The 100th anniversary of the declaration of International Women’s Day (1)
The history of the date of International Women’s Day, today commemorated on the 8th March, is fairly confused… Traditionally, we link the 8th March to a strike and / or fire that are supposed to have taken place in a women’s textile factory in New York, either in 1857 or in 1908 (2), but when we research deeper into its origins, as Renée Coté has done in her book, “International Women’s Day or the real facts and the real dates of the mysterious origins of the 8th March…”, we discover the history of a whole period of feminist struggle for economic and workers rights, as well as the right to vote, in the USA and elsewhere…
It was in 1910, at the 2nd International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, that Clara Zetkin – German socialist and feminist – proposed the creation of an annual International Women’s Day, following the example of North American socialist women who, since 1908, had been organising a national annual Woman’s Day (to demand economic and political equality for women, to denounce exploitation of women workers, to demand the right to vote, etc).
From 1911 onwards, Women’s Day became international, although it was celebrated on different dates in different countries in different years… The main reference to the 8th March is the general strike triggered by Russian women workers against hunger, war and czarism on the 23rd February 1917 according to the Russian calendar (the 8th March in the Gregorian calendar). On this day, and defying party orders, women textile workers left their factories, went out into the streets, and in doing so precipitated the beginning of revolutionary actions that brought victory to the Russian revolution (as recognised by Kollontai, Trotsky, and others).
1921 documents of the Communist Women’s International Conference in which a Bulgarian participant proposed the 8th March as the official date for International Woman’s Day, in remembrance of the Russian women’s initiative. And thus, from 1922 onwards, International Woman’s Day was officially celebrated on the 8th March, continuing the cycle of women’s active and persistent participation in the struggle for social transformation.
1 Article based on :
- Cote, Renée (1984) La Journée internationale dês femmes ou les vrais dates des mystérieuses origines du 8 de mars jusqu'ici embrouillés, truquées, oubliées : la clef dês énigmes. La vérité historique. Montreal: Les éditions du remue ménage.
- SOF (2000) International Women’s Day: In search of lost history. Text available in: http://www.marchemondiale.org/actions/2010action/origen8marzo/en
2 The origins of International Women’s Day are perhaps erroneously linked to a strike due to the fact that, in 1910, the US Woman’s Day was preceded by a 3-month long textile workers (shirtwaist makers) strike in which 80% of the strikers were women. The alleged connection with a fire in the same city is perhaps due to the fire that is thought to have taken place on the 26th March 1911, in which 147 women textile workers died (records to be confirmed).