March 8: International Women’s Day
Imagine; Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day all in one! This is what International Women’s Day (IWD), in Russia, is like. March 8th is a national holiday and a non-work day.
Several nations celebrate IWD, but only a few acknowledge it as an official, non-working holiday. In the West, where Mother’s Day falls in May, IWD is typically celebrated by feminist and women’s rights groups.
On IWD, Russian men bestow gifts, flowers and other expressions of praise and gratitude on the ladies in their lives. While this holiday does have its roots in the women’s rights movement, it is important to remember that it, also, reflects the respect that Russian people have for the role of women in their culture. All women are honored, not just mothers!
In 1910, German socialist, Klara Zetkin, presented the idea of marking March 8th as a day of international solidarity of women’ social equality. IWD was first celebrated, in Russia, in 1913. Russian women wanted the right to hold paying jobs.
Later, the Soviets agreed and opened the workplace to women. March 8th was not a non-work day. By 1966, opinion had changed and this year marked the first celebration of IWD as a non-work holiday.
Brief Chronology of IWD
1908 – Socialist, trade and professional women, in the U.S., celebrated first Women’s Day, on the last Sunday of February. This was a day of demonstrations and rallies for women’s equal rights and the right to vote.
1910 – Socialist International meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark, established IWD to bring attention to world-wide women’s suffrage.
1911– IWD observed, for the first time on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. March 25, 1911; so called Triangle Fire in New York City in which over 140 women garment workers were killed.
1913-1914 – First observance of IWD in Russia; held on the last Sunday of February and seen as a demonstration for peace as Europe headed into WWI.
1917 – By this time, over 2 million Russian soldiers had died in WWI. On the last Sunday of February, Russian women held a protest for bread and peace. Four days later, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and the new Provisional Government granted Russian women the right to vote. This was February 23rd (old or Julian calendar) and March 8th on the Gregorian calendar.
1922 – Lenin proclaimed IWD an official Soviet State holiday.
IWD had encouraged world-wide attention and action regarding women’s rights. In 1975, the United Nations declared this year, International Women’s Year and 1975-1985 as the Decade for Women. UNESCO established March 8th as International Women’s Day and UN World Conferences on Women have been held, in various locations, in 1980, 1985 and 1995.
This article was originally published on the Russian Life blog. Russian Life is the top non-government publication focusing on the world’s largest country. Encompassing world events, cultural secrets, photographic explorations, and the history of this thousand-year-old land, Russian Life celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2016.
Top photo: Traditionally dressed Russian woman in the Golden Ring town of Suzdal. Photo credit: Marina Karptsova
PUBLISHED: March 2, 2016