March 2014        

Give us bread and roses too

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day had its beginnings in the 1900s, when critical debate among women began to occur. In 1908 fifteen thousand women marched through New York demanding better pay, shorter working hours, and voting rights.
     The first National Women’s Day was observed throughout the United States on the 28th of February 1909. This was in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910 Clara Zetkin (leader of the women’s office for the Social Democratic Party of Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at their second International Conference of Working Women. More than a hundred women from seventeen countries attended, including representatives from trade unions and working women’s clubs as well as three women elected MPs from Finland and other women from Socialist Parties. This was unanimously approved, and the first official International Women’s Day was born!
     International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland in 1911 on the 19th of March. More than a million women attended rallies, campaigning to end discrimination.
     However, on the 25th of March the tragic “Triangle of Fire” took place in New York, claiming the lives of 140 factory workers, most of them women and Italian and Jewish immigrants. The “Bread and Roses” campaign associated with International Women’s Day came about as a result of this incident, demanding labour legislation on health and safety in the work-place.
     Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913, campaigning for peace on the eve of the First World War. It was during this time, following discussion, that the 8th of March was agreed on as the date for the official celebration of International Women’s Day.

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