Monday, March 08, 2010

International Women's Day is drawing to a close, and I'd better do my duty and reprint (with editing) the comment that I have published for the last two years here at Molly's Blog. What follows is a short history of the day and its significance.
Today, March 8, is celebrated as 'International Women's Day'. Way back when, on March 8 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, under the aegis of the Second Socialist International. The German socialist Clara Zetkin was the originator of the proposal. No fixed date was set at this event. The conference called for the establishment of an international women's day. This had been preceded by a declaration of the Socialist Party of America in 1909 calling for such an event on the last Sunday of February.

The date of March 8 gradually became an accepted time because it commemorated an 1857 protest in NYC by garment workers who later went on to establish the first labour union in the USA two years later. (Molly Note-Since I first wrote these words there have been further entries at the Wikipedia site on this day, claiming that this 1857 demonstration never took place. I am unable to say whether this is true or not, but I urge the reader to consult the Wikipedia site for details on the controversy )March 8 was also the day when women in Europe held peace rallies in 1913 as the clouds of WW1 gathered. IWD also gathered force from the Commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911 when 140 garment workers were killed in a factory fire because the owners had locked the doors, barring any escape.

On the persuasion of Alexandra Kollontai IWD was declared a holiday in the USSR shortly after the Revolution. But.....this "holiday" remained a regular working day until May 8, 1965. Wags might remark that this is the usual stuff of communist pronouncements, with the name and the reality usually at significant variance. Nonetheless IWD remains an official holiday in many countries today. Most are members of the ex-Soviet bloc or other communist countries. By 1975, International Women's Year, the United nations began to sponsor the day. Today there is pressure in many countries to declare it an official holiday. In 2005, for instance, the British Trade Union Congress passed a resolution calling on the United Kingdom to issue such a declaration.

Nowadays celebrations are held across the world on this day. The global women's group Aurora hosts a semi-official list of events and resources. For an anarchist take on the day and its significance see THIS and THIS from the Anarkismo.Net news site. Also 'Feminism, Class and Anarchism' by Deidre Hogan (also available as a downloadable pdf).

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