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International Women’s Day

In looking for a brief history of International Women’s Day I have found a lot of conflicting stories. Most stories agree that the beginnings were in the American labour union struggles of the early 1900’s and especially those of the immigrant women working in the garment industry in the east coast.


A lot of myths have formed around this day. One that keeps coming up is that the date 8th of March is based on a March of women workers in 1857 in New York city. Turns out that the first time this ‘march’ and date came to light was in 1955 in France! No one can find any reports from the press for 1857 which would have been a singularly early date for women workers trade union organising. The thinking is that a ‘socialist’ politician of the day in France wanted to move the founding away from a ‘communist’ organisations ownership and so sent the history further back. They made the story up.


From my readings there are a few undisputed facts of the first International Women’s Day. The first was called for by the Socialist Party of America (1901-1972) on the 28th of February 1909. The socialist wished to support and their members were involved in the organising of women workers  especially in the clothing industry.


In 1910 an International Women’s Conference was organised before the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Denmark. A proposal was made to establish an International Woman’s Day to promote equal rights and including the call for suffrage for women. In 1910 most women had no right to vote. The idea spread to many organisations.


In 1911 Socialist organisations around the world organised an International Women’s Day but not until 1914 did the 8th of March become the agreed on day. All during this time major events and struggles were taking place. Union organising was recognising the need to support and unionise the lower paid, less skilled workers if fair, safe and decently paid working conditions were to be realised. With most jobs discriminated by sex, the suffragette movement gaining momentum, a day to highlight the unequal role of women was seen as great organising tool. The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike was an important event of this time and when one of the organisers spoke to strikers “We want bread, but we want roses, too” a great ‘hashtag’ of the era was born. “Give me Bread but give me Roses too” has been a call from than on.


The United Nations declared 1975 International Women’s Year and began celebrating the 8th of March as International Women’s Day. In December 1977 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.” International Women’s Day was spreading even further afield.


Now in the internet age International Women’s Day has it’s own website which describes itself as “International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”


On the website you can link to a calendar that allows you to place in your country and town and find out what events in your local area. This years hashtag is #BeBoldForChange.


So if you are interested log on and find an event near you. Let’s Celebrate!

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