The 8th of March is a date celebrated by women’s groups all over the world as International Woman’s Day. When women from all continents, often separated by national frontiers, ethnic, linguistic, economical, cultural and political differences, unite to celebrate their Day, they can fall back on a tradition of no less than 90 years of fight on behalf of equality, peace, progress and justice.
The International Woman’s Day belongs to common women as makers of history and it marks the centuries-old fight of women to participate in society on equal basis with men.
Chronology of the most outstanding events:
The idea of establishing the International Woman’s Day was born at the end of the XIX century; a moment in history when the industrialized world was in a period of expansion and turbulence, shinning population growth and radical ideologies.
1909: In coincidence with a declaration from the Socialist Party of the United States of America, the 28th of February was commemorated all over the country as the first International Woman’s Day, which up to 1913 was celebrated the last Sunday in February.
1910: The International Socialist meeting in Copenhagen proclaimed the Woman’s Day of international scope as a homage to the movement in favor of women’s rights and to help obtain the universal voting rights for women. The proposal was unanimously approved at the conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, among them the first three women were elected to the Finnish Parliament. A fixed date for the celebration was not established.
1911: As a consequence of the decision adopted at Copenhagen the previous year, the International Woman’s Day was celebrated for the first time on March 19th in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland, with meetings to which more than one million women and men assisted. Apart from the voting rights and the demand to occupy public posts, they demanded the right to work, to professional education, and to no discrimination in work. Less than a week after, on March 25th, more than 140 young women workers, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants, died at the tragic fire of the Triangle factory in New York City. This incident had great repercussions on the labor legislation of the United States; and in the following celebrations of the International Woman’s Day reference was made to the working conditions that lead to that disaster.
1913-1914: In the context of the pro-peace movements that were born on the eve of the First World War, Russian women celebrated their first International Woman’s Day on the last February Sunday of 1913. In the rest of Europe, women held meetings at around March 8th of the following year to protest against war or to unite with other women.
1917: As a reaction over the two million Russian soldiers killed at war, Russian women picked the last Sunday in February to declare a strike in demand of”bread and peace.”The political leaders criticized the moment picked for the strike but the women went ahead anyway. The rest is history: four days later the Zar was forced to abdicate and the interim government gave women the right to vote.
That historical Sunday was February 23rd, according to Julian calendar used then in Russia, or March 8th, according to the Gregorian calendar used in other countries.
From those first years, the International Woman’s Day has acquired a new world dimension for women of both developed and underdeveloped countries.
The International Woman’s Day is an opportunity to reflect about the advancements obtained, to demand changes, and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination of common women that have performed extraordinary tasks in the history of women’s rights.