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International Women’s Day is a celebration of ordinary women around the globe. Its origin is centuries old, and is based on women’s struggles to be treated with dignity, respect and on an equal basis with men.
The struggle manifested as early as in ancient Greece when Lysistrata called for a sexual strike against men to end the war. During the French Revolution women in Paris crying out for “liberty, equality, fraternity” marched on Versailles demanding women’s suffrage.
The United Nations website stated that International Women’s Day came about at the turn of the of the 20th century, which was a period of turbulence, particularly in the industrialized world.
In 1909 the Socialist Party of America created the first National Woman’s Day, which was celebrated across the United States.
At the Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, in 1910, a Women’s Day was established and it was international in scope. It was about honoring women’s rights and universal suffrage.
In 1911 International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Women demanded the right to vote, the right to work, to hold public office, and an end to job discrimination.
On March 25 of the same year the Triangle Fire in New York City occurred. It was a terrible tragedy in which 140 working girls, most of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrants, died. This tragedy profoundly affected labor laws in the United States, and the horrible working conditions which led up to the fire were invoked during future observations of International Women’s Day.
Prior to events leading to World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February in 1913. The next year in Europe, on or around March 8, women held rallies protesting the war and to show solidarity.
In 1917 Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace,” once more, on the last Sunday in February. Two million Russian soldiers had died in the war. Four days after the strike the Czar abdicated, and the women won the right to vote.