International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8.
The date stresses the importance of women in society and the history of the struggle for their rights. It is common that day, people honored women with flowers, gifts, messages, and phrases.
In some places, there are conferences and events dedicated to the themes of gender equality, violence against women, achievements, and stories of struggle, feminism, etc.
Origin of Women’s Day
The origin of International Women’s Day is fraught with controversy. Some associate the rise of the date with the strike of women working in New York at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and, consequently, to the fire that occurred in 1911.
Others indicate that it emerged in the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was marked by various manifestations and demands by working women.
On March 8, 1917, about 90,000 Russian workers took to the streets demanding better working and living conditions, while demonstrating against the actions of Tsar Nicholas II.
This event, which gave rise to the date, became known as “Bread and Peace”. This is because the protesters were also fighting hunger and the first world war (1914-1918).
Moreover, due to a misunderstanding made by German and French newspapers, a myth was created around March 8, 1857, when a strike was supposed to have occurred, which did not actually occur.
Demonstration in Russia in 1917
Although there are different versions of the origin of the date, both movements aimed to warn about the unhealthy state of work that women were subjected to.
The long working hours and the low salaries they received stand out here. Therefore, the struggle of these workers focused on the search for better living and working conditions, in addition to the right to vote.
Faced with this panorama, the creation of a day dedicated to the struggle of women was delineated by demonstrations that occurred concomitantly in the United States and in several cities in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Movement in the United States
Prior to the Russian workers’ movement, in 1908 there was a strike by women working at the shirt making factory called the “Triangle Shirtwaist Company”, located in New York.
Employees of the triangle shirtwaist company
These workers sewed about 14 hours a day and received between $6 and $10 a week
Thus, in addition to claiming better working conditions and decreased workload, the employees sought to increase salaries. That’s because, at that time, men received much more than women.
On February 28, 1909, the first celebration of women in the United States took place. This event was inspired by the workers’ strike of the fabric factory that had occurred in the previous year.
Unfortunately, the movement was tragically completed and on March 25, 1911, the factory caught fire with several women inside the building.
The result was the death of 146 people out of the 500 who worked there and, of that number, about 20 were men. Most of the female employees who died were Jewish immigrants and some were only 14 years old.
Fire in triangle shirtwaist company building
Fire in the Asch building where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the top three floors
It is worth noting that the place was not prepared for a fire since it did not have fire extinguishers, the lighting system was gas and still, people were allowed to smoke.
After the tragic incident, fire safety legislation was overhauled and labor laws were revised and many achievements were gained.
A year before this event, in 1910, the “Second International Conference of Socialist Women” was held in Denmark. At the time, Clara Zetkin of the German Communist Party proposed the creation of a day dedicated to women
However, the date was definitively instituted by the UN in 1975, in honor of the struggle and achievements of women. The choice of March 8, in turn, is related to the Russian workers’ strike of 1917.
Things to know about the International Women’s Day
September 5 is celebrated the “International Day of Indigenous Women” established in 1983. The date is a tribute to the Quechua woman Bartolina Sisa, quartered during the anti-colonial rebellion of Túpac Katari in Upper Peru (present-day Bolivia).
November 25 is celebrated the “International Day to Combat Violence against Women” established in 1981, in the “First Feminist Meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean”, and officially adopted by the UN in 1999. The date marks the murder of the Dominican revolutionary “Mirabal Sisters”.
July 25 is celebrated the “National Day of Tereza de Benguela and the Black Woman”. The date, established in 2014, is a tribute to the Quilombola leader who lived in Brazil in the 18th century.
In 1908, in New York, about 15,000 women marched claiming, among other rights, voting rights. They paraded holding bread and roses, since the bread represented economic stability, while roses meant a better quality of life. Therefore, this movement became known as “Bread and Roses”.
The World March of Women (WMM) is an international feminist movement that emerged in several countries on March 8, 2000, International Women’s Day.
In 2010 in Brazil, the World March of Women (WMM) was represented by the action of 3,000 women who walked, for 10 days 120 km, from São Paulo to Campinas.