George Papandreou, who had won the elections in 1964 with a 53 percent majority, was driven to resign on July 15, 1965, after intense meddling in the political affairs of the government by King Constantine II and his mother, Queen Frederika, and their support by Panos Kokkas, publisher of the newspaper Eleutheria (Freedom). The Palace managed to install a number of short-lived governments following the dismissal of Papandreou, which were supported by the twenty-five apostate members of the EK (Enosis Kentrou, Center Union), an event that came to be known as the Apostasy. A time of great political upheaval followed the Apostasy, with political assassinations, intensified political violence, state repression, and manufactured trials. Major strikes and demonstrations in Athens ended in police brutality. The demonstration of July 21, 1965, resulted in the death of the university student Soteres Petroulas when he was hit by the canister of a smoke bomb. A week later, on July 27, a major strike and demonstration organized and led by the union of construction workers turned downtown Athens into a war zone. The Apostasy, and the governments that it supported, made the junta of 1967 possible. Among the apostates were: the later leader of the Right-wing New Democracy Party and prime minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who is still considered to be the leader of the apostates; Theophanis Rentis (the son of Konstantinos Rentis, who was implicated in the Beloyiannis execution); Elias Tsirimokos, member of the Resistance, secretary of justice in the PEEA government of 1944, and then exiled to Makrónisos, who in August 1965 constituted a pro-royalist government, which failed to gain a vote of confidence and was dismantled.
The Union of Democratic Women was formed as a (small and local) center of resistance to escalating political corruption, violence, and violation of the democratic rule of law by women ranging from employees in or retirees from various branches of the private and the public sector, to housewives, to women who were informally helping in their husbands' private medical and law practices. Interestingly enough, the women who formed the Union, some of them members of the Left during the emphýlios, seemed to have forgotten or forgiven Papandreou's role in establishing the camps on Makrónisos and Yáros and in the persecution of the Left. Or, as one of these women mentioned to me recently, Papandreou in 1964 presented a chance for a liberal democracy in the face of the rapidly advancing Right wing and its political excesses.
The Union was local, and the women either had known each other since childhood or, for those who had moved to the area as a result of marriage, had been acquainted through their husbands. By all accounts, there was an astonishing level of familiarity among them, resulting in friendships that have lasted until now. The Union was involved in various cultural and charity projects, from organizing poetry readings to running a soup kitchen, which was still in operation in the 1960s, for the children of the victims of the emphýlios. As one of these women mentioned in a recent interview, when the Union was closed down a few days after the junta in 1967, they all thought that this was a temporary suspension of operations and anticipated that the Union would resume operation after the fall of the junta. “But,” she said, “with the fall of the junta things were so changed, we were all so tired and exhausted, we were older, and with the creation of PASOK we had no reason to run an organization just for women.”