International Women’s Day & Clara Zetkin

Welcome to Sheroes of History! Thanks so much for stopping by to have a look. As this site grows this page will fill with the stories of incredible women from the past – our Sheroes of History. Please have a look at the ‘About’ page to find out more and check out the ‘Get Involved’ page to see how you can contribute to Sheroes of History.

The reason I have started Sheroes of History is because there are so many incredible women who have lived before us and done amazing things, but who we may have never heard of.

History has overwhelmingly been written by men, about men. There are a handful of amazing women we have heard of, but there are so many more whose inspiring stories have gone untold. I believe that young girls especially need more role-models to look up to: Sheroes who will show them that they can be whatever they want to be; that they can change the world; that their actions can make a difference and that girls can be superheroes too.

I have launched the blog today because March 8th is International Women’s Day! So I thought my first Shero of History would be the woman who came up with the idea for the day over 100 years ago. Her name was Clara Zetkin.

Clara Zetkin
Clara Zetkin

The first thing I discovered was that actually, the very first International Women’s Day wasn’t on the 8th March! In fact it was celebrated several days later on the 18th March 1911. Over One million women and men in  Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland took part.

Clara had originally suggested the idea at a big conference for working women that had been held in Copenhagen (Denmark) the year before. She said that there should be one day every year when women all around the world would join together and demand equality.

There were women there from 17 different countries, and they all loved her idea! The following year on 18th March the very first International Women’s Day was held.

Clara was German and involved in politics for most of her life. She campaigned for women to be allowed to vote and to have equal rights with men. She saw how women were paid less than men and often exploited in the workplace, so she fought to change things. She strongly believed that the fight for women’s equality was closely linked to the fight for all people to be treated equally, particularly in the world of work.

Clara was a socialist and friends with another Shero, Rosa Luxembourg. Along with Rosa and other socialist friends she started a secret organisation called The Spartacus League, who made an illegal newspaper called The Spartacus Letters, which they used to spread their ideas about equality.

She was one of very few people who openly disagreed with the First World War, and in 1915 she organised the International Women’s Peace Conference.

She said:

“Who profits from this war? Only a tiny minority in each nation: The manufacturers of rifles and cannons, of armor-plate and torpedo boats, the shipyard owners and the suppliers of the armed forces’ needs. In the interests of their profits, they have fanned the hatred among the people, this contributing to the outbreak of the war. The workers have nothing to gain from this war, but they stand to lose everything that is dear to them.”

After the war had ended Clara started a political party with her friends, called The German Communist Party. Even when she was 75 and nearly at the end of her life she was still involved in politics and was elected to the German parliament, The Reichstag. In 1932, on year before she died she used her platform to make a speech saying how bad she thought Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were.

Clara Zetkin’s idea for an International Women’s day caught on and 113 years later women all around the world still mark March 8th, speaking out about women’s rights, campaigning to end violence against women and celebrating the lives of awesome women,  like Clara, who do all they can to make a difference.

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