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By Rachel Hally, ProQuest Product Manager

One hundred and four years ago, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated by women in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, following the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen, at which the holiday was declared. Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 around the world, with several countries recognizing it as an official state holiday.

This year’s theme is “Make It Happen,” and programs are planned around the globe to recognize women’s achievements.

The socialist movement of the early 20th century is a topic covered extensively in many ProQuest historical collections. Periodicals Archive Online includes the left-wing magazine The New Leader, which published several articles on International Women’s Day celebrations, indicating the interest and enthusiasm with which women around the world marked the earliest occasions of the holiday:

“While nearly every Socialist Party in Europe made a good showing in the celebration of International Women’s Day this year, the Social Democratic Party of Austria led the procession. On two Sundays in March, nearly 400 meetings were held in all parts of the Republic. In Vienna alone, about 100 meetings took place. The largest halls were requisitioned, and yet could not hold the masses of women who flocked to them. Previous to the meetings processions were held with flags, music and lanterns, at the head of which illuminated signs were carried with such inscriptions as 'Hurrah for the International Socialist Women’s Day!' [and] 'We demand protection for mothers, women workers and children.' "

Also in Periodicals Archive Online is an essay written by Temma Kaplan entitled, “Commentary on the Socialist Origins of International Women's Day.” The author examines the role German socialist Clara Zetkin played in organizing the first International Women’s Day, and teases out the somewhat contentious relationships between the socialist movement and the suffragist movement. Interestingly, many “socialists had taken a backseat to the suffragists in fighting for the vote because they viewed women’s political rights as subordinate to the economic advancement of the male working class.”

ProQuest® History Vault is a fascinating place to take up the research on the disagreements between socialists and feminists on the suffrage question. Dozens of records in the National Woman’s Party Papers, found in the module “Struggle for Women’s Rights: Organizational Records, 1880-1990” detail the ways in which the two movements worked together on some issues but held opposing views in other areas. In the National Woman’s Party Papers, there is an address given by Daniel De Leon to the Socialist Women of Greater New York in 1909 that describes the women’s suffrage movement as secondary to the need to address voting rights disparities among working-class men. De Leon goes as far as to say, “All the facts – all the reasoning focus into one conclusion. Woman Suffrage must take its place as an integral splinter in the torch that lights the path of the Social Revolution.”

Explore the interplay between the socialist and feminist movements further in Periodicals Archive Online and ProQuest History Vault

Librarians: Sign up for free trials and encourage further research with The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs, ProQuest Historical Newspapers™, ebooks, and more during Women’s History Month.

03 Mar 2015

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