Women’s History Month in The People’s Tribune includes an article from Southern Illinois as well as an article about Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 100th anniversary. The first International Working Women’s Day was held March 19, 2011, 100 years ago. Less than a week later, the Triangle fire killed 146 workers, most of them young women. In 1913 International Women’s Day was relocated to March 8, and has been celebrated on that day since.
|How It Happened
A Brief History of International Women’s Day
The idea of an International Women’s Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.
On 8 March 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories (called ‘garment workers’) in New York City, in the United States, staged a protest. They were fighting against inhumane working conditions and low wages. The police attacked the protestors and dispersed them. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first labour union to try and protect themselves and gain some basic rights in the workplace.
On 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan “Bread and Roses”, with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. In May, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of National Women’s Day.
Following the declaration of the Socialist Party of America, the first ever National Woman’s Day was celebrated in the United States on 28 February 1909. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.
An international conference, held by socialist organizations from around the world, met in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. The conference of the Socialist International proposed a Women’s Day which was designed to be international in character. The proposal initially came from Clara Zetkin, a German socialist, who suggested an International Day to mark the strike of garment workers in the United States. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, including the first three women elected to the parliament of Finland. The Day was established to honour the movement for women’s rights, including the right to vote (known as ‘suffrage’). At that time no fixed date was selected for the observance. Click here to read more from the United Nations Cyberschoolbus
International Women’s Day – Alexandra Kollontai
First published in 1920, this essay traces the history of international women’s day and its importance to working class struggle with particular focus on the 1917 Russian Revolution.
A militant celebration
Women’s Day or Working Women’s Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organization of proletarian women.
But this is not a special day for women alone. The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day, the great February revolution broke out. It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates. And so, working women’s day is a double celebration for us.
But if this is a general holiday for all the proletariat, why do we call it “Women’s Day”? Why then do we hold special celebrations and meetings aimed above all at the women workers and the peasant women? Doesn’t this jeopardize the unity and solidarity of the working class? To answer these questions, we have to look back and see how Women’s Day came about and for what purpose it was organized.
How and why was women’s day organised?
Not very long ago, in fact about ten years ago, the question of women’s equality, and the question of whether women could take part in government alongside men was being hotly debated. The working class in all capitalist countries struggled for the rights of working women: the bourgeoisie did not want to accept these rights. It was not in the interest of the bourgeoisie to strengthen the vote of the working class in parliament; and in every country they hindered the passing of laws that gave the right to working women. Click here to read more