Ask someone in the United States the significance of the date March 8th and it is likely that the response will be a blank stare and shake of the head. Unbeknownst to the majority of Americans, March 8th is celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day. Although not recognized as an official holiday by many countries, citizens around the world acknowledge the date as a celebration for women.
The day’s roots were inspired by two events that challenged women’s stereotypical subversive roles in society. The first took place in a New York in 1857 when female garment workers formed a strike to protest the inequity and hardships of their working conditions. Their strike ultimately led to the creation of the first women’s union in America. In a similar fashion, Russian women organized a strike in 1917 to encourage peace and compromise in a time when World War I was raging and the Russian Revolution was on horizon. While there have been a number of other events before, between, and after these two, the strikes in New York and Russia are often credited as the catalysts for the establishment of a global celebration honoring women.
In Italy, the origins of the first celebration of Women’s Day are believed to be rooted in the conclusion of the Second World War. For more than sixty years, Italians have recognized the date with the traditional gift of yellow Mimosa flowers. The flower has become a symbol of individuals’ respect for and recognition of women’s solidarity within society. Although there are some who say that the day has lost its meaning and become an excuse for women to revel in merriment with their girlfriends and behave like men for an evening, there are those who greatly appreciate the date’s acknowledgement of women’s achievements.
Globally, there are many strong female leaders to admire and thank for females ability to challenge the subservient stereotypes perpetuated by a male-dominated culture. Women such as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and Angela Merkel are just a few names who have shown their strength and prowess as evidence of women’s capacity to compete on an equal playing field with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, however, a glass ceiling still remains for women. On the world stage, women consistently struggle to balance their responsibilities as housewives, mothers, and employees. In the United States, women earn only 75 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And just recently in Italy, women took to the streets to protests their nation’s prime minister and his degrading attitude towards his female constituents. But though the glass ceiling still exists, past and continued efforts have created multiple cracks in the glass, thus weakening male superiority and dominance. Perhaps using the present to build on the past success of the others is the best way to maintain enthusiasm for women’s equality and one day shatter the glass ceiling.