, 1924, of Miss Mathilde Hompes, the first Secretary of the International Vegetarian Union, and the company stood in silence in recognition of her character and work.

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