A valuable, brief early history of International Socialist Women’s Day from Meta L. Stern, a comrade who played a central role in its origins. Meta Lilienthal Stern, who often wrote under the widely known pen-name of ‘Hebe,’ was the child of German Socialist emigres became associate editor of the New York Volkszeitung, the leading German-language Socialist paper in the U.S. and was the translator of Bebel’s full ‘Women and Socialism’ into English. Instrumental in setting up the Socialist Party’s Women’s Deportment in 1908, and the New York Women’s Day in 1909 that would inspire Clara Zetkin and others to call an International Socialist Women’s Day in 1911.
‘Our International Women’s Day’ by Meta L. Stern (Hebe) from The Progressive Woman. Vol. 6 No. 68. February, 1913.
Formerly the home was our world;
Today the world is our home.
For four years the Socialists of this country have been observing a national Woman’s Day. On the last Sunday of each February, Socialists from the Atlantic to the Pacific have been holding special meetings to explain and set forth the Socialist attitude toward the woman question, and to arouse among women of the working class an interest in their own class and sex problems.
Among a group of German women comrades in New York, well versed and experienced in the Socialist movement, this idea originated. It was taken up by the National Woman’s Committee and by many local committees, and was generally approved of by the rank and file of the party. The very first observance of our national Woman’s Day, on February 28, 1909, proved so successful that Woman’s Day became generally accepted as an annual Socialist holiday, and already we are accustomed to look forward to this event as we do to the annual May Day parades and the annual election campaigns.
This year the scope and meaning of our Woman’s Day is being vastly extended. Not only will it be a national Socialist holiday, but also an international one; for the women of other lands have taken up the idea of their American comrades, and will also observe the last Sunday in February as a day set aside for special agitation among women. During the spring of 1912 the Socialist women of Germany, Austria and Switzerland already held similar gatherings; but as they were held at different times in the different countries, the international character of the demonstration was lost. This year the National Woman’s Committee of the Socialist party, through its foreign correspondent, has sent out a special call to the Socialist women of other lands, asking them to observe an international Woman’s Day on the last Sunday in February. It is expected that the Socialists of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and perhaps also those of the Scandinavian countries, will comply with this request. Although it. may take some years until others fall in line, it is to be expected that eventually Woman’s Day will be observed by the progressive working men and women of all countries, like that international day of organized labor, May 1. Both May Day and Woman’s Day stand for new hopes and new ideals; the abolition of wage slavery and sex slavery; the coming of a freer, better and happier manhood and womanhood.
Progressive Woman replaced The Socialist Woman. The Socialist Woman was a monthly magazine edited by Josephine Conger-Kaneko from 1907 with this aim: “The Socialist Woman exists for the sole purpose of bringing women into touch with the Socialist idea. We intend to make this paper a forum for the discussion of problems that lie closest to women’s lives, from the Socialist standpoint”. In 1908, Conger-Kaneko and her husband Japanese socialist Kiichi Kaneko moved to Girard, Kansas home of Appeal to Reason, which would print Socialist Woman. In 1909 it was renamed The Progressive Woman, and The Coming Nation in 1913. Its contributors included Socialist Party activist Kate Richards O’Hare, Alice Stone Blackwell, Eugene V. Debs, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and others. A treat of the journal was the For Kiddies in Socialist Homes column by Elizabeth Vincent.The Progressive Woman lasted until 1916.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/socialist-woman/130200-progressivewoman-v6w68.pdf