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International Women’s Day

Thursday, 30 March 2017

by Erin McAllister, Paralegal

On February 28, 1909 in New York, 15,000 female garment workers, organized by the Socialist Party of America, marched through New York demanding better working conditions and the right to vote. This event was initially named “International Working Women’s Day. In 1914 it was renamed International Women’s Day (“IWD”) and moved to March 8th.

IWD has been a force for good throughout the world. It has brought women together to affect positive changes for women and others. At the end of World War I, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers during World War 1. As the strike continued the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975 to help raise awareness of the plight of women and the issues they face: economic inequality, violence, sex trafficking and lack of educational opportunities to name a few.

While progress comes slowly, some progress has been made. New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893 and the United States ratified the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. More recently, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote in 2011.

Now, in 2017, another group, the Women’s March, organized an event to raise awareness of the value of women by encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on March 8th. This entailed women taking a day off, and refusing to shop or spend money except at woman or minority owned businesses. Their stated focus was on the economic value of women.

The event was not without its detractors. Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum described the Women’s March event in “the fine tradition of taking something that worked before and milking it to the point of uselessness or maybe self-parody.” Other authors have noted this new movement excludes women while purporting to speak on behalf of all women. After all, 49.6% of the world’s population is women and those women are going about their lives making a contribution as astronauts, prime ministers, doctors and fire fighters, university presidents, scientists and mothers.

Regardless of the criticisms and benefits of the Women’s March Event, it is undisputed that a cultural shift has started but it will take time and energy to enact lasting change.

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