International Women s Day : Celebration of the mystery called ‘Woman’
International Women s Day is all about the journey of an ordinary women towards creating an all new history; it is rooted deep down in the centuries-old hardships and struggle.
In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women s suffrage.
The idea of an International Women s Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies. Following is a brief chronology of the most important events:
The history of International Women s Day is a history of taking action. The event originated in 1908 when women garment makers in New York demonstrated to demand better working conditions. They worked in appalling conditions, earned half of men s wages, died prematurely from poor health and didn t have the right to vote.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman s Day was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.
The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women s rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
Inspired by an American commemoration of working women, the German socialist Klara Zetkin organized International Women s Day (IWD) in 1911. On March 19, socialists from Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries held strikes and marches. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a significant impact on labour legislation in the United States, and the working conditions leading up to the disasters were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women s Day.
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on anyway. The rest is history:
Four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere.
Since those early years, International Women s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point for coordinated efforts to demand women s rights and participation in the political and economic process. Increasingly, International Women s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women s rights.
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