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The Roots of International Women’s Day

On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day had arrived once again 🥳 and many people took the opportunity to celebrate how far women’s fight for equality has come. People globally have inspirational female figures in their lives and women continue to inspire with their stories of success 💪

Each year the clock strikes the 8th of March, a new theme for international women’s day is

celebrated. In 2022, this theme is to #BreakTheBias. To build an inclusive environment that levels the playing field, people must unlearn biases – both conscious and unconscious. What has driven this is that the journey to end discriminatory practices economically, socially, culturally, and politically has not stopped. Pay gaps, for example, still plague women today.

But not many know the story of how International Women’s Day came to be.

Theresa Malkiel was a Jewish woman born in what was Bar in Russia and is now known as Western Ukraine. Malkiel and her family immigrated to New York in her teens. Here, regardless of her education level, she was forced to adapt to was placed in a garment factory, working a job that had little regard for the health and safety of women, alongside half the benefits men enjoyed (i.e – pay.)

Having founded a Union for female garment workers like herself and fighting for women’s voices to be heard at the at the behest of the Socialist Party of America, Malkiel held many leadership positions. Her activism extended towards women of many identities and resonated with women from a variety of ethnic, religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds. All of Malkiel’s efforts led to the first National Woman’s Day in 1909 in Russia. The strikes held were vital in inspiring socialist women throughout Europe to participate.

By 1917, a general strike emerged in Russia on the 8th of March. It was this day that was carried forth and celebrated in the Soviet Union and Germany. The United Nations picked this up in 1975 and by this point, March 8th was commemorated as a worldwide holiday for recognising the achievements of women and celebrating their stories and successes. It is remarkable that the woman responsible for the existence of International Women’s Day has long remained absent from conversations. The power to overcome struggle and revel in success always starts somewhere. For International Women’s Day, Theresa Malkiel paved the way! 🙌

Blog Post written by Saadia Cumar :)

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