We have just celebrated International Women's Day. The supposed origin of the date has been cited many times. A tragedy in 1908, in a textile factory, on March 8. 129 workers killed in a fire while striking. But it turned out that that day, Sunday, no similar event was recorded in New York. The real origin of International Women's Day has another story.
The true story of the tragedy
Something similar did happen in that city, but three years later. On March 25, 1911. The Triangle Shirtwaist shirt factory burned at dawn with hundreds of women working inside. The owners had blocked all access to prevent theft. The dramatic scene in the heart of Manhattan shocked public opinion and cost 146 women their lives. The majority of the victims were young immigrants, of Jewish and Italian origin. They earned a precarious life in the textile workshop of the firm.
The tragedy served so that the American laws began to gather improvements of the security in the work of the industrial sector. The Women’s Trade Union League and the International Ladies ’Garment Workers Union organized a series of protests against this tragedy. He highlighted the silent funeral parade, which brought together more than 100,000 people.
That bloody strike marked a before and after for the feminist movement. However, the event has no relationship with March 8. Moreover, International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time that year: six days before the tragedy! At the II International Conference of Socialist Women, meeting in Copenhagen had already been proclaimed. It was at the proposal of Clara Zetkin. And the date chosen was March 19 as International Women's Day.
19, not March 8
Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland celebrated the first International Women's Day on March 19, 1911. So how did it appear on March 8? The answer is in revolutionary Russia. Russian women held a series of protest acts on the last Sunday of February 1913. An initiative soon imitated by other women in Europe to show solidarity with Russian women. In 1917, the Russians chose again on the last Sunday of February to go on strike to demand "bread and peace." The fall of the Tsar and the arrival of a provisional government granted women at least the right to vote. That historic Sunday was February 23 according to the Julian calendar, which was then used in Russia. However, according to the Gregorian calendar, used elsewhere, it was March 8. That is the real origin of International Women's Day.
Only in 1977 the UN chose that date for the International Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. But it barely makes reference to the events lived in Russia in 1917. The link with the bloody strike in New York or with a remote demonstration that occurred, supposedly, on March 8, 1857, were mythified creations that emerged during the Cold War. They wanted to eliminate the Russian character that Women's Day really has.
There is no doubt that, whatever the real origin of International Women's Day, its genesis is related to the struggle for equality and rights, a struggle that persists until today.