Lily Braun (1865–1916): Consider reforming before revolting

Lily Braun

Photo: courtesy of Lebendiges Museum Online (Deutsches Historisches Museum)

Braun was a feminist writer and a politician within the German Social Democratic Party. Her 1901 book, The Women’s Question: Historical Development and Economic Aspect proposed many novel solutions to the challenges faced by working mothers, including proposals for what she called “maternity insurance”. Braun was a moderate and a reformer and did not believe that revolution was necessary to achieve socialism. From her work we can learn that, under the right circumstances, evolution can be as effective as revolution.

Elena Lagadinova (1930–2017): We ‘can have it all’ - but we need state intervention

Elena Lagadinova

Elena Lagadinova (right, with Angela Davis). Photo: courtesy of Elena Lagadinova

Lagadinova was the youngest female partisan fighting against Bulgaria’s Nazi-allied monarchy during World War II. She earned her PhD in agrobiology and worked as a research scientist before she became the president of the Committee of the Bulgarian Women’s Movement. Lagadinova led the Bulgarian delegation to the 1975 United Nations First World Conference on Women. Because free markets discriminate against those who bear children, Lagadinova believed that only state intervention could support women in their dual roles as workers and mothers. From her we can learn that we shouldn’t have to choose between childbearing and pursuing the careers we love - and we should be unashamed to fight for that right.

Clara Zetkin (1857–1933): We are going to need the men

Clara Zetkin

Photo: courtesy of Archiv der sozialen Demokratie/ Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

Editor of Die Gleichheit (Equality) a journal of the German Social Democratic Party, Zetkin was a key architect of socialist women’s activism. She was the founder of International Women’s Day in 1910, celebrated each year on March 8. After the outbreak of World War I, she split with the German Social Democratic Party and became active in the German Communist Party, serving as a member of the Constituent Assembly during the Weimar Republic. Zetkin believed that socialist men and women needed to work together to overthrow the bourgeoisie and disdained independent feminists. She showed us that working together to fight patriarchy can save us all - capitalism works for no one.

Inessa Armand (1874–1920): Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in

Inessa Armand

Photo: courtesy of Sputnik

Born in Paris, Armand was a French-Russian Bolshevik and feminist who was a key figure in the pre-revolutionary communist movement. After 1917, she served as the head of the Moscow Economic Council, sat as an executive member of the Moscow Soviet, and headed the Zhenotdel, leading efforts to ensure sexual equality and to socialise domestic work. She helped organise children’s homes, mass cafeterias, and public laundries until her untimely death from cholera at the age of forty-six. She’s a true example of how getting a game-plan and rolling up your sleeves can really get the job done. 

Valentina Tereshkova (born 1937): Take the lead

Valentina Tereshkova

Photo: courtesy of Elena Lagadinova

The first woman in space, Tereshkova orbited the Earth forty-eight times in July 1963 on Vostok 6. After her career as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova became a prominent politician and led the Soviet delegation to the 1975 United Nations World Conference on Women. She is still widely viewed as a national heroine in Russia today. Valentina showed us that the work is never done, and taking the lead in our own galaxy is as important as taking the lead in the next one.

 

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism and Other Arguments for Economic Independence is available for pre-order now.

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