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On International Women’s Day, Women Fought Back

International Women’s Day gets back to its political roots.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
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For years, International Women’s Day was celebrated mostly in the former Eastern Bloc and was marked mostly by giving the special women in one’s life candy and flowers.

But that isn’t how the day began. Rather, International Women’s Day started in New York in February of 1908, when about 15,000 female garment workers marched to demand fairer working conditions.  They did so the next year, too, with the endorsement of the Socialist Party of America. This was the official first National Women’s Day, a tradition they continued on the last Sunday of February until 1913, when the day was moved to March 8.

March 8 was also the day of the 1917 women’s march in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) that began the Russian Revolution. Eventually, given its socialist origins and Cold War jitters, the day fell out of fashion in the United States. Only recently has it made its way back westward -- and returned to its political roots around the world.

For years, International Women’s Day was celebrated mostly in the former Eastern Bloc and was marked mostly by giving the special women in one’s life candy and flowers.

But that isn’t how the day began. Rather, International Women’s Day started in New York in February of 1908, when about 15,000 female garment workers marched to demand fairer working conditions.  They did so the next year, too, with the endorsement of the Socialist Party of America. This was the official first National Women’s Day, a tradition they continued on the last Sunday of February until 1913, when the day was moved to March 8.

March 8 was also the day of the 1917 women’s march in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) that began the Russian Revolution. Eventually, given its socialist origins and Cold War jitters, the day fell out of fashion in the United States. Only recently has it made its way back westward — and returned to its political roots around the world.

This year, however, Russian feminists pulled a very 1917 move and tried to attach a banner to the Kremlin calling for the ousting of men from politics. The banner read, “Two hundred years of men in power. Out with them!” The women also set off blue-colored smoke bombs.

In Poland, women (and men) continued their protests against increasingly restrictive abortion laws — and against the ruling party’s treatment of women’s rights, including the president’s recent decision that laws protecting women from domestic violence are “superfluous.”

In Georgia, women in Tbilisi protested in solidarity with one another — some even stood below a fake glass ceiling.

In Ireland, women wore black and protested the fact that abortion is illegal in nearly every situation (unless the woman’s life is in immediate danger).

And in the United States, where President Donald Trump held a luncheon for the day at the White House, women joined a strike in an effort to demonstrate what the world would be without women. They protested on Capitol Hill (joined by some members of Congress).

And thousands, dressed in red, protested in the streets of New York City — just as 15,000 did over a century before.

Photo credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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