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Born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis, the International Women's Day (IWD) inherited a tradition of protest and political activism. In the years before 1910, from the turn of the 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering paid work in some numbers. Their jobs were sex segregated, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages worse than depressed. In Europe, the flames of revolution were being kindled.
It was German socialist Clara Zetkin that was the real mother of IWD. In 1907, she had organized an International Conference of Socialist Women and called for all socialist parties to fight energetically for women's suffrage. Zetkin was bitterly opposed to bourgeois feminism and wanted to ensure that working class women were not lured away from their class movement by default. The conference participants, including Alexandra Kollontai, a Russian revolutionary, discussed demonstrating to publicize their support for women's equality.
In 1908 Branch Number 3 of the New York City Socialist Democratic Women's Society took up the call by organizing a mass meeting on women's suffrage on March 8th. The following year the American Socialist Party declared the last Sunday in February to be National Woman's Day.
Russian socialist women followed suit from 1913, celebrating IWD like the American socialists on the last Sunday in February. In Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), on 23 February 1913 an IWD demonstration by women textile workers turned into bread riots and then into the February revolution. The fact that 23 February on the old Russian calendar corresponded to 8 March on the Western calendar adopted after the revolution set the date for the Soviet celebrations of IWD from 1918.
From 1922 Clara Zetkin headed the International Women's Secretariat of the Communist International in Moscow and IWD became an official Communist holiday. It became International Women's Day after the Second World War.
March 8 became the first spring holiday in Russia. Up to this day, it is an official day off and both men and women of Russia are looking forward to this holiday. It has long lost its political meaning and is looked upon as a day to celebrate the unconditional love, sacrifice, patience, wisdom and beauty of the Russian women.