Posted March 8, 2009
March 8 is celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day, but IWD is not very well known or celebrated in the country of its birth. Fortunately the feminist movement of the 1970s has at least partially uncovered and reintroduced it.
IWD arose out of the work of the Socialist Party’s Women’s Commission, which demanded in 1910 that the party set aside a special day to coordinate on a national level the campaign for women’s suffrage.
Dozens of socialist papers carried special articles about the need for women’s suffrage and leaflets were distributed in the various languages of the U.S. working class spoke then. Between 1896-1910 no state had been added to the suffrage column–but between 1910-1917 the party played an important role in winning women’s suffrage in five states: California, Kansas and Nevada in 1912 and New York and Oklahoma in 1917.
Following on the success of the initial action, the party proposed to the congress of the Second International that the action become an international event, as it has been for nearly a century.
In addition, American socialist feminists of that period were very active around the fight for “voluntary motherhood,” as the struggle for women’s right to make reproductive choices was then known. Socialist feminists also discussed what kind of housing arrangements would work best for the world they wanted to build–suggesting child care centers and communal kitchens ought to be built in apartment complexes.
Louise Kneeland summed up the perspective of a growing number of socialist feminists when she wrote, in 1914: “The socialist who is not a Feminist lacks breadth. The Feminist who is not a Socialist is lacking in strategy.”