In Honour of International Women’s Day: In the Words of Our Founding Mothers

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Lucille Barrett
Lucille Barrett
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Since its inception in the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has inspired many  actions and women around the world from Africa to China to Latin America and Europe. In the United States it was repressed for much of the 20th century, except in small radical communities, due to the strong anti-socialist bias. It was revived under the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and continues among progressives today.

 Peggy Rapp and Susan Pashkoff have been celebrating International Women’s Day for some years on the Anti-capitalist meet-up blog and we reproduce their latest piece here. They say:

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!We want to discuss not only women that were known as leaders or that were heralded during their times; but to remind people of the voices of those who fought on the shop-floors, those that became “leaders” due to circumstance. Their actions and speeches inspired and moved others and they are still relevant. We wanted to allow women to speak for themselves, so we reproduced some quotes from these women.


We’d like to ask our readers to use the comments section to suggest some of the other women in the world that we might include in an “updated” version of our history and why you wish to include them (with a little history or anecdote if you can).  We have decided to add each year a woman whose work embodies and continues the women’s struggles in this piece. 

This year we have chosen Sister Berta Cáceres who was just assassinated in her home in Honduras on March 3rd 2016. Berta Cáceres was a member of the Lenca indigenous tribe who worked both as an organiser of the Indigenous people and a leader of the struggle for indigenous land rights and natural resources and an environmental activist who participated in a grass-roots campaign to stop the building of the Agua Zarca Dam. In 1993, she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) in response to growing violence against indigenous people and to secure their territorial rights and to struggle against massive economic inequality from which the Lenca are especially victimised. She won theGoldman Environmental Prize in 2015.  The murderers of environmental activists in Honduras have another victim, but the struggle continues and will not be silenced!


International Women’s Day (8 March) was originally called International Working Women’s Day. It was a socialist holiday established in 1911 by the Socialist International and is celebrated by women’s groups around the world. In many countries, it is a national holiday and has recently been officially recognized by the United Nations. However, up until the 1970’s, with the advent of a new women’s movement, the radical working class roots of IWD had been practically forgotten. Due to its socialist leaning, it was excised from the United States memory, much as Labor Day replaced May Day, except in small immigrant enclaves or radical union groups. In Europe and the rest of the world, it continued to be widely celebrated, but tended to honour women in name only, mostly with flowers or by simply putting a woman’s face on a male agenda. IWD, in fact, was the culmination of a century of women working in the labour, feminist, socialist, and anti-slavery and segregation movements to bring together the common interests of the working class and women’s rights advocates.

Three major trends led to the establishment of IWD. The first was a revolutionary fervour in Europe and the United States toward socialism, democratization and the vote.

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