Women’s History Month is here, and the celebration is in full swing. Not only is tomorrow International Women’s Day, but here on Off the Shelf we’re spending March highlighting the most influential women in history as chosen by you. First up is May Wood Simons. An Evanston resident who helped start tomorrow’s holiday, she was selected by Lori Osborne – Director of the Evanston Women’s History Project, Archivist at the Evanston History Center, and a 25-year Evanston resident. Writes Ms. Osborne:
“May Wood Simons was involved in founding International Women’s Day. Simons and her husband, Algie, were Evanston residents for many years and were active in the early years of the Socialist Party in America… In 1909, the first National Woman’s Day was held throughout the United States on February 28th. It was organized by the newly formed Woman’s National Committee of the Socialist Party to celebrate the political rights of women. May Wood Simons was a delegate to, and later head of, the committee and spoke in favor of the Socialist party supporting women’s suffrage. To celebrate this first Woman’s Day, Simons gave a lecture about women’s suffrage at the Evanston Auditorium. For the 1910 Woman’s Day, Simons spoke at the Garrick Theater in Chicago, lecturing about the relationship between the women’s movement and the industrial and economic movement of workers. That same year, Simons was the American delegate to the International Socialist Congress at Copenhagen, where Clara Zetkin was inspired to create a similar celebration in Germany and Austria, founding International Woman’s Day the next year, in 1911… International Women’s Day is now celebrated around the globe every year on March 8th. It is a day set aside to celebrate women’s achievements, but also remember the work still needed to promote gender equality.”
You can learn more below about May Wood Simons and the causes for which she fought, and don’t miss tomorrow’s International Women’s Day Celebration at the Evanston History Center. Also, make sure to share who you think is one of the most influential women in history. Tell us today by visiting EPL Celebrates Women’s History Month.
This essay from the Evanston Women’s History Project is a great first stop to learn more about Simons’ efforts to found International Women’s Day, her work for women’s suffrage, and the PhD she earned from Northwestern in 1930.
The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History by Jack Ross
This 2015 study offers a new, balanced understanding of the Socialist Party of America of which Simons was a part. Based on archival research, the book guides readers through its origins in the labor and populist movements of the late 19th century, its heyday with Eugene V. Debs, and its persistence through the Depression and WWII.
Narrated by Susan Sarandon, this American Experience documentary explores the 70-year battle for women’s suffrage. Documenting the struggles of both the movement’s leaders and the women who fought along with them, this is a gripping look at an important chapter of American history in which May Wood Simons was passionately involved.