Written by Naina Singh, a grade 7 student
Today is International Women’s Day – also known as IWD.
How it all began…
Women’s day really started as a labour movement – with women asking for better working hours, better pay, and also the right to vote.
When was that?
It started in February 1908 in New York when some 15,000 women garment workers marched through the streets of New York demanding better working conditions.
But how did that turn into Women’s Day?
These strikes went on for a while and the then Socialist Party of America decided to honour the day of the strike a year later, as National Women’s Day, on Feb. 28, 1909.
But, that’s not the full story.
A German socialist named Clara Zetkin was the one who proposed turning this day into an international movement. She was a communist as well as a feminist and was known for her fight for women’s rights. She put forth the idea of a Women’s Day at the International Conference of Working Women in 1910.
The Russian Revolution connection
Even though International Women’s Day started with the women’s labour movement in the U.S., it really took on another form in 1917, in Russia – and this is what led to the day being celebrated as we know it today.
Russia was facing unrest around this time. This was the start of the Russian revolution. The country was exhausted because of the First World War and there was a lot of shortage of food. Women were the ones who were standing in lines for bread. And they were tired and angry.
On 23 February (in the old Russian calendar), which is March 8th, thousands of people, mainly women, took to the streets in Russia’s capital demanding food. In this crowd were hundreds of female textile workers, who too joined the protest asking for food. By the afternoon that day, 100,000 workers had come out on the streets, and there were clashes with police.
This many historians believe, was the start of the Russian Revolution. Four days after the protests the Russian Emperor stepped down from his throne. The government that took over then granted Russian women the right to vote.
It became a day when…
Vladimir Lenin, a Russian revolutionary who was the founding head of government of Soviet Russia and of the Soviet Union, declared Woman’s Day an official Soviet holiday in 1917.
Then came the United Nations
In 1975, the UN marked the 8th of March as International Women’s Day. This year, the first World Conference on Women took place in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women was created.
And that’s the story of how International Women’s Day came to be..
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