Mar 15, 2021
Celebrated now on March 8, International Women’s Day started as a protest of women workers in New York City on February 28, 1909. First organized by labor activists, socialists, and suffragists, the idea of a “women’s day”—an international day of struggle for the rights and demands of women—spread.
Women workers in Germany chose March 8 in 1914 to demonstrate massively against the coming first World War.
And three years later, on March 8 in 1917, striking women workers in Russia massively took to the streets to demand bread and an end to the World War. This became the spark that set off events that led to the Russian Revolution. In recognition of the role of women in the workers’ revolution in Russia, March 8 became an official holiday in the Soviet Union.
That this holiday originated in the workers revolutionary movement is a history worth re-connecting to.
The pandemic has exposed many aspects of the overexploitation of women. Women have had to leave the work force to care for children and elders during quarantine. And of those women who remain in the workforce, the vast majority of workers on the front line in healthcare and in stores are women. The vast majority of part-time workers, often subjected to the worst working hours, are women. And during the pandemic, researchers have talked about a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women during lockdowns.
March 8 is a tribute to the revolutionary role of working women. Under this system, women suffer the lowest wages and are among the most oppressed. Their revolt can be the basis of a needed struggle against the whole social order.