Clara Zetkin was, during the late 19th and early 20th century, a prominent German communist. With a strong sympathy for the proletariat causes, Zetkin argued that only through a class revolution, one that would overthrow capitalism, could women finally be considered and treated equally. Most of her work was as a prominent supporter, but not member, as women were not permitted to join, of the German Social Democratic Party and, later, as a founder of the German Communist Party. With an ally in Vladimir Lenin, Zetkin was a feminist who advocated the liberation of women using Marxist reform.
Clara Zetkin was born Clara Eissner on 5 July 1857, the eldest of three to a schoolteacher and church organist father. She was raised in Wiederau, near Leipzig, in Germany. Her stepmother, previously the widow of the local doctor, influenced her from an early age. She learned of women’s education societies and became an activist for economic power and equal rights for women.
At the age of 15, Clara’s family moved to Leipzig and there, in 1875, she began formal studies at Schmidt and Otto’s Van Steyber Institute. She was influenced by the German Women’s Association and continued her studies while reading local periodicals and publications, and attending Association meetings.