8 March, International Women’s Day

This video from England says about itself:

Million Women Rise 2009, march for International Women’s Day London: Oxford Street 7th March 2009 Copyright: Pam Isherwood

By Mary Davis in Britain:

Forged in the flames of struggle

Sunday 07 March 2010

A hundred years have passed since the International Women’s Day was first conceived – which makes Monday especially important.

Over the last 10 to 15 years many thousands of women worldwide have begun to recognise and celebrate the day. But it is unfortunate that that its origins are not more widely known given its truly inspirational history.

Many claims have been made about the day’s origins, but most reputable sources agree that 1910 marks its establishment as an international day of sisterhood and solidarity for working women.

It is time to put the record straight if for no other reason that that the inheritors of the internationalist tradition laid in the 19th and 20th centuries – working-class, trade union and socialist women today – must reclaim our own history, study it, celebrate it and be inspired by it.

International Women’s Day grew from two sources – the struggle of working-class women to form trade unions and the fight for women’s right to vote. These issues united European women with their sisters in the United States.

In 1908 hundreds of women workers in the New York needle trades demonstrated in Rutgers Square in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to form their own union and demand the vote.

This historic demonstration took place on March 8. It led in the following year to an “uprising” of 30,000 women shirtwaist-makers which resulted in the first permanent trade unions for US women workers.

News of the heroic fight by US women workers reached Europe. In particular it inspired European socialist women who had established the International Socialist Women’s Conference on the initiative of German socialist feminist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933).

This met for the first time in 1907 in Stuttgart alongside one of the periodic conferences of the Second International (1889-1914). Three years later in 1910 Zetkin put forward a motion to the Copenhagen Conference of the Second International.

“The socialist women of all countries will hold each year a women’s day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to socialist precepts. The women’s day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.”

Zetkin’s motion was carried. March 8 was favoured although no formal date was set. International Women’s Day was marked by rallies and demonstrations in the US and many European countries in the years leading to World War I, albeit on different days each year – for example March 18 in 1911 in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland and the last Sunday in February in the US.

Zetkin, who was editor of Gleichheit (Equality), and Sylvia Pankhurst, editor of Women’s Dreadnought, saw that the struggle for women’s rights and women’s liberation was firmly tied into the struggle for socialism.

However, this did not mean that they were content to wait for the revolution before campaigning for working women. Both thought that socialism would be impossible to achieve without the active involvement of women.

“Just as the male worker is subjugated by the capitalist, so is the woman by the man, and she will always remain in subjugation until she is economically independent. Work is the indispensable condition for economic independence,” wrote Zetkin.

In 1917 in Russia International Women’s Day acquired greater significance – it became the flashpoint for the Russian Revolution.

On March 8 women workers in Petrograd held a massive strike and demonstration demanding Peace and Bread. The strike movement spread from factory to factory and effectively became an insurrection.

In 1922, in honour of the women’s role in 1917, Lenin declared that March 8 should be designated officially as women’s day.

Much later it became a national holiday in the Soviet Union and most of the former socialist countries. The cold war may explain why it was that a public holiday celebrated by communists was largely ignored in the West despite the fact that in 1975 – International Women’s Year – the United Nations recognised the day.

Today we acknowledge that International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to draw attention to our own unfulfilled struggles for women’s rights, to link this with women’s struggles worldwide and to demonstrate international sisterly solidarity with working women everywhere.

Yet there is a danger that the socialist feminist origins of the day are being forgotten in the welter of “fun” events that have been organised in many cities worldwide.

We must not allow this to happen.

There is nothing wrong with women enjoying themselves, but we should also use the occasion to campaign for our current demands, supported by many trade unions, in the Charter for Women.

Professor Mary Davis chairs the TUC Women’s Conference which takes place in Eastbourne from Wednesday to Friday.

From the USA: Not Enough Women at the Oscars, by Jane Fonda.

India’s government will present a Bill to MPs on Monday aimed at boosting the political power of the country’s women by reserving one-third of legislative seats for them: here.

The financial penalty faced by women with children sees them earning a third less than men, the International Trade Union Confederation has revealed: here.

Nine high-profile British women have marked International Women’s Day by joining the fight to save British grandmother Linda Carty from execution in Texas: here.

Nearly 100 million women across Asia “disappear” each year because bias towards boys has fatally deprived them of health care and food, the UN has said: here.

For decades, the Indian state of Kerala has been approving pro-women measures. Last year 10 percent of the state’s budget went to programs for girls and women. A tea picker says her daughter benefits: here.

British feminist Kat Banyard interviewed: here.

USA: When Women Went on Strike: Remembering Equality Day, 1970: here.

10 thoughts on “8 March, International Women’s Day

  1. Further Advance the Rights, Lives and Freedoms of Women Migrants, Immigrants and Refugees! Let Us Strengthen the Global Movement of Resistance against Imperialism!

    Statement of the International Migrants Alliance on the 100th Year of the International Working Women’s Day

    The International Migrants Alliance celebrates the 100th year of the International Working Women’s Day by further advancing the causes of our struggling women migrants, immigrants and refugees and joining the growing international people’s movement against imperialist war and plunder, exploitation and oppression.

    As we speak, thousands, nay millions, of women migrants, immigrants and refugees the world over are suffering. As abject poverty and the need to survive push them out of their countries and find work abroad, they are further subjected to the most despicable forms of abuse, maltreatment and violence.

    Foreign domestic workers, mostly women, continue to be denied of their rights and freedoms. They work more than eight hours a day but are receiving subhuman wages. Days off and rest days are unheard of in many countries with the likes of Malaysia instituting this right only last year. At the receiving end of racial slurs, physical and even sexual abuse, they are the epitome of modern-day slavery as domestic work remains to be unrecognized as work.

    Owning half the sky yet receiving the utmost abuse, women migrant workers are most vulnerable. In Central America, women migrants, whether young or old, are raped while they are in transit. They become vulnerable to HIV, like the Bangladeshi women in Arab states. They become easy prey for human trafficking and smuggling.

    Women refugees are stripped off their health rights as they are forced to pay high fees to enjoy medical attention. Many of the children they bear are not recognized by the state and henceforth rendered stateless. Most of them even continue to be persecuted not only by governments of their mother countries but of their host countries as well. The planned crackdown in Thailand, for example, aims to target Burmese women refugees as well.

    The continued existence of the Global Forum on Migration and Development does not only ignore this abject state of women migrants, immigrants and refugees but justifies it. Ever since its inception in 2007, the GFMD placed labor migration at the center of the neoliberal globalization agenda which only meant one thing: workers are to be exported at the cheapest rate yet without even an iota of rights.

    International conventions protecting the rights of women migrants, immigrants and refugees are like dust to continued blows of host governments imposing virulent and oppressive border control policies like that of Fortress Europe. Racial discrimination is being fanned frantically as like those in Italy become easy targets for race-related crimes.

    Such conditions strengthen the foundation of why we struggle, of why we need to organize, of why we have the International Migrants Alliance.

    There is greater urgency to build organizations for and by women migrants, immigrants and refugees on the ground. With a calibrated attack on our rights, lives and freedoms, we can confront such with collective strength. Victories in the past struggles of women migrants, immigrants and refugees have proven that by collectively asserting our rights and demands, we can prevail.

    As the attacks become global, let us strengthen the movement of resistance at the international level. Let the women members of the IMA contribute greatly to the formation of the International Women’s Assembly that shall happen August this year.

    The 100th year of the International Working Women’s Day is a reminder that the struggle continues and will be pursued until all structures that oppress and exploit women being perpetrated by imperialism are dismantled.


  2. Alot of people don’t realise that the majority of people hungry around the world are women… and yet these women produce 60-80% of the food! The answer to hunger, I really believe lies with women. You can also send a message of solidarity to women across the world for International Women’s Day at http://www.wfp.org/women


  3. More men believe sexes are equal

    Equality: Almost twice as many men as women think the sexes are equal when it comes to getting the top jobs, according to auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    A study by the firm found 44 per cent of men thought it was not unusual for a woman to hold down a top job, compared with 23 per cent of women.

    PricewaterhouseCoopers director of diversity Sarah Churchman said: “Some men don’t realise what it’s like to face a macho male-dominated culture in a working environment.”



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