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International Women's Day: A History

International Women's Day which is celebrated on March 8th, was a big feast as far as I remember in Poland and in all other Eastern European countries as well as in Russia. It is also known in other countries around the world (Canada, USA, Israel and Western Europe) but it is not celebrated in the same way as in Eastern Europe were women are given flowers and other gifts.

In the USA where the International Women's Day has its roots it is best known as the Women Rights Day. It is a time when women gather for demonstrations or manifestations. The International Women's Day in 2003 was celebrated with series of anti-war demonstrations and peace rallies and vigils all across North America.

Below is a short history of the International Women's Day:

On March 8th 1857 women from New York City stopped work in protest of bad working conditions, long working day (12 hours) and low pay. The march which started in poor neighborhood was brutally broken up by a police when the women reached wealthy district of town.

Another march took place on the same day almost fifty years later, in 1908. It was triggered by a death of 128 women trapped on the high floor in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. Their slogan was "bread and roses" - "bread" for economical security and "roses" - for a better life.

In 1910 the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen created a Women's Day - to aid in the attainment of women's suffrage. It was honored with marches and demonstrations of women for their rights, especially in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark. The creation of this day is attributed to Clara Zetkin. She was the editor of Die Gleichheit (Equality) and the leading theoretician of women's activism. Women who were fighting for women voting rights and for social, economic and political reforms were called suffragists.

International Women's Day was practically forgotten in the USA until sixties when it was revived with the rise of women's movement.

In 1975 the International Women's Year was announced by United Nations. As a consequence, two years later (1977) the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring March 8th - the Day for Women's Rights and International Peace Day.

Neither American nor French Constitutions at the end of eighteen century gave women rights to vote - but they influenced positively women role in the society in other aspects of life, for instance inheritance rights. Territory of Wyoming (1869) was the first to give voting rights for women in 1869, New Zealand was the first and the only country to allow women to vote before the end of XIX century, in 1893. Women received voting rights in Poland and several other European countries just after World War I in 1918, in the USA in 1920 but they have to wait for their right to vote until 1945 in France and until 1971 in Switzerland. There are still some countries where women do not have a right to vote, for instance Kuwait.

Recommended reading(s):

Ideas of the Woman SufferageThe Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920 by Aileen S. Kraditor

Feminism and SufferageFeminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 by Ellen Carol Dubois

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