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International Women’s Day – a tradition with German roots

International Women's Day as a vehicle for change

International Women's Day as a vehicle for change, © dpa

08.03.2021 - Article

On February 28, 1909, the Socialist Party of America organized a Women's Day in New York City on February 28, 1909. Thousands of people showed up to various events uniting the suffragist and socialist causes, whose goals had often been at odds. ...

On February 28th 1909 the Socialist Party of America organized a Women's Day in New York City. Thousands of people showed up to various events uniting the suffragist and socialist causes, whose goals had often been at Odds.

Inspired by this example, German delegates Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede and others proposed at the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference in Copenhagen that “a special Women's Day” be organized annually. The following year on March 19, 1911 (the 40th anniversary of the Paris Commune, a radical socialist government that briefly ruled France in 1871), International Women's Day (IWD) also known as Women Fighting Day (Frauenkampftag) was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. From Europe. the  movement soon spread around the globe.

One of the main demands women proclaimed was the right to vote (suffrage). After a massive demonstration led by Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai (beginning on March 8 according to Julian calendar) that played a role in leading to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution, the provisional government formed became the first government of a major power to grant women the right to vote. German women won their right to vote a year later in 1918. In Jamaica some women were allowed to vote as early as 1919, but it took until 1944 until full adult suffrage irrespective of race, sex, or social class was established.

In recognition of its importance, Vladimir Lenin, founder of Russia’s Communist Party, declared Woman’s Day an official Soviet holiday in 1917. Communists in Spain and China later adopted the holiday as well. Until the mid-1970s, International Women’s Day would be celebrated primarily in socialist countries. In 1975, recognized as International Women’s Year, the United Nations General Assembly began celebrating March 8 as International Women’s Day. In Germany so far, Berlin is the only Federal State that adopted March 8 as an official holiday in 2019.

The official theme of this year’s celebration is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. Because, although today suffrage is established all over the world - and over the years, many celebrations of International Women’s Day strayed far from the holiday’s political roots and became largely commercialized - we are still far from having achieved the vision of those foremothers more than 100 years ago: total equality for women. Therefore, IWD is as relevant today as it has always been. Join us in not only remembering and celebrating the great women in our lives and histories but also recognizing and challenging ongoing inequalities – be they legal, linguistic, or  societal.

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