IWD: Lifting The Veil

When I first decided to write a post around International Women’s Day, I may have been thinking that it would be easy to write a piece around a day that celebrated women, because I am a woman, a writer and someone who enjoys celebrating with good cause.

Sifting through information however, led me to learn about the political origins of this commonly celebrated day. 

To begin, I had no idea that National Women’s History Month (US), dates back to as early 1857 in New York City on March 8th,  when female textile workers marched in protest of unfair working conditions and unequal rights for women.

Upon further research, I actually came to learn that the International Women’s Day is actually drenched in controversy! It was first celebrated in 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. 

“According to a common version of the holiday’s origins, it was established in 1907, to mark the 50th anniversary of [the] brutally repressed protest by New York City’s female garment and textile workers. But there’s a problem with that story…research that emerged in the 1980s suggested that the origin myth was invented in the 1950s, as part of a Cold War-era effort to separate International Women’s Day from its socialist roots.” What?! Socialist roots? 


“In recognition of its importance, Vladimir Lenin, founder of Russia’s Communist Party, declared Woman’s Day an official Soviet holiday in 1917. Communists in Spain and China later adopted the holiday as well. (Sometime after 1945, the terminology shifted, and “Woman’s Day” became “Women’s Day.”) Until the mid-1970s, International Women’s Day would be celebrated primarily in socialist countries.”*

I then went on to learn that in 1975, after it became recognized as International Women’s Year, “the United Nations General Assembly began celebrating March 8 as International Women’s Day. By 2014, it was celebrated in more than 100 countries, and had been made an official holiday in more than 25.” Over time, celebrations of International Women’s Day have strayed from the holiday’s political roots with some countries leaning in to the commercialization of the original intent. In Argentina for example, it has become a custom to buy women flowers on this day; a sincere show of appreciation for their efforts, one can assume.

This all leaves me feeling conflicted in my participation. I am politically neutral (or agnostic), choosing not to identify with any one party or ideology, as part of my personal beliefs. Learning that this day originated with Communists is unsettling to me, being raised in the democratic free country that is Canada. I also do not identify as a feminist, having worked hard to succeed on my merit alone. Yet, I absolutely do want to support other women. Is jumping on the bandwagon and highlighting women in our organizations, companies and groups on March 8th truly the best way to honour and support women? 

I often share the famous quote: “Knowledge is power.” Understanding that the day we took to be about celebrating women’s accomplishments was actually started as a tool to drive political agendas, furthermore on the backs of women protesting unjust treatment and discrimination, has me feeling like part of the glitter of International Women’s Day has lost its shine. I remain grateful for the opportunity to have learned about the history of International Women’s Day and going forward, will be putting forth much more effort into showcasing women in different careers, trades and in business, every day; not just on the 8th of March.

Does learning the origins of International Women’s Day change how you view it or impact your decision to participate? I’d love to hear your comments on this.

Feel free to email me your thoughts at ingrid@schifandthecity.com