How International Women’s Day began

International Women’s Day has always been a day of action, not a day for flowers and passivity!

Socialist Worker

How International Women’s Day began

This year on the 8th March we are being called upon to #BeBoldForChange and to #StrikeForRepeal. Every year, for over a century, women have had cause to march because our society values women less than men. We are paid less, promoted less often, less likely to hold office, more likely to be unemployed and more likely to be in low-paid or crappy jobs.

Half the working women of Ireland earn less than €20,000 per annum and despite last year’s #PledgeForParity, research shows that globally equal pay isn’t expected until 2168!

Globally we struggle against gender discrimination, have less access to education and suffer more from domestic and sexual violence. In Ireland we have no say over our reproductive rights.

The union-organised ‘Uprising of the 20,000’ garment workers in New York in 1909 for better pay and working conditions was the first Women’s Day march and the tragic Triangle Factory fire in Manhattan 1911 proved to the world exactly how right they were to protest.

The textile factory caught fire with its workers locked inside (so they couldn’t take unauthorised breaks) and 146 people (123 women) were killed. For most women in the Western world things have improved but globally the same desperate working conditions still exist; look at the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh which killed 1129 people, mainly women, in an unsafe garment factory who were forced to go to work or to lose a month’s pay!


In 1910 over 100 women from 17 countries attended the 2nd International Conference of Working Women. A Marxist and socialist, Clara Zetkin, tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day which was unanimously accepted. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Woman’s Day – to press for their demands: the right to vote, the right to work, and the right to hold office. From inception it was a day for women to demand their rights, and in 1911 it brought over a million women and men to rallies for exactly that.

(pic) Clara Zetkin

In 1917 Russian women’s strike for “bread and peace” began on International Women’s Day. It started the Russian Revolution and forced the Tsar to abdicate and the Provisional Government to grant women the right to vote. Many countries have marked the day annually since 1910, but it’s become globally recognised since the UN in 1977 declared 8th March as International Women’s Day.

IWD was forged from anger, struggle, oppression and the realisation, amidst war and starvation, that equality for women is a vital step in the struggle towards equality for all. 2017 has brought women on their feet with the powerful Million Woman March against a sexist bigoted President.,

Now on the 8 March we ‘Strike for Repeal’!

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