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International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8. Millions of people around the world demonstrate on this date to commemorate the fight that women have been waging for years for equal rights.
This day has been officially celebrated since 1975, when the United Nations declared it. However, in the United States, it did not officially begin to be celebrated until 1994, despite being the origin of this tribute.
International Women’s Day: The History Behind
International Women’s Day was not born from a specific event but has been the fruit of more than a hundred years of feminist movements to demand economic, labour and social equality between men and women. You have to go back to the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th to remember the first manifestations.
The idea of an international women’s day arose at the end of the 19th century, but different events in the 20th century led to the commemoration we know today. One of them, perhaps the most symbolic, but not the only one, occurred on March 25, 1911, when some 149 people, mostly women, died in the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York.
After the Industrial Revolution, there was a historic period of economic transformation in the way of working. With the labour movement, women also began to raise their voices, but they continued to be exploited without any law to protect them. They also did not have the right to vote or to be able to control their own bank accounts, nor did they have the same training as men. In addition, their life expectancy was much shorter due to mistreatment and childbirth.
Concern for this way of life began to increase to the point that on March 8, 1857, women who worked in the textile industry, known as ‘garment workers’, in New York organized a strike to demand fairer wages and more humane working conditions. Two years later, the protesters created their first union to fight for their rights, and 51 years later, on March 8, 1908, 15,000 women once again filled the streets of New York to demand a raise, fewer hours of work, right to vote and prohibit child labour under the motto was “Bread and Roses”. These episodes were able to cement the official date of International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated on several different dates throughout history.
In 1910, an international conference was held in Copenhagen, attended by more than 100 women from 17 different countries. In it, the German Clara Zetkin suggested the idea of commemorating a global women’s day and the proposal was unanimously approved, although without specifying a specific date, only the month of March. Thus, on March 19, 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated, bringing together more than a million people in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. In addition to the right to vote and hold public office, the right to work for women, professional training and non-discrimination at work was then demanded.
The Tragic Accident that Escalated the Fighting
The need to support the fight for better conditions for women intensified on March 25, 1911, when a tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York caused the deaths of 123 women and 23 men.
Apparently, the origin was a poorly extinguished cigarette butt thrown into a bucket of cloth scraps that had not been emptied in two months. The victims could not escape because those responsible for the factory had closed the doors of the stairs and exits to prevent theft.
Movements During the Russian Revolution of 1917
At the origin of International Women’s Day, the UN also highlights the importance of the movements that were experienced in Russia during the protests against the Great War. In 1917, women took to the streets to protest the war dead and demand better living conditions.
These acts brought about the fall of the tsar, and the provisional government granted the female vote on February 23, 1917, according to the Julian calendar, or March 8, according to the Gregorian calendar.
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