A Salute to Woman

THE WEEKLY GLEANER | MARCH 24 - MARC H 30, 2021 | www.jamaica -gleaner.com | I2 Lester Hinds/Contributor I NTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S Day is observed around the world on March 8 to celebrate the achievements of women. It is also the focal point of the movement for women’s rights. But what led to this observance? Research suggest that this all began in 1857. Commemoration of International Women’s Day today ranges frombeing a public holiday in some countries to being largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood. There have been claims that the day was commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, but researchers have described this as a myth created to “detach International Women’s Day from its Soviet history in order to give it a more international origin” In August 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German delegates Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede and others proposed the establishment of an annual ‘Women’s Day’, 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. INTERNATIONAL PROTEST The following year on March 19, 1911, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time, by over a million people 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. The Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Female members of the Australian Builders 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 Saturday in February (by the Julian calendar then used in Russia). In 1914, International Women’s Day was held on March 8 in Germany, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918. In London, there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Activist Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square. Some of the outstanding women in Jamaican history looking on with pride at the opening ceremony of the Exhibition on Women at the Tom Redcam Library, in Kingston on International Women’s Day, March 8, 1978. Prominent in the picture are (from left) ‘Miss Lou’ Louise Bennett, Mrs Leila Thomas (partly hidden), Mrs Edna Manley, Mrs Joyce Robinson and Ms Elsie Sayle. THE GLEANER ARCHIVES Celebrating Woman – genesis of a movement INTERNATIONALWomen’s Day was cel- ebrated in Jamaica March 8, 1978 for the first time. The theme for Women’s Day 1978 was, “Women United for National Independence and Equality.” Many events were held in Jamaica to celebrate International Women’s Day. Among those were an exhibition and a mass rally. A free performance of Belly Woman Bangarang was given on International Women’s Day. This play was put on by women in the Special Employment Programme. People from abroad came to Jamaica to join in the celebrations forWomen’s Day. One of these visitors from Russia was Natalya Kislyak. Ms. Kislyak is the Deputy Minister in the Soviet Ministry of Health. Another visitor was Galine Mixilovna Frolova. Ms Mixilovna Frolova is the Vice-Chairperson for the Soviet National Women’s Committee. Also here was Comrade Gail Texiera. Ms Texiera is the International Secretary of Guyana’s Women’s Progressive Organisation. Published March 13, 1978, Page 15. How Jamaica marked its first After its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917, the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was commemorated by the communists in China from 1922. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off. The day re-emerged as a day of activism, and is sometimes known in Europe as the “Women’s International Day of Struggle”. In the 1970s and 1980s, women’s groups were joined by leftists and labour organizations in calling for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidized child care, and the prevention of violence against women. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the InternationalWomen’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.[ THE MONTHLY GL ANER | MARCH 24 - PRIL , 2021 | www.jamaica-gleaner.com | WOMEN ’S MONTH FEATURE