Sunday, March 8, 2020

Why International Womens' Day Barely Celebrated In US Despite Starting In US

Today, March 8, is International Womens' Day, recognized as such by the United Nations since 1975.  But probably a majority of American women have never even heard of it, much less celebrate it.  There have been marches on it (or around it) here in Harrisonburg, VA for the last four years, but these have been small and led by women born outside the US, with most of the native born participants highly educated and very progressive politically, the latter very much the case for most native born American women who celebrate it, although it is gradually getting more celebrated here.  But it started here.  What happened?

The first International Womens' Day celebration happened on February 28, 1909 in New York City, organized by the Socialist Party of the US at the behest of Teresa Malkiel.  The following year, Clara Zetkin from the US got the Second Socialist International to adopt it as a day to be celebrated, although without a specific date set.  It was in 1914 in Germany that it began to be celebrated on March 8, which spred from there to be the day, with the US Socialist Party slow to move to that date, and it never really spreading beyond its original leftist circles in the US.

What really reinfoced that is that it became a major holiday within the international communist movement.  This came about after Russian women in then Petrograd (later Leningrad and still later back to its original name, St. Petersburg) demonstrated against the tsarist government's keeping Russia in WW I.  Famously they were banging on pots and pans as they marched in the streets.  Tsar Nicholas II called on troops to suppress them, but the troops ended up siding with the women, and four days later the tsarist government fell, replaced by a socialist regime eventually led by Alexander Kerensky.  While it was March 8 outside Russia, it was February 24 in Russia, still on the Julian calendar.  Hence tis was known as the February Revolution.

On November 7, still in October on the Julian calendar, the Bolsheviks under Lenin overthrew the Kerensky government, an event officially known as The Great October Socialist Revolution.  But as its precursor, the Bolsheviks would officially celebrate March 8 after they switched calendars as International Womens' Day, with it becoming a full holiday in 1965.  After that it would spread into other Communist Parties, with the Chinese one celebrating it from 1922 onwaed.  Needless to say, along with its origins in the Socialist Party, led to it not ever becoming a general holiday or celebration in the US, and knowledge of it being actively suppressed as time went on.  It was only after 1967 that  it began to get somewhat recognized in the US, but still remains not widely known.

Anyway, happy International Womens' Day, everybody!

Barkley Rosser


Anonymous said...

Excellent essay.

As for New York City, as I can hear in my office now, the classical radio station is devoting the entire day to music by women and there is to be a public classical concert of music by women in the afternoon. There are posters on Women's Day all about campus but with no context or even international designation.

Anonymous said...

Google is celebrating International Women's Day. There was a celebration at church. No editorial mention however in the New York Times.

اوائل الرياض said...