March is National Women's History Month and tomorrow March 8, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day! Celebrated each year on March 8th, International Women's day is a global event celebrating and remembering the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future. Each year there is a theme and the theme for 2011 is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.
Time line of events from internationalwomensday.com:
1908 Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
1909 In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
1910 In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.
1911 Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants.
If you are interested in learning more about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire there is an event tomorrow night in NYC hosted by Women’s eNews, partnering with the Women and Gender Studies Program and the Department of Romance Languages at Hunter College as well as the League of Women Voters of the City of New York. The Fire that Ignited a Movement of Women Workers, 5:30-7:30 Hunter College
I love reading first hand accounts of history! Harvard University Library Open Collections Program, Women Working 1800-1930, has diaries, memoirs, and autobiographies of women giving us a peek into what life was like for them.
Bread and Roses was a popular campaign slogan for the woman's movement in the early 1900's. Inspired by a poem written by James Oppenheim, first published in The American Magazine in 1911, bread represents economic justice and roses represent quality of life.
Bread and Roses
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
A popular custom in many countries (curiously not so much in the US) is to give women flowers on International Women's Day. In fact, I first learned of this celebratory day while in Italy 5 years ago with my friend Sarah, we were walking around and saw everyone with these yellow flowers! The mimosa flowers were all over the place. Coincidentally we were going to a spa that day and when we paid found out that in celebration Festa Delle Donna day- our services were 1/2 off!
It's too bad that this international celebration was fought for by the women of NYC and somehow it's significance has been forgotten. So go ahead and buy a flower for the women in your life! Lets continue to remember and fight for equality and achievement of women everywhere!