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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Clara Zetkin

b. 1857, Wiederau, Saxony; 1933, Arkhangelskoye, Russia

Clara Zetkin was a radical leader in the socialist and feminist movements. Raised in a middle-class family, she married the revolutionary Osip Zetkin and joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1896, at an SPD congress, she gave an influential speech on the liberation of working-class women. An expanded discussion of this topic appeared in the magazine Die Gleichheit (Equality), which she edited from 1892 to 1916. Zetkin co-organized the International Socialist Women’s Congress, the Spartacist League (with, among others, Rosa Luxemburg), International Women’s Day, and opposition to World War I. In 1919, she became a founding member of the German Communist Party, served in the Reichstag starting in 1920, and was elected to the presidium of Moscow’s Third International in 1921. She joined the international crusade against America’s Jim Crow laws and the conviction of the Scottsboro Boys. A fierce opponent of Hitler and the Nazi Party, Zetkin opened the 1932 session of the Reichstag with a powerful denunciation of fascism. A few months later, the Nazis had triumphed in Germany and Zetkin exiled to Russia.