Originally written on March 8, 2019 – Updated 2023
International Women’s Day is celebrated today, on March 8 every year. On this day, people celebrate womanhood, commemorating the inspiring role of a woman in our life.
This is an event which started with a political flavour to secure the rights of women, has evolved over the years and is now a celebration of women’s struggle and fight for independence and liberalisation.
The purpose of International Women’s Day is to bring attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural issues that women face. The organizers of the celebration state: “Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.” The day is often also used to recognize women who’ve made significant contributions to the advancement of the world.
The history of Women’s Day dates back to 1909 when the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28. The Socialist Party of America celebrated this day in honour of the garment workers’ strike in 1908 in New York where women picketed and marched, demanding improved working conditions and equal rights.
It was in commemoration of this first political activism to protect women’s rights that National Women’s Day was celebrated in the USA.
Inspired by American socialists, renowned German socialist Luise Zietz proposed establishment of an International Woman’s Day. The proposal was laid in the general meeting of the Socialist International in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910 and delegates, including 100 women from 17 countries, agreed with the proposal to promote equal rights and suffrage for women.
It was on March 19, 1911, that International Women’s Day, at first called “International Working Women’s Day”, was observed for the first time in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland: over 1 million men and women participated in rallies in demand for right to vote, to hold public office, women’s right to work, to vocational training and to end discrimination on job.
Not even a week after the first International Women’s Day, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146, mostly young immigrant women, in New York City: an incident that inspired many changes in industrial working conditions, and the memory of those who died has been often invoked as part of International Women’s Days.
Especially in early years, International Women’s Day was in fact connected with working women’s rights.
As an integral part of the peace movement during the World War I, March 8, 1914 was a day of rallies of women against war, women expressing international solidarity at that time of war.
It was on 1917 that Russian women protested and called a strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February, which fell on 8 March according to Gregorian calendar. Four days prior to that, the Czar of Russia resigned and the interim government granted the right to vote to women.
A curiosity? In Italy, the importance of women is celebrated by the giving and receiving of mimosa blossom.
Historians cannot agree when and why the custom of giving mimosa began, but there is documented evidence that men in Rome on March 8, 1946, gave the fragrant flowers to their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters as a sign of love and appreciation.
Still today in Italy, women hand the flowers to other women as a sign of solidarity.
Mimosa, also known as the Silver Wattle, was first introduced into Europe from south-eastern Australia in 1820 and, being a fast growing shrub, it spread rapidly.
Prior to the Second World War, celebrations commemorating International Women’s Day happened on various days within the month of March. However, in 1945, the Union of Italian Women voted to fix the date annually on March 8, and their reason for this was to commemorate two separate events that occurred outside of Italy: the strike by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, which, two years later, resulted in the formation of the United States’ first women’s union, and the ‘bread and peace’ strike by Russian women on March 8, 1917.
However It seems (rightly), that some feminist movements complain that the day has become too commercial and has lost its political ideology….