Why there is an International Women’s Day


Every year we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th. This goes back to 1910, when an international conference of socialist women decided that 'women the world over set aside a particular day each year to remember women and their struggles.' The next year it was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland where over one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote, they demanded the right to have a job outside the home, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination. Over the following years celebrations spread around the world, with trade unions, socialists and anarchists being the organisers.

In 1913, the date was fixed as March 8th to commemorate an important strike by women clothing workers in New York

Unfortunately, recent years have seen the ideas behind March 8th being played down and replaced with a meaningless celebration of ‘women’. It’s become just another photo opportunity for female politicians, just another greeting card from Hallmark. Another empty event which does nothing to remind us that much of what we enjoy today had to be fought for, and fought for by ‘ordinary’ women.

We have no desire to celebrate the likes of Mary Harney, Bairbre deBruin or Hilary Clinton. The women we are inspired by are those ordinary women like ourselves, those who have proved that we can change our world.

We remember the telephonists who went on strike for equal pay, the Dunnes Stores workers who went on strike in support of the anti-apartheid struggle when one was sacked for supporting a trade union boycott of South African produce. We remember the women who have campaigned for contraception and we join with those who are still fighting for abortion rights. International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history.

This year WSM members arranged for an Iranian political exile to talk to a Dublin community group about the struggles of women in the Islamic republic, and assisted in the organising of a feminist walking tour. In Belfast we helped to show a film about Ethel MacDonald, a Scottish anarchist who was active during the Spanish Revolution. In Cork a meeting was hosted on ‘oppression of women and what to do about it’.

First published on indymedia.ie

From Workers Solidarity 102 the issue for March & April 2008


PDF of the Ulster edition of Workers Solidarity 102

PDF of the southern edition of Workers Solidarity 102