Although it’s quite a big deal around the world, you don’t seem to hear too much about International Women’s Day in the US – even though it started here. I wonder if that’s because of our strange distaste for anything that even faintly reminds us of “socialism.” (It’s so distasteful Obama had to tell the New York Times twice, one in person and once on the phone, that he was not a socialist.)
The celebration had socialist roots, and some trouble getting the date straight. On March 8, 1908, women garment workers in New York City marched to protest working conditions; in 1909 the Socialist Party of America commemorated this by choosing February 28, for some reason, as the first International Women’s Day.
Then more socialists got into it: in 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed March 8 for the celebration (our current-day Republicans would find much to admire in the Kaiser’s description of her as “the most dangerous sorceress in the empire”); in Russia, women protesting World War I celebrated the day on the last Sunday in February (March 8 on the Gregorian calendar), and in 1917 their strike for “Bread and Peace” was a catalyst for the Russian Revolution.
Thirty years ago the Ayatollah Khomeini may have picked the wrong day to declare wearing the Hejab mandatory – the next day, March 8, thousands of women took to the streets in Tehran.
Now it’s an official holiday in 34 countries, but here in America, where the shortest month is Black History Month, this year the shortest day is International Women’s Day.