Who was Clara Zetkin?


According to my phone, it’s going to be 21° and sunny today. Sounds like park weather to me! That means you will likely be outside, but I thought you might like a little history to think about while you’re there. So, it seems appropriate to ask,”Who was Clara Zetkin?”

Born in Saxony in 1857, Clara’s world was different to ours in many ways. There were women in all types of work, but when those positions were in competition with men, they really had no chance of winning. Where they excelled was in being cheap labor. She, herself, had studied to be a teacher. Her father was a school master and her mother was highly educated (middle class Leipzig family with French roots). This was the background that led her to the women’s and labour movements and soon to join the Socialist Workers’ Party (the SDP since 1890).

When she was 20, a ban was placed on socialist activities by Bismark. This did not stop her: by 24 she left for Zurich and 4 years later went into exile in France, where she played an instrumental role in the founding of the Socialist International. She went on to fight for women’s rights for all. In her day there was feminism, but only for the bourgeois.

During WWI she was anti-war and was often arrested. During WWII she fought against Hitler and was again forced into exile. She died near Moscow within the year. She was 76



czClara Zetkin  at  protest rally of the Communist Party, Berlin, 1921.



Zetkin was the name of her Russian-Jewish lover, with whom she had two children.

She was married to a man 18 years younger than she.

She founded International Women’s Day in 1911.


These interests of the workers, as the exploited and oppressed, class of society, are the same in all countries.

When the men kill, it is up to us women to fight for the preservation of life.

What made women’s labour particularly attractive to the capitalists was not only its lower price but also the greater submissiveness of women.

Interesting reading:

Clara Zetkin in the lion’s den

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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