March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

This date is commemorated at the United Nations and is a national holiday in many countries. It is a day to honor women in our lives, to honor women who have struggled in the past for equality and peace, and to rededicate to those causes.

In Russia and many other countries, this is a day when men give flowers, chocolates, and other small gifts to the women in their family. In Italy women are traditionally given yellow mimosas. In Montevideo a group of female drummers perform in the streets each year.

The holiday began in 1909 in the U.S. and came to be associated with honoring victims of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. Although IWD is no longer widely celebrated (or even known) in America, it is commonly celebrated in former Soviet countries. This is because striking women on this date in 1917 ended up being one key to the February Revolution that overthrew Czar Nicholas II, and feminist Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union.

Did that give you pause? An event in early March led to a February Revolution?

At the time, Russia was still using the Julian calendar, so March 8, 1917, for most nations was February 23, 1917, in Russia.

I find myself wondering if the holiday is no longer much recognized in the United States because it came to be linked in people's minds with communism. In some countries the holiday has political import—after all, women in various parts of the world are still fighting for equality—but it seems that most IWD celebrations seem more like a cross between Mother's Day and Valentine's Day.
NOTE: March is considered National Women's History Month in the U.S.

Women in World has biographies of female heroes and rulers from around the world. For example, do you know about the Trung sisters from Vietnam, Eleanor of Aquitaine (France), or Mbande Nzinga from Angola?

My heroes tend to be scientists, and a website called “4000 Years of Women in Science” has a large selection of biographies of women scientists.

Scholastic has a U.S.-oriented page called “Women Who Changed History.”

Create a paper Solidarity “Quilt.”

Learn about some tools that were important for many women, all over the world, for much of history.

One thing that has been touted as helping women achieve rights and a decent standard of living is the practice of microloans. This means making very small loans to people in third world countries to enable them to become entrepreneurs and—with hard work—lift themselves out of poverty. Go to Kiva to learn more about this and maybe to participate!

Do some jigsaw puzzles of women:

Helen Keller
Clara Barton

Anne Frank
Deborah Sampson (a Revolutionary War Soldier)

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