In Solidarity: International Women’s Day

Kheel Center – Members of ILGWU Local 142 picket in the garment center district for union-made shoulder pads, 1930. (Flickr)

What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.

Rose Schneiderman, 1911

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day has is origins in the labor movement: the first iteration of what we now refer to as International Women’s Day happened in 1909 when, in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions, the Socialist Party of America designated February 28 as the first “National Woman’s Day” observed in the United States.

While the contexts and issues surrounding the day have shifted in the years since 1909 — from women’s suffrage to #MeToo, from shirtwaist strikes to the Fight for 15 — the heart of International Women’s Day remains the same: For over a century, IWD has been an opportunity to honor and commemorate the labor — in all aspects of life, from the workplace to the home — of women the world over.

Today, the Writers Guild of America, East honors the women of our Guild and women around the world. We celebrate the work women have done, often thanklessly, throughout all of history, and we stand alongside all women in their struggles toward a more equal, fair, and just world.

Below is a list of resources and articles gathered and shared in the spirit of International Women’s Day.

Reading & Resources

Timeline of International Women’s Day

Adapted from the University of Chicago and United Nations histories of International Women’s Day

  • 1909 – The First National Woman’s Day in the US  The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
  • 1910 – The Second International Conference of Women    The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for 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.
  • 1911 – International Woman’s Day in the US and Europe  As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
  • 1912 – Bread and roses!     Continuing the call for better and safer working conditions and higher wages was the Lawrence Textile strike, which was the immediate response to the lowering of workers’ wages and largely led by immigrant women workers. The slogan “Bread and Roses” is said to come from this strike, though the term first appeared in a James Oppenheim poem from 1911.
  • 1913-1916 – War-Time Campaigning   International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. 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 other activists.
  • 1917 – Massive Demonstrations in Russia and the first official Woman’s Day in the USSR in 1922  On the eve of the Russian Revolution, a massive demonstration took place.  It was a protest against deteriorating living conditions, lack of basic food supplies and the shortage of goods. Mainly women took part in this demonstration, but men also were involved. It was lead by Alexandra Kollontai, a Russian feminist, on the last Sunday in February (March 8 according to the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. In commemoration of this demonstration, the Soviet Union has celebrated Woman’s Day on February 23 (March 8) since 1922 when Lenin made the celebration official.
  • post-1945 – Celebration in the Communist World and change to plural.  Officially adopted by the Soviet satellites, and by China in 1949, International Women’s Day was celebrated primarily in socialist countries until the mid-1970s. Sometime in the post-1945 period the name switched from the singular “woman’s” day to plural “women’s” day.
  • 1975-1977 – International Women’s Year in 1975 and the first UN International Women’s Day   1975 was International Women’s Year. That year, the United Nations (UN) began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Only two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.”
  • 1995 – The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.
  • 2014 –  IWD is now celebrated more than a 100 countries     The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) – the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights — focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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