The Radical Origins of International Women's Day

The Radical Origins of International Women's Day

Gender is a construct.... We all live on a continuum, but I never miss an opportunity to celebrate women and know more about history.

Did you know that International Women's Day was started in 1910 by the American Socialist Party? A first event in America took place in 1909, inspired by Theresa Malkiel, a Ukranian-born American labor activist, suffragist, and educator. By the next year the event had gone international largely in Communist countries through a network of brilliant women intellectuals including Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede and Rosa Luxemburg. 

Here is a picture of Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg in 1910. They were both anti-fascists and anti-racists. Clara Zetkin called out white supremacy within the American Socialist movement during a speaking tour to the American South. Rosa Luxemburg was murdered in Berlin in 1919 because of her opposition to fascism, imperialism and obscene accumulation of wealth.

May we be bold in their honor and in the name of MANY other women who have come before us. Particularly the women of color who were not allowed to even join organizations like the American Socialist Party (had they wanted to) until the 20th century. Of course, women in other communities formed their own societies, more on that below. Most struggles are not easily won.

Let's look at another brilliant thinker, Jane Datcher, Black scientist.

We celebrate Jane Eleanor Datcher, a botanist and the first Black woman to graduate with a degree from Cornell University. She was born in 1868 in Washington, D.C., Her research involved a species of Anemone flower, a relative of the buttercup. In addition to her scientific contributions she was involved with the Colored Women's League, and 1892-founded club for educated African American women. She went on to attend Howard Medical School and was a chemistry teacher at a public high school in Washington, D.C. until her death in 1934.  


By the 1970s, International Women's Day was adopted by the Second-wave Feminist Movement. 

Around the world, the holiday continues to be an opportunity for women to mobilize to call attention to important issues in their lives. 


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