March 8 is International Women’s Day. Some are inspired to celebrate, some give mimosa and some ignore it completely. But why was this day decreed as “the one for women”? When a mimosa twig is given to a woman, what exactly is its meaning?
The association of workers’ rights – later becoming women’s rights in areas of labour that were largely done by women, such as clothing manufacture – with March 8 goes back a long way. On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. The march was broken up by the police, but 50 years later their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honouring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labour. Again they were unsuccessful. A couple of years later, in 1910, the German socialist Clara Zetkin, considered by the Kaiser to be the “most dangerous sorceress in the empire”, proposed that March 8th be proclaimed International Women’s Day in honour of the US struggles for workers’ rights.
The history of the US labour movement is mostly about men, but in fact women played an equal part in brining about change. In fact the first all women strikes took place in the 1820’s in the New England tailoring trades, much to the amusement of the local townsfolk who could not have imagined the significance of what was taking place.
In the turbulent period that followed, women marched in processions to demand equal rights. In 1911, a disastrous fire at the Triangle Factory in New York killed 146 workers, both men and women, and became one of many events that multiplied women’s claims to days dedicated to women throughout Europe. On 8 March 1917 the women of St. Petersburg took to the streets to demand the end of the war, one reason why this date was chosen to celebrate International Workers Day. In Italy, Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in 1946. Mimosa, a plant that normally blooms in March, became the symbol of this anniversary.
But what do today’s women politicians across the province of Imperia, think of this day?
Constance Pireri, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Sanremo: “International Women’s Day should be every day, not just on 8 March. The Anti-violence Centre is doing a lot but there is still much to do to avoid discrimination of women. Prevention is at the base of the problem, so the centre tries to make itself known in schools, because a youth of today could become tomorrow’s stalker. ”
Enrica Chiarini, Deputy Mayor of the City of Imperia: “While in this event aims to highlight the important achievements of women in the social, economic and political spheres of recent times, on the other hand it is right to put the emphasis on how much there is to do in this regard. I attended the conference on the “Stati Generali delle Donne” in the Liguria Region and central topics have emerged about the difficulties professional women encounter relating to gender bias. There is still much to do and I believe that all parties should pursue the opportunities. The key words here are ‘respect for each other’ “.
Vera Nesci, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ventimiglia: “It’s an important anniversary. We have to think about the greater difficulties facing women who are in worse situations than ours, often not Italian and finding themselves victims of prejudice. ”
“Being a woman is so fascinating. It is an adventure that takes such courage, a challenge that never ends ” – Oriana Fallaci.
Parts of this post are an edited translation of an original article in Sanremo News.