March 8 is International
Women's Day: born in militancy, efforts are being made to change it to
a sweethearts-type celebration
March 8 is International Women's Day - a day seldom mentioned
in the U.S. although its origin is as American as red, white, and blue.
According to one old article, a women's march in New York in 1857 provided
the inspiration for the day. Others claim that it began as a commemoration
of a strike by women needle trades workers in New York City in 1908.
Clara Zetkin, a delegate to the International Socialist Congress in
1909 (or 1910), suggested to the conference that March 8th to be set aside
to mark the struggle for equal rights (and pay) for all women.
A letter published in Zetkin's newspaper stated the American National
Women's Day in 1911 was its third annual celebration and had become an
Whatever its origins, in some places in Europe women get the day off
from work to celebrate. In Italy women give each other sprigs of flowers.
There is, however, a growing effort to make it a kind of St. Valentine's
day celebration with men giving presents to the "little ladies."
Such a machismo attitude attempts to destroy or nullify the political overtones
of the day.
At stake are BILLIONS of dollars that corporations
are underpaying women yearly by not giving them equal pay for equal work
- or just equal pay with the guy next to them doing exactly the same work.
The torch for celebrating National Women's History Month has been taken
up by the National Women's History Project. Mary Ruthsdotter, its projects
"The National Women's History Project (NWHP) is at the forefront
of the effort to introduce more women into the telling of our national
story. The NWHP was established in 1980 as a nonprofit educational corporation
by Molly MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Bette Morgan, and Maria Cuevas.
Using a variety of approaches, the organization has clearly increased
(American) multicultural women's history awareness in elementary and secondary
schools, colleges, workplaces, and communities nationwide.
"In 1982, the Project initiated a Women's History Resource Service.
Materials about women that were `interesting to read, historically accurate,
and multicultural where appropriate' were announced in a mail-order catalog,
making books and posters available to people wherever they lived.
"National Women's History Project (NWHP) is most widely recognized
for its Women's History Catalog which lists for sale thousands of books
and educational materials about women's history and women's issues. But
that's just one of the organization's approaches to increasing public recognition
of U.S. women's history.
"Teacher training is another front. Through teacher in-service
sessions and annual summer conferences, NWHP staff have trained teachers
from 34 states and four foreign countries in methods for incorporating
women's history into their curricula. Two of the videos the NWHP has produced
are specifically for this purpose. They have also produced seven history-content
videos, written and published thirteen curriculum units and six program
planning guides, and two coloring books.
"Out-of-school audiences have been introduced to multicultural
women's history at work sites and in libraries and meetings of social and
civic organizations. The NWHP has produced program kits, distributed a
range of short videos, and produced 27 full-color posters and ten display
sets for this purpose."
For further information: NWHP, or http://www.nwhp.org.
About 250,000 copies of the NWHP 48-page catalog are circulated each year.
Request a copy via NWHP or (800) 691-8888. NWHP, 7738 Bell Road, Windsor,
(Irene Stuber has NO connection with the NWHP organization but very
much admires its work.)