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In naming the holiday, Zetkin used the word women, and not women workers, acknowledging that women were a separate organizing category. Initially they were hostile, considering voting rights a bourgeois demand.Or as Alexandra Kollontai wrote in 1908: “’The woman question—say the feminists—is a question of ‘rights and justice.’” ‘The woman question—answer the women workers—is a question of a crust of bread.” In time, noting the appeal to women workers of the suffrage movement, key activists reconsidered and reframed the issue of suffrage.Discussions of the role of women in 1917 downplay any connection between women’s activism and women’s rights.Working and peasant women, according to this narrative, were largely concerned with their economic needs.From the beginning, its commemoration in Russia sparked conflict as activists across the feminist-socialist spectrum claimed the holiday.Feminists emphasized the cross-class organizing of women and socialists viewed the day as a way to mobilize working class women to join with their brothers in the revolutionary struggle.Consciousness about women and gender is not a matter of political correctness. A full picture of 1917 must include the role of members of the majority of Russia’s population as well as the gender assumptions operative in critical events of the year.Much progress has been made in researching and writing about women and gender in the early twentieth century, during the late Tsarist period and the early Soviet years.
Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the largely male Petrograd socialist leaders expected the celebration of International Women’s Day to be the catalyst for revolution.
No account of 1917 in Russia can be complete without mention of the ways in which the fight for women’s suffrage, the most sweeping democratic reform of the twentieth century, was an important theme and rallying point in the revolutionary fervor of that year.
The successful campaign in Russia for women’s suffrage is rooted in the nature of Russia’s opposition movements.
Searching for ways to attract more women to the cause of socialism worldwide, leading socialist women’s activist Clara Zetkin called for the establishment of “a special Women’s Day,” whose primary purpose would be “to promote Women's Suffrage propaganda," at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Copenhagen.
Zetkin came to view suffrage as a democratic reform advantageous to the proletariat.
Only one socialist leaflet was distributed for International Women’s Day.