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Why March 8

International Women's Day first cropped up at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of growth and mayhem, revolutionary ideologies and rising population.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2004 12:47 IST
PTI

International Women's Day first cropped up at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of growth and mayhem, revolutionary ideologies and rising population.

The first reference to it came about on March 8, 1857 when female 'garment workers' in New York City protested against inhumane working conditions and low wages. They wfere attacked by police and were forced to break up. However, two years later these women formed their first labour union to try and protect themselves and gain some basic rights in the workplace.

49 years later, again on March 8, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. Their slogan "Bread and Roses" symbolised the need for economic security and a better quality of life.

In May, the Socialist Party of America voted the last Sunday in February for the observance of National Women's Day, and the first ever National Woman's Day was celebrated in the United States on 28 February 1909.

As part of the peace movement looming on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.

The war happened and with 2 million Russian soldiers dead, the women again chose the last Sunday in February 1917 to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on fearlessly. Four days later the Czar of Russia was forced to resign and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That notable Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but coincided with 8 March on the Gregorian calendar used by people elsewhere. And so March 8 was unanimously decided upon as International Women's Day.

Since those early years, this day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike.

First Published: Mar 06, 2004 12:47 IST