International Women’s Day (IWD) this year is the fifth anniversary of the founding of Feminists in Struggle!  It is also the year that we will FINALLY have our national conference, long-delayed due to Covid.  Ticket sales for the July 5th to 7th FIST organizing conference in the San Diego area will be announced in the next couple of weeks. STAY TUNED!

One of our members prepared the article below on the history of IWD, which provides lots of useful information for all of us. The opinions contained herein are her own.

Sisterhood is Powerful! 

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize! We WILL prevail!



By Feminist Writer

International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on the 8th day of March every year and Women’s History Month (WHM) spans the month of March. Both of these markers have histories that we need to know about if we are to take on the considerable challenges we face in the present–a time when, although we have come very far and have much to celebrate, critical rights that women have already won are being taken away! These include the right to decide when and if we will bear children (since the overturn of Roe v Wade in 2022) as well as the erasure of the very word for our sex–“woman”. The study of our history and how women and our movements have, time after time, triumphed over every kind of obstacle, can help us find inspiration and lessons that can help us win the struggles we face today.

What follows is a chronology of the histories of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, followed by an overview of our present situation as women.

How International (Working) Women’s Day came to be:

1909–On November 23, 1909, sparked by an impassioned call to strike by a young woman garment worker named Clara Lemlich, an 11-week general strike against the horrific working conditions in New York’s shirtwaist industry was called. It was dubbed the “Uprising of the 20,000″ and started five years of revolt that transformed the garment industry in New York City  into one of the best-organized trades in the United States.

1910—At a meeting in Copenhagen of Socialists from all over the world—The Second Socialist International—socialist Clara Zetkin proposed an annual celebration of “International Working Women’s Day” to commemorate the 1909 labor uprising in New York—the motion was seconded by Lenin himself.

1911–International Working Women’s Day is celebrated for the first time.

March 8, 1917—A women’s uprising in St. 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. Thereafter, around the world, International Working Women’s Day or IWWD is celebrated on March 8.

1947–The last year that there is any record of IWWD being celebrated in the U.S. (until the 1960’s), as after World War II, the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union puts IWWD under suspicion, because people who are seen as in any way participating in groups or events associated with Socialism or Communism are being brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee and are often blacklisted and lose their jobs. This “black list” period puts a chill on events, groups and beliefs associated in any way with Socialism, Communism and International Women’s Day is one of the casualties.

1960’s—In the mid-1960’s, the “Second Wave of Feminism” begins—both the Betty Friedan wing (National Organization for Women)–which fought for pay equity–and the more radical wing, known as the Women’s Liberation Movement, which questioned everything about the position of women and laid the foundation for a wide range of issues we still fight for—the right to abortion, against sexual harassment and rape, available childcare and more. The movement also uncovers the lack of inclusion of women in conventional “history”.

1969–A Berkeley Women’s Liberation group, organizes the first street action to celebrate IWWD in the U.S. since 1947, led largely by a woman known as Laura X. There’s a parade; women dress as female historical figures–and Liberation News Service (a Left movement news service of the day) picks up the story that IWWD is once again being publicly celebrated in the streets of the U.S. and spreads the story to other news services, internationally.

Many around the world are inspired–and the next year, International Women’s Day Celebrations are held in 30 countries!

Women’s History Month chronology

1981— After the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement have taken off, there is pressure on Congress from women’s groups, such as the National Women’s History Project, which causes Congress to officially institute Women’s History Week, which is inspired by the parallel struggle by Black activists for a Black History Week.

1987–After five more years of pressure, Congress expands Women’s History Week to a full month: Women’s History Month–as happened when Black History Week was expanded to Black History Month. The impetus is the growing awareness that the histories of both groups have been erased and need to be studied and publicized widely.

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month and our present day reality

Each year women have defined IWD and WHM in terms of how they see the politics of the present moment. Some recent expressions have been regressive, such as calls in 2023 for a celebration of “International Women’s and Non-Binary Day” that removes the focus away from our rights as a sex, and a concentration on the achievements of “famous women”, while ignoring the historical context of their achievement and the need for movements that will move all women forward.

In 2024 we face a landscape that is especially challenging since the overturning of one of the feminist movement’s greatest (though far from perfect) achievements–Roe v Wade, and a right wing determined to take away every reproductive right we have won, including contraception, as they work toward declaring every fetus, zygote and embryo a “person”, thereby making every abortion a ‘murder’!

We also face, from the supposed “Left” the erasure of the very word for our sex–”woman”, along with attacks, including violence, when we try to meet in women-only settings; we’re also facing the erosion of another feminist legislative victory–Title IX–which enabled the growth of women’s sports and is now being threatened by allowing biological men to compete with women.

Aside from these new threats, the old ones persist: the everyday threats of violence, including sexual violence, from male strangers as well as intimates; the the disparities in pay and promotion between women and men (which are even worse for women of color) and sexual harassment on the job as well as the sexist stereotypes women are subject to in every walk of life. So, along with much to celebrate, as our movement has made a huge difference overall in the lives of women, we still have a long way to go. Let’s celebrate what we’ve won for our sex and move ahead together with a vibrant and strengthened feminist movement, drawing sustaining energy from our history and also not forgetting our very great achievements!






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