I suspect that many of you are oblivious to the significance of March 8th and probably didn’t see any reference to it anywhere last week. Except for the Google doodle referencing International Women’s Day (“IWD”), it didn’t get much media play. I didn’t see even one Hallmark card for IWD, although there were quite a few for St. Paddy’s Day, the important beer-drinking holiday. That’s a real head-scratcher when you consider the market for the Irish or even beer drinkers. Imagine selling cards to send to over 50% of the world’s population. Huge! The sale of stamps to mail these cards might single-handedly save Saturday delivery for the USPS.
Since 2000, IWD has been an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China , Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In many of these countries, they have traditions of men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc ., with flowers and small gifts. In some, IWD is akin to our Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
One can speculate that the socialist roots of this movement might be one of the reasons why the US has not embraced the day full-heartedly. The International Women’s Movement began on the eve of World War I when Russian women, campaigning for peace, observed their first IWD on the last Sunday in February 1913. Four years later, on that last Sunday, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote. The women’s strike commenced on Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8th and is the agreed upon date for IWD.
Since then, IWD has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. Equally important, it is also a day for stressing the need for continued vigilance and action to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. The UN even designated 1975 as International Women’s Year. In case they are seeking opinions, I think we need another year or two…would it be too much to ask for a decade?
Although I’ve read that many global corporations have started supporting IWD more actively, I’ve seen no evidence of such support in my world, except, as I mentioned, the Google doodle of the day. Thanks, Google, I feel better.
But while women in this country may not have a specific day to mark their achievements (and take stock of what’s left to achieve or halt in its ugly misogynist tracks), March is a nationally dedicated month for celebrating Women’s History.
Honoring our history began as Women’s History Week in 1981 when Congress passed a resolution that authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions so designating a week in March. In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month,” which it continued every year until 1994. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have continued the designation for the month of March by issuing annual proclamations.
Celebrating women’s suffrage and full rights as citizens is a good thing, but we cannot rest easy. As we have seen in the last few election cycles, all that we have gained thus far can be wiped out at any time by misguided elected officials and groups seeking to impose their personal religious beliefs on all Americans. In these days of peril to our rights and freedoms, I’m glad we have the president we do, who appreciates women and is willing to champion our rights as equal citizens. The words of President Obama’s dedicating this month to women’s history are sweet music to the ears of all women and those who love women:
Year after year, visionary women met and marched and mobilized to prove what should have been self-evident. They grew a meeting at Seneca Falls into a movement that touched every community and took on our highest institutions. And after decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, women have written equal opportunity into the law again and again, giving generations of girls a future worthy of their potential.
That legacy of change is all around us. Women are nearly half of our Nation’s workforce and more than half of our college graduates. But even now, too many women feel the weight of discrimination on their shoulders. They face a pay gap at work, or higher premiums for health insurance, or inadequate options for family leave. These issues affect all of us, and failing to address them holds our country back.
That is why my Administration has made the needs of women and girls a priority since day one — from signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to helping ensure women are represented among tomorrow’s top scientists and engineers. It is why we secured stronger protections and more preventive services for women under the Affordable Care Act. It is why we have fought for greater workplace flexibility, access to capital and training for women-owned businesses, and equal pay for equal work. And it is why we have taken action to reduce violence against women at home and abroad, and to empower women around the world with full political and economic opportunity. . . .