Brief History of WOCCU

   This document has been made available in electronic format  
            by the Committee for the Promotion and 
               Advancement of Cooperatives COPAC

                 A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE


Credit unions can be traced back to Rochdale, England, in
1844, when a group of weavers founded a cooperative store. The
members bought shares to raise capital and purchased goods to
sell to members at fair prices.

After the crop failure and famine of 1946 in Germany, a mill
and bakery cooperative was organized by a civil servant,
Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch.  In 1850, he established the first
credit cooperative credit society, which later was known as a
"People's Bank."


In 1864, Freiderich Raiffeisen, the mayor of Heddesdorf,
Germany, formed the first credit union.  Raiffeisen also
established the first credit union central bank in 1876, and a
year later, an organization for credit unions- a federation.

The credit union idea spread quickly throughout Europe.  For
example, Luigi Luzzati started the first cooperative bank in
Italy.  By 1909, there were 735 such cooperatives in this
country.  Although wars and border changes affected
developments, credit cooperatives today enjoy a large market
share of savings and loans in many Western European countries.


In 1900, Alphonse Desjardins, a French-Canadian journalist,
founded the first credit union in North America in his native
town of Levis.  He called it "La Caisse Populaire," or the
People's Bank.

Eight years later in Manchester, New Hampshire, Desjardins
helped organize the first credit union in the United States,
known today as St. Mary's Bank.  Around this time, Edward
Filene, a wealthy merchant from Boston, Massachusetts,
observed a village credit cooperative in India.  Filene was so
impressed that he would devote his life and considerable
fortune to credit union development.


Full-scale organizing in the United States started with the
Credit Union National Extension Bureau in 1921.  Filene
financed the operation and hired a lawyer named Roy F.
Bergengren to run it.

Bergengren was a true believer; he travelled thousands of
miles to plead the credit union cause.  His mission paid
off-26 states passed credit union laws by 1925.

In June 1934, the Federal Credit Union Act was signed into
law.  In the same year, the Credit Union National Association
(CUNA) was formed as the trade association for credit unions
in the United States.


International assistance began when the first exchange of
information about cooperatives crossed the German border. 
This assistance later included Desjardins' help to the
fledgling American movement.

Filene and Bergengren began answering calls for help outside
the United States.  Assistance was given in the 1920s in Nova
Scotia, Canada, then in the Philippines in the late 1930s.

In the 1940s assistance was given in Jamaica and Belize; a
decade later Father Marion Ganey took the credit union idea to
Fiji.  Korean credit unions were developed and sparked the
Asian movement.  The Irish credit union movement was begun by
Nora Herlihy and a small group of pioneers.

In 1954, one year before his death, Bergengren asked
representatives at a CUNA national meeting to vote for an
overseas program.  The CUNA directors agreed with Bergengren
and created the World Extension Department.


Enabling legislation for credit unions was-and still is-a
powerful catalyst for growth. Since the 1960s, the U.S.
government has officially encouraged cooperative and credit
union development through its foreign assistance legislation,
making it the first industrialized nation to do so.

International assistance is now given directly by credit union
movements, often in collaboration with government programs.
Australia, Canada (both English and French-speaking), France,
Germany, Ireland, and the United States are the most active in
international assistance.


As a logical extension of developing linkages and a clear-cut
need, the World Council of Credit Unions was created in 1971.
By 1994, the World Council represented almost 90 national
movements with nearly 100 million members.

The World Council serves its members as a representative body,
a provider of services, and a forum for the exchange of

For further information, please contact either World Council
of Credit Unions office.

     World Council of Credit Unions
     PO Box 2982
     Madison, WI 53701-2982, USA
     Phone     + 1 608 231-7130
     Fax       + 1 608 238-8020


     805 15th Street NW, Suite 300
     Washington, DC 20005-2207, USA
     Phone:    +1 202 682-5990
     Fax:      +1 202 682-9054