Happy International Women's Day
One hundred years ago, the German socialist Clara Zetkin originated International Women's Day to coordinate women's demands around the world. Zetkin, who proposed this new holiday at the 1910 second International Conference of Working Women, was inspired by the power and organization of women labor activists -- many of whom were Jewish -- who had provoked sweeping changes in the garment industry in the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000. In March 1911, the first International Women's Day brought out more than 1 million women and men to demonstrate for women's rights to work, vote, and serve in public office.
Since then, International Women's Day, celebrated on March 8, has provided an opportunity for organizations big and small, from the UN to the neighborhood activist groups, both to celebrate women's accomplishments and campaign for further advances in women's rights. Like Jordan, who wrote eloquently about balancing the need to celebrate and act on International Women's Day, I appreciate the need for both celebrating how far some of us have come, and for making sure we keep our attention trained on the needs of women who do not have the freedom and privileges of most American Jewish women.
As reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have demonstrated in their book Half the Sky, women worldwide still bear the brunt of poverty, lack of education, and lack of health care. We can measure the success of developing countries by the success of their women -- where women succeed, society flourishes.
Of course, I don't think we should limit our celebrating of and activism for women to one day a year, but I think we can learn from the century of International Women's Days that we need to think about women in a global context and remember always what Bella Abzug taught us: that women's rights are human rights.