July 5, 1857 marked the birth of a very influential woman in the messy political world of the early twentieth century, Clara Zetkin. She was a Socialist and Women’s Rights Activist in Germany during the last years of the Second Reich. During the period of the Weimar Republic, she served in the Reichstag as a member of the German Communist Party shortly after women gained suffrage in Germany in 1919.
Zetkin is perhaps best known for calling and organizing the first International Women’s Day along with Rosa Luxemburg. The IWD was celebrated on March 19, 1911 and was meant to call attention to the difficulties facing working women from around the world. The need for such a rally was punctuated less than a week after the celebration by the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan. The IWD held in Russia in 1917 was a key event in the revolutions that shook Russia that year – leading to the rise of Lenin’s Soviet Union.
When Hitler came to power in Germany and outlawed the Communist Party, Zetkin moved to the outskirts of Moscow where she had honors heaped upon her by Lenin’s government in recognition for all she did for the Communist cause. She died there in 1933, was cremated, and her ashes were buried within the walls of the Kremlin.