What Were the Origins of International Women's Day, 1886-1920?
Avery, Rachel Foster (1858 - 1919) - A suffragist who helped found the International Council of Women in 1888, and served as the secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance from its founding in 1904 until 1909. Served as First Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1907 and served until 1910, when she and Florence Kelley and others resigned in protest against the association's ineffectual leadership.
Bebel, August (1840-1913) - An influential Social Democratic Party leader and member of the German Imperial Parliament, the Reichstag. Author of an influential theoretical work about the oppression of women, Women in the Past, Present and Future (1884), which after 1890 was titled Women and Socialism and after 1910 Women under Socialism.
Belmont, Alva (Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont) (1853-1933) - One of the wealthiest women in New York City, Alva Belmont in 1908 put her substantial resources into the suffrage movement, and in 1909 supported the shirtwaist makers' strike. After 1916 she nearly single-handedly funded the National Woman's Party.
Bernstein, Edward (1850-1932) - A leader of the German Social Democratic party, Bernstein believed that socialism could be implemented through Parliamentary means. Author of Evolutionary Socialism (1898).
Boissevain, Inez Milholland (1886-1916) - An active suffragist while a student at Vassar College from which she graduated in 1909. In the shirtwaist makers' strike she walked on picket lines, raised money, and gave legal advice. Received a law degree from New York University in 1912. In the spring of 1915 she sailed for Italy, and covered WWI as a war correspondent.
Cole, Elsie La Grange - Socialist who worked with the Women's Trade Union League. She and Elizabeth Dutcher produced the special edition of the New York Call that strikers sold to gain publicity and raise money for their cause.
Dreier, Mary E. (1875-1963) - President of the New York Women's Trade Union League from 1906 to 1914. Was arrested during the 1909 strike stimulating wider public interest in the strike. From 1911 to 1915 served as a member of the New York State Factory Investigating Commission and helped draft labor legislation that revolutionized New York's labor laws.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1860-1935) - A feminist writer and lecturer. Her book, Women and Economics (1898) was the era's most substantial theoretical analysis of women's economic standing. Co-founder of the Women's Peace Party in 1915.
Gompers, Samuel (1850-1924) - Founding President of the American Federation of Labor, 1886-1924. Not a Socialist. To make unionism respectable, he encouraged written trade agreements and advocated the primacy of national organizations over local unions.
Hillquit, Morris (1869-1933) - A Socialist Party member from New York who ran for Congress in 1906 and 1908. Brought the Socialist Labor Party into Eugene Debs' Social Democracy in America coalition in 1901. Author of The History of Socialism in the United States (1903) and Loose Leaves from a Busy Life (1933).
Jewish Daily Forward - The most widely read Yiddish language newspaper in the world in 1910. Founded in 1897 by Abraham Cahan who edited the paper from 1903 until 1951, the paper had a peak circulation of 250,000. In the 1910s it became widely known for its sociological investigations into Jewish neighborhood life.
Kelley, Florence (1859-1932) - The General Secretary of the National Consumers' League, 1899-1932, lived at Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago in the 1890s and at Lillian Wald's Henry Street Settlement in New York 1899-1926. While living in Germany in the 1890s, she joined the Social Democratic Party, and closely followed the women's movement within the party thereafter. In 1893 she was appointed as Illinois' Chief Factory Inspector. (See the Illinois Factory Inspection project, also on this website). As General Secretary of the National Consumers' League she worked to obtain minimum wage and maximum hour legislation to protect women workers. An active member of the Socialist Party, she often spoke on behalf of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.
Knights of Labor - Officially called the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, the Knights were the largest American labor organization in the nineteenth century. Knights' membership peaked at 750,000 in the 1880s. After 1886 it was supplanted by the American Federation of Labor. Many radicals who were active after 1900 obtained their early organizing experience with the Knights.
Konikow, Dr. Antoinette (1869-1946) - A Socialist Party member and pioneer physician in the birth control movement. Founding member of the Woman's National Committee instituted by the 1908 National Socialist Convention. In 1919 a founder of the Communist Party of the U.S. Author of Voluntary Motherhood (1923) and Physicians' Manual of Birth Control (1931).
Krehbiel, Luella Roberts - A Suffrage lecturer who joined the Socialist movement and became a state organizer for the Socialist Party in Kansas. Organized women's clubs within the Socialist Party. Ladies' Waistmakers' Union - Shirtwaist makers' union -- a branch of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
Lemlich, Clara - One of the founding members of ILGWU Local 25, whose membership was primarily Russian Jewish and socialist, Lemlich was an organizer of the shirtwaist makers' 1909 strike. At the meeting at Cooper Union that launched the strike, she called for a general strike and urged all present to take an old Jewish oath, "If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise."
London, Meyer (1871-1926) - A labor lawyer and Socialist Congressman (1915-1919, 1921-1923) from New York City's Lower East Side. Negotiated for workers in major garment industry strikes in 1910 and 1912, bringing workers significant gains.
Malkiel, Theresa - A leader in the Branch One of the Socialist Women's Society of Greater New York, and in 1908 elected a member of the Woman's National Committee of the Socialist Party. She actively supported the 1909 shirtwaist strike. In her novel Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker (1910), she denounced the oppression of women in both the workplace and the home.
Marot, Helen - She became Executive Secretary of the New York branch of the Women's Trade Union League in 1906, and a founding member of a union for bookkeepers, stenographers, and accountants. In 1912 she urged the WTUL to organize women along industrial lines and to support striking Lawrence textile workers.
Newman, Pauline (1888?-1986) - A labor organizer for the ILGWU, she was a leader in the shirtwaist makers' strike and a member of both the WTUL and the Socialist Party of America. She served as a labor adviser to the U.S. Department of Labor in the 1930s and 1940s.
O'Reilly, Leonora - A member of both the WTUL in New York City and the Socialist Party of America. A union organizer who supported the shirtwaist makers' strike, and worked closely with Rose Schneiderman and Mary Dreier in the WTUL. O'Reilly publicized Woman's Day.
Progressive Woman - Founded in 1907 as Socialist Woman by Josephine Conger-Kaneko as the official organ of the Woman's National Committee of the Socialist Party of America. Name changed to Progressive Woman in 1908 in an effort to achieve a wider readership. At its peak in 1912 had 3,000 subscribers. Ceased publication in 1913.
Rauh, Ida - A supporter of the WTUL and of the shirtwaist strikers. Like Violet Pike, she sympathized with socialism, but was not a member of the Socialist Party. After 1916 became a birth control activist.
Schneiderman, Rose - An immigrant from Eastern Europe who worked in the garment industry and formed a local of the United Cloth Hat and Cap Makers Union. She involved herself in the shirtwaist strike. In 1912 she campaigned for woman suffrage and coined the phrase "bread and roses." President of the National WTUL from 1926-1950. See document 26 in Lawrence strike editorial project, also on this website.
Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909-1910 - Members of ILGWU Local 25 who led 20,000 shirtwaist makers on strike for three months between Nov. 1909 and Feb. 1910. Supported by the WTUL, the Socialist Party, and wealthy women in New York City.
Simons, May Wood - In 1909 one of the original members of the Woman's National Committee of the Socialist Party of America. Author of Woman and the Social Problem (1907). Worked with her husband, A. M. Simons, on the International Socialist Review and other publications.
Socialist Party of America - Formed by Eugene V. Debs in 1901, the party enjoyed its greatest strength in the 1912 election with Debs polling fourth behind Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The party was very active in the 1910s, supporting woman suffrage and other progressive issues.
St. Petersburg - A city in northern Russia built by Peter the Great, was the capital of Russia, 1712-1918. In 1917 the site of the launching of the Russian Revolution. During the Soviet era the city's name was changed to Leningrad.
Stokes, Rose Pastor (1879-1933) - A cigar maker before she married millionaire J. G. Phelps Stokes in 1905. A leader of women's activities within the Socialist party, Stokes aided the shirtwaist strikers by opening lunchrooms around the city where strikers could get free lunches. She also spoke to audiences of garment workers. A founding member in 1919 of the Communist Party, she was a lifelong activist even after her divorce from Phelps Stokes in 1925.
Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) - Established by social settlement reformers and working women in 1903, with branches in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the WTUL organized the creation of unions of women workers in the garment and other semi-skilled industries. Affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Remained active until 1955.
Younger, Maud (1870-1936) - A suffragist and labor reformer, she became known as "the millionaire waitress" after founding a waitress union in San Francisco in 1908 and becoming its president. Joined the WTUL and campaigned for protective labor legislation for women and in 1916 became a founding member of the National Woman's Party.
International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) - A center of Jewish immigrant radicalism, shaped by socialist traditions in the Jewish Bund in Russia. Founded in 1901, the union gained significant strength through the 1909 shirtwaist strike.
Zetkin, Clara - The editor of Die Gleichheit (1892-1917) and the leading theoretician of women's activism in the workers' struggle and of equal rights for working-class women. She attended both the First Women's Conference in Stuttgart in 1907 and the Second International Socialist Women's Conference in Copenhagen in 1910.