In much of the world, International Women’s Day has become a bland and largely apolitical event. But it has its origins in working women’s struggles — including those that gave rise to a mass socialist women’s movement.
Anne McShane is a human rights lawyer based in Ireland and a historian of the Soviet women’s movement.
Alexandra Kollontai and her comrades founded the Zhenotdel in 1918 in order to ensure women’s full participation in Soviet society. Its efforts to liberate women in Muslim Central Asia showed the revolution’s emancipatory promise — and the dangers of imposing change without the active support of the oppressed.