Who is Theresa Serber Malkiel, the woman behind 1st Women's Day?

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While the first Women's Day was observed in New York on February 28, 1909 and organised by Socialist Party of America, it was the party's leader Theresa Serber Malkiel who first suggested it. Malkiel was an immigrant in US and started as a factory worker. She later drew attention to plight of immigrant working women and fought for equal rights. She was a Russian-born American labor activist, suffragist, and educator. She was the first woman to rise from factory work to leadership in the Socialist party. Her 1910 novel, The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker, is credited with helping to reform New York state labor laws. As head of the Woman's National Committee of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), she established an annual Woman's Day which was the precursor to International Women's Day. In 1911, while on a speaking tour of the American South, she called attention to the problem of white supremacism within the party. She spent her later years promoting adult education for women workers.Soon after her arrival in New York she joined the Russian Workingmen's Club. In 1892 she organized the Infant Cloakmaker's Union of New York, a group of mostly Jewish women, and became its first president

In 1899 she left the SLP and joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA). Malkiel believed that only socialism could liberate women, and that socialism, in turn, could not survive without the full participation of women. In theory, the Socialist party was committed to equal rights for men and women, but in practice, it made no effort to reach out specifically to women workers and showed little interest in their concerns. Malkiel concluded that socialist women would have to fight their own parallel battle for equality.
,br> Malkiel spent the last two decades of her life promoting education for immigrant women and assisting them with naturalization. She founded the Brooklyn Adult Students Association and directed its classes and summer camp.In her later years, Malkiel lent a powerful voice to the movement for women’s suffrage.

Malkiel passed away on November 17, 1949. By then her role as a radical socialist reformer of women’s issues had been largely forgotten. Her obituary described her as the “widow of a well-known New York lawyer”, who had devoted much of her life to education.

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