“Merry March 8th”… wait, isn’t that International Women’s Day?

Has it never bothered anyone that in Armenia, instead of saying “Happy (International) Women’s Day” they say “Congratulations to your March 8th” or some similar derivative? I’m not going to lie and say that they don’t celebrate International Women’s Day with a lot more aplomb than we do in Canada or the States (I cannot speak for Europe since I neither live there nor am familiar with their traditions pertaining to this day), but I find the idea of using the date as opposed to the reason for the celebration utterly astounding. It was definitely a confusing moment when I was faced with messages celebrating March 8th. Receiving “Merry March 8th” messages from multiple men and women in Armenia added even more to my confusion. What did a date ever do to be celebrated? It’s rather static, utterly incapable of heroics and quite the common thing. There is a March 8th every year, there are 30 other days in March and the 8th appears in 11 other months. So what makes that particular date so special?

Now, if we are to go back to the roots of what this date truly celebrates, we find that it had nothing to do with March 8th until the Russians changed things around.

The first National Women’s Day was observed on February 28, 1909, in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In August of 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual ‘International Woman’s Day’ (singular) and was seconded by Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women. The following year, on March 18, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, with over a million people celebrating in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.

Female members of the AustralianBuilders Labourers Federation march on
International Women’s Day 1975 in Sydney

In 1913, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February (by Julian calendar then used in Russia). In 1917, demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in Saint Petersburg on the last Sunday in February (which fell on March 8 according to the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.

Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, had it established but still as a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965, by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War (truly another strange name given to WWII), in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace.

From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet Revolution in 1917, the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists from 1936. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the state council proclaimed on December 23rd that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.

In the West, International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977, when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

Wouldn’t it be much better if people actually spelled out what March 8th now stands for? Happy International Women’s Day to everyone! I know this post is written a little late. Then again, every day should be women’s day, just as every day should be Valentine’s day, and every day should be Christmas 😉 There would be more love than hatred if that occurred, and wars would become obsolete. If we want a Utopia, we should definitely start with celebrating love and family first.

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