WLOE E-Newsletter March 8, 2004: International Women's Day Special

A History of International Women's Day in words and images is the name of work by the Australian activist-writer Joyce Stevens. This lovingly done isis-australia website (est. 1996) presents an international and Australian view of the holiday, its origins and meaning.


Origins (from the site)

"Born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis, IWD inherited a tradition of protest and political activism. In the years before 1910, from the turn of the 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering paid work in some numbers. Their jobs were sex segregated, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages worse than depressed. Trade unions were developing and industrial disputes broke out, including among sections of non-unionised women workers. In Europe, the flames of revolution were being kindled. Many of the changes taking place in women's lives pushed against the political restrictions surrounding them..."

Information from the United Nations on international Women's Day:

Feminist Peace Network
"International Women's Day Global Peace Vigil For the last three years, The Feminist Peace Network has asked women around the world to participate in an International Women's Day Global Peace vigil. Once again, we invite you to join with women everywhere in taking a stand for peace and an end to the global pandemic of violence against women. Women in more than 100 communities in countries all over the world have participated in this event. The number of participants is expected to continue to grow as women join hands across the world to say no to the domination of violence and yes to peaceful partnership." More information on the history of IWD can be found at International Women's Day.

Code Pink
For 93 years, women around the world have been marking International Women's Day with calls for a more peace and justice-centered world. CODEPINK invites you to join this rich tradition by converging with women across the U.S. on the week-end of March 6-8. Wear pink, bring signs, puppets, and other creative props, and be prepared to "pink slip" the U.S. policymakers and corporate bosses who are endangering our environment and people all over the world!"

"International Women's Day is now celebrated on March 8 annually throughout the world. The historical origins of International Women's Day show us how wage-earning women were emerging as a political force in the early years of the twentieth century. Beginning in the United States as a day to honor the political rights of working women, "Woman's Day" celebrations were immediately successful in the United States and in Europe. Because this holiday continues to articulate women's issues in new ways, it deserves to be celebrated even more emphatically today, both within the United States and around the world.

Partly due to the lack of authoritative historical information, myths have grown up to explain the origins of International Women's Day (IWD). Historian Temma Kaplan has examined these myths, one of which holds that International Women's Day began in 1907 as a memorial to an 1857 protest of women garment workers in New York City against "low wages, the twelve-hour workday, and increasing work loads, [that] was dispersed by the police, rather brutally."[1] Kaplan found no evidence to support this account of the Day's origins."

On Clara Zetkin:
"Clara Eissner was born in Wiederau, Saxony on July 5, 1857. While studying at Leipzig Teacher's College for Women she became a socialist and feminist. In 1881 Zetkin joined the Social Democrat Party. A strong supporter international socialism, she married the Marxist, Ossip Zetkin, a Russian revolutionary living in exile. The couple had two children before Ossip died of tuberculosis in January, in 1889. Zetkin continued to play an active role in the Social Democrat Party and in 1891 became editor of the party's journal, Die Gleichheit (Equality). An impressive journalist, Zetkin took the circulation from 11,000 in 1903 to 67,000 in 1906. A strong campaigner for women's suffrage, Zetkin was appointed secretary of the International Socialist Women in 1910. In 1911 Zetkin joined with Rosa Luxemburg in attacking the leadership of the SPD Congress at Jena. The two women objected to what they believed was a lack of commitment against German imperialism..."

From Australia:
Around the world on this year’s International Women’s Day women and supporters will gather to recognise the struggle for women’s equality and justice: in the workplace, in the home and throughout society. This year’s International Women’s Day takes place at a time when women around the world remain on the front lines of wars on their liberties and livelihoods..."

Looking back: From 2002
In a March 2002 e-newsletter we reported about an event taking place on this day in Kensington, California (USA), where women were invited to: "Celebrate International Women's Day by helping artist Emily Duffy add the final layers of bras to the BraBall sculpture." The story of how this project grew into a massive (7,000 bras!) art action and more, see:

Wishing you all a good, strong but peaceful International Women's Day!