Sunday, 9 March 2014

March 8

International Women's Day: A Look Back

Today, March 8, people throughout Russia and many former Soviet countries are celebrating the women in their lives. At first glance, International Women’s Day appears to be a socialist holiday, but its history goes farther back – and its modern form has nothing to do with socialism!

Like any self-respecting holiday, International Women’s Day – known in Russia simply and matter-of-factly as “March 8” – has its own founding myth that likely has little to do with its real origins. On March 8, 1857, female textile workers in New York allegedly went on strike, demanding shorter hours, decent working conditions, and equal pay with men. Perhaps they were inspired by the Romans: on March 8 both free and slave women in ancient Rome supposedly got the day off [ru] and paid their dues to Vesta, goddess of the hearth.

But back to the modern era. Whether or not the strike happened, the holiday’s realorigin story begins at the 2nd Congress of the Second International (1910), where Clara Zetkin proposed a day for women to march, protest, and call society’s attention to their issues. She was most likely inspired by a similar holiday already announced by the Socialist Party of America, starting in 1909 and observed on the last Sunday in February. The international version of the holiday shifted around in early spring before happening to fall on March 8 in 1914.


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