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How It Happened
A Brief History of International Women's Day
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The declaration of the Socialist International had an impact. The following year, 1911, International Women's Day was marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The date was March 19 and over a million men and women took to the streets in a series of rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work and an end to discrimination on the job.

Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took place. Over 140 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrant girls working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, lost their lives because of the lack of safety measures. The Women's Trade Union League and the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union led many of the protests against this avoidable tragedy, including the silent funeral march which brought together a crowd of over 100,000 people. The Triangle Fire had a significant impact on labour legislation and the horrible working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.

As part of the peace movement brewing 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.

With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian 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 anyway.

The rest is history: Four days later the Czar of Russia was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic 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.

How It Happened continues..

 

 

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