A few years ago, it seemed that the only country that celebrated March 8th as the International Women’s Day was Russia. It’s interesting to note that though people from all countries that were once part of the Soviet Union keep this holiday very dear to their hearts, most don’t know the origins of this holiday, or have a much skewed perception of its appearance. Most attribute this day to Clara Zetkin, who definitely played a role in it, but was not the main initiator of the female movement and the reason for March 8th. Yet even more believe that this holiday took roots in Russia. Let’s take a look at what’s really happened.
Several stories are tied to the International Women’s Day. One states that on March 8th, 1857 a group of New York textile workers (females, or course) flooded the city’s streets in order to protest against unfair conditions, long working hours (at times up to 16 hours per day) and very low wages.
Another is of organized meetings by thousands of women also in New York City but in 1908, either in March or in February (one would think that this history not being so long, there would be a better record). This time, over fifteen thousand women marched the streets of New York in protest of sexual discrimination, low wages, horrible working conditions and the biggest issue of all – suffrage. At this time, women of the United States still had no right to vote (only granted in 1920). While there seems to be some doubt about the demonstrations in 1857, there is proof (photographic and recorded) of the 1908 protests, as well as many changes they brought for the women’s movement in America.
Inspired by this event (!), in 1910, at the Second International Socialist Women Conference in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin – one of the world’s most famous female communists – proposed to celebrate International Women’s Day each year. It was decided that during this day, women everywhere would gather in demonstration and raise awareness of female related political and social issues. Thus, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in March of 1911 in several European countries and year after year women gathered on the streets of more and more European capitals to protest against their conditions. The exact date always varied and was a bit different in each city.
In 1917, the first of Russian February revolutions started with unrest in Petrograd on February 23rd (old count), or March 8th (new count). This event was later tied to the International Women’s Day, when it was proclaimed a holiday in 1921 – commemoration of women’s participation in the events of the Revolution. This is the first time that Russia (by now the USSR) played a significant role in this holiday’s history. In fact, as you can see, the true reason for this holiday took root in the US and ‘immigrated’ to Europe only several years later.
For several decades, March 8th was tied to the Socialist movement of women and breaking free from the slavery of being a house-wife. Propaganda called to stand up and prove to the world that women were not going to stand by quietly. However, with time, March 8th became a holiday when men commemorate their love, admiration and respect for women in their lives. This holiday is not dedicated to all women, not just mothers, lovers, or wives.
If you are a woman – we hope you have an amazing day, with lots of love, laughter, flowers and spring spirits. If you are a man – please observe this very important holiday. You don’t have to do more than say pleasant words to someone to make their day brighter and happier.