because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Clara Zetkin

Born in Germany in 1857, Clara Zetkin first studied to be a teacher, but her heart was in workers' rights in general and women's rights in particular and she became involved in movements related to both by the time she was seventeen-years-old. When her political affiliations became illegal in 1878, Zetkin went into exile in Paris, but her work went on.

First, she helped found the Socialist International while bearing two sons to a Russian revolutionary who then died. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Zetkin returned to Germany, started a newspaper on women's rights entitled Die Gleichheit (Equality), married a man eighteen years her junior(!), and launched the idea for International Women's Day (originally International Working Women's Day) in Copenhagen in 1910.

No one -- not even her -- knew if anyone would take notice, let alone do anything about it, but women all over Europe responded in 1911, holding meetings even in small towns and villages. Tens of thousands of women marched in the streets of most of Europe's major cities (more than a million in all) while the men stayed home with their children.

In 1916, Zetkin and a few others formed a Marxist revolutionary movement they called the Spartacus League, which morphed into the Communist Party of Germany a few years later. Staying highly active in this organization for more than a decade, Zetkin called for Germans to fight National Socialism when Hitler began his meteoric rise. Consequently, she was forced into exile once more (in the Soviet Union this time), where she died and was buried by the Kremlin wall with other people who had spent their lives fighting for workers' rights. It's doubtful that many women who celebrate International Women's Day even know who Zetkin was. But every year on March 8th, this in-your-face woman's work makes yet another contribution to the evolution of in-your-face women around the world. Impressive, huh?

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