A flyer prepared for the Nellie Langford Rowell Library.
IWD: MARCH 8
International Women's Day
In 1908, socialist women in the United States convinced their party to designate the last Sunday in
February as a day for demonstrations in support of "woman suffrage" - votes for
women. Two years later, at the Second Conference of Socialist Women (in Copenhagen), the
holiday was adapted, at the suggestion of German politician Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), to become
an international socialist day of demands for universal suffrage. Under socialist sponsorship, from
1911 to 1915 International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8 with women's parades and
demonstrations in many European cities; it was a counterpart of the workers' celebration on May
1. By a coincidence, in 1914 the Russian Revolution began on March 8 with bread riots led by
women. After the revolution, the USSR made IWD an official holiday, as did China.
International Women's Day was celebrated occasionally by socialist women in parts of the United
States from 1916 to the end of the 1930s. It was not marked in the US after the war, although in
Europe it continued to be observed from time to time. Then, in the late 1960s, feminists in the
second wave of the women's movement revived International Women's Day worldwide for
celebrations and public demonstrations.
At its revival, International Women's Day became associated with various aspects of the history of
working-class women. Louise Michel, the French anarchist (1830-1905), has been used as a
symbol of the celebration. So have women's strikes in the 19th and early 20th century, particularly
those in the textile industry in the United States. Accordingly, IWD marchers have often adopted
the strikers' anthem "Bread and Roses."
In recent years, issues of women's political influence (first symbolized by the vote) and economic
equality have been joined by struggles against racism, imperialism, heterosexism, and other forms
of oppression. IWD is now often extended to form a full International Women's Week.
International Women's Day is a day for international solidarity among women and for global
awareness. It is a day to celebrate the gains women have made and to call for the changes that are
Lou (Louise Bennett) at Poetry Talk and Ting, March 14 reading for IWD 1995.