REMEMBERING THE STRUGGLES & VICTORIES OF WOMEN WORKERS
For more than a century, 8 March has been the day to commemorate and celebrate the fight of working class and revolutionary women for a better deal and a socialist society.
Its origins are in the struggles for equal pay and decent conditions amongst women in the USA in the 19th century.
On 8 March, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. Their ranks were broken up by the police. Fifty-one years later, 8 March, 1908, their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honouring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labour. The police were present on this occasion too.
A conference in 1910 of socialist women involved in the Second International, adopted a proposal of the German revolutionary fighter, Klara Zetkin, to establish an International Women’s Day. Russian women began to observe this on the last Sunday in February, according to the pre-revolutionary Julien calendar.
In 1917 this was the day the working women of Petrograd literally started a revolution. In protest at rising prices and food shortages, they filed into the centre of the city, calling on all fellow workers to join them. This was actually March 8th according to the (Gregorian) calendar used elsewhere in the world.
’Down with hunger!’ ’Down with the war!’ Hunger was claiming the lives of thousands of children, along with those of older men and women, and the very sick and very poor. The First World War was claiming the lives of millions of farm labourers and workers at the front. The ’February Revolution’ of 1917, which threw off the yoke of Csarism across the Russian Empire, was the precursor of the victorious socialist revolution of October in the same year.