How International Women’s Day was created, lost–and found again!

Prequel to the story: On November 23, 1909, there was a labor uprising in New York City in which more than 20,000 Yiddish-speaking immigrants, mostly young women in their teens and early twenties, launched an 11-week general strike in New York’s shirtwaist industry, dubbed the “Uprising of the 20,000.” It was sparked by the impassioned call to strike by a young woman garment worker, Clara Lemlich and sparked five years of revolt that transformed the garment industry into one of the best-organized trades in the United States.

Beginning of  International Working Women’s Day…

In 1910–at the Socialist International–an international Socialist meeting in Copenhagen– German Socialist Clara Zetkin proposes there be an annual celebration of International Working Women’s Day to commemorate the 1909 labor uprising in New York–the motion is seconded by Lenin himself.

1911International Working Women’s Day is celebrated for the first time. On March 8, 1917 (this is where March 8 comes in), a women’s uprising in Saint Petersburg, Russia “for bread and land and peace” is the spark that ignites the Russian Revolution, with a Strike that topples the Czar within four days of the women’s protest. So thereafter, around the world, IWWD is celebrated on March 8.

After World War 2, In the U.S. the “cold war” with the Soviet Union puts IWWD “under suspicion,” as in that period, people who are seen as participating in groups or events that are associated with Socialism or Communism are investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and are often “blacklisted” and lose their jobs and professions. Because of this, 1947 is the last year, for a long time, in which there is any record of IWWD being celebrated in the U.S.

UNTIL–1968–when The Women’s Liberation Movement–the beginning of the “Second Wave of Feminism” takes it “out of mothballs”,  claims it as a feminist holiday and starts to celebrate it.

In 1969–A Berkeley Women’s Liberation Group–one of the organizers is Laura X–organizes the first street action to celebrate IWWD in the U.S. since 1947. There’s a parade in which women dress as female historical figures–and Liberation News Service picks up the story that IWWD is once again being publicly celebrated in the streets of the U.S. and spreads the news to international news services. Many around the world are inspired.

The next year, 1970, International Women’s Day Celebrations are held in 30 countries!

Women’s History Month…

In 1981–pressure on Congress from women’s groups, such as the National Women’s History Project causes Congress to officially institute Women’s History Week.

1987After five more years of pressure by feminists, Congress expands Women’s History Week to Women’s History Month. The campaign has been influenced by the parallel struggle for official recognition of Black History Week and Black History Month.

IWWD continues to be celebrated around the world on March 8th. Women today define IWWD for themselves as needed in each year and in every country where it is celebrated.

Postscript: There is much of women’s history that most people–including most women–do not know about–because this history has been buried. Joy of Resistance considers it a joy to discover and communicate as much of this history as we can. We believe that know our history and the struggle that has gone into winning the improvements in our lives that we have won through organizing, is to understand how powerful we have been and can be and are–when we organize–and to be inspired to keep up the struggle until we win our full liberation

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

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Black Women Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Thurs, Feb 26, 10 AM-noon

WBAI is heard at 99.5 FM in the tri-state area of the U.S. and streams live here On Twitter, follow JOR at @joyofresistance To contribute / order Black Women Leadership premium offered below, call 212 209-2950 or go to give2wbai.org

This Thursday, February 26 at 10:00 AM to noon (EST),  join Nellie Hester Bailey, of Behind the News: The World and Fran Luck of Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio, for a  Black History Month Special on Black Women Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Find out what Gloria Richardson, Daisy Bates, Ella Baker, Diane Nashand many others, actually DID, that changed the course of history!

We’ll offer listeners 3 award-winning DVDs plus an interview with activist-scholar Professor Carol Giardinaauthor of Freedom for Women: Forging the Women’s Liberation Movement 1953-1970 who, along with Maretta Short, lays out the meaning of leadership and why this word is rarely applied to women–even when women do the same things as the men who are called leaders!

The three DVDs being offered are:1) Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker**–the historic film by Joanne Grant about the life and achievement of Ella Baker, the founder of SNCC and grand strategist of the Civil Rights Movement; 2) Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders–the moving story of Mississippi women and their leadership in the struggle for the Black vote, and 3) Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights*–a new film by Nevline Nnanji, with rare footage of Black women in political struggle–both with men, within in the Civil Rights Movement and in the majority-white feminist movement.

The entire package of 3 DVD’s plus the audio CD interview, will be available to listeners for a pledge to WBAI of $150.00. The DVDs can also be ordered separately for $50. apiece and the CD can be ordered separately for $25. (That’s a savings of $25. if you order the whole Women’s Leadership package).

That’s Thursday, 10:00 AM to noon, on February 26. Fill in the missing pieces of the narrative and learn the WHOLE story. Call (212) 209-2950 to order the premiums or go to give2wbai.org .

WBAI is an iconic listener supported radio station that has been bringing you non-commercial free speech radio for 54 years. It is part of the 5-station Pacifica Radio Network. WBAI is able to bring you truth that commercial media cannot, precisely because it is not dependent on any form of corporate funding. Help keep it free by contributing. Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI has been a center of media feminism in the Northeast U.S. and internationally for almost 13 years. Help keep Feminist Radio and Community Radio STRONG!

*Distributed by Women Make Movies **Distributed by Icarus Films (NOTE: DVD’s offered range from $89. to $348., if ordered outside of this WBAI offer.