What happened on March 8, 1857?

The International Women’s Day March 8 was declared by the United Nations in 1975. Two years later it became International Women’s Day and International Peace. In the United States it has been officially celebrated only since 1994, although it is in that country where the origins of the commemoration are found. Why was that day chosen?

The most credible explanation dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, in the middle of the industrial revolution. The March 8, 1857, thousands of textile workers decided to take to the streets of New York with the slogan ‘Bread and roses’ to to protest for the miserable working conditions and claim a schedule cut and the end of child labor.

It was one of the first demonstrations for fight for their rights, and different movements, events and mobilizations (such as the strike of the shirts of 1909) followed one another from then on. The episode also served as a reference to set the date of the International Women’s Day on March 8.

The bloodiest chapter in the struggle for women’s rights occurred, however, the March 25, 1911, when set fire to the Triangle Shirtwaist shirt factory from New York. A total of 123 women and 23 men died. Most were young immigrants between the ages of 14 and 23.

According to the fire department report, a badly extinguished cigarette butt thrown in a bucket of cloth scraps that had not been emptied in two months was the origin of the fire. The workers and their colleagues could not escape because the factory managers had closed all the doors stairs and exits, a common practice then to prevent theft.

Unable to flee, many of the workers jumped into the street from the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the building. Most of the victims died from Burns, suffocation, blunt impact injuries or a combination of these causes.

The industrial disaster, the deadliest in the city’s history, led to the introduction of new occupational health and safety regulations in the country.

History of International Women’s Day

Before this date, in the USA, New York and Chicago had already hosted on February 28, 1909 an act that they baptized with the name of ‘Women’s Day’, organized by prominent socialist women such as Corinne Brown y Gertrude Breslau-Hunt.

In Europe, it was in 1910 when during the 2nd International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Copenhagen (Denmark) with the attendance of more than 100 women from 17 countries, it was decided to proclaim the International Day of Working Women.

Behind this initiative were defenders of women’s rights such as Clara Zetkin Y Rosa Luxembourg. They did not set a specific date, but they did set the month: March.

Right to vote

As a consequence of that summit in Copenhagen, the month of March 1911 was celebrated for the first time on Women’s Day in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. Rallies were organized in which women demanded the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to professional training and to non-discrimination in employment.

Coinciding with the first World War, the date was used throughout Europe to protest the consequences of the war.

The color Purple

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The celebration was progressively extended to more countries. Russia it adopted Women’s Day after the Communist Revolution of 1917. Many countries followed. In China has been commemorated since 1922, while in Spain It was first held in 1936.

The color purple is the representative color of Women’s Day, and the one adopted by women or buildings as a sign of vindication. It was the color used in 1908 by English suffragettes. In the 60s and 70s, socialist women chose this color as a symbol of the feminist struggle and later it was associated with the day that is celebrated every March 8.


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