Clara Zetkin was of German and French ancestry of her father's and her mother's sides respectively.
Clara Zetkin was born on July 5, 1857, in Wiederau, near Leipzig, Germany. At her birth, she was given the name of Clara Eissner. She was the eldest of the three children of Gottfried Eissner, a schoolteacher and church organist, and Josephine Vitale Eissner, Gottfried's second wife, who was the widow of a local doctor. Josephine Eissner was active in women's education societies and a believer in equal rights and economic power for women. Her work was inspired by feminist organizations, including the German Women's Association and the Federation of German Women's Associations, led by women's rights activists such as Auguste Schmidt and Luise Otto. When Zetkin was 15, her father retired and the family moved to Leipzig.