Today is technically the 44th annual Women’s Day, the anniversary of its 1975 “official” designation by the General Assembly. The day is formally named the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace (UNDWRIP) .
But the holiday has much earlier beginnings. The struggle for women’s equality and empowerment is, of course, thousands of years old. The first modern Women’s Day was organized by American socialist labor organizations in 1909. It celebrated the 1908 garment workers strike in New York. Two years later, the Triangle shirtwaist fire would cause 146 mostly teen-aged, mostly European immigrant, mostly female garment workers to die. This led to public outrage and to reforms in safety and working conditions.
Like May 1st “Mayday,” (International Workers Day,) UNDWRIP has All- American origins, leftist/socialist associations, political impacts, and international participation. Consequently, both American holidays are more popular overseas than they are domestically.
It’s pretty easy to understand why the UNDWRIP celebrations aren’t embraced by big business, corporate media, or the 1%. The name of the holiday makes it clear. The UN is not very popular. Women’s rights, from voting rights to reproductive freedoms, are under attack.
And International Peace doesn’t seem to be a priority for either the Republicans or the Democrats. Despite having more than 800 military bases, some on every continent, anything with “World” or “International” seems to be unworthy of mainstream support or participation.
Business interests created the September Labor Day in part to minimize the international worker solidarity message of May Day. We celebrate Women’s Day as a mostly apolitical exercise.
But things may be changing. After providing the margin of victory in President Trump’s election, (52% of college-educated white women voted for him) the same women protested his inauguration. The mid-term election results suggest that maybe the error was noted, possibly to be rectified in 2020. Of course, there are no preferable substitutes to organizations that are created, financed, and directed by conscious Black women.
Black women have fought for equality and empowerment, for themselves and for their families, from Day One. That list of history making freedom fighters stretches from Nzinga of Angola (1583-1663,) to Ida Barnett Wells (1862-1931,) to Fannie Lou Hamer (1944-1977.)