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Thursday, March 7, 2013

For All The Women

Not why it was created
Old habits die hard.
And urban legends [or whatever you want to call them] even harder.
I am reminding myself about those truisms after reading again [in more than one place, mind you] the oft repeated stories about how International Women’s Day got started and how there should be nothing to celebrate.
Most of the objections — if not all — center on its supposedly bloody origins.
A year ago, one of the most renowned newspapers in Spain published the story highlighted in the screenshot reminding us all, once again, of how the celebration of International Women’s Day was born out of a horrific event: the fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory in downtown Manhattan.
Not true.
No matter how bad your math skills may be, this Wikipedia article shows that the tragic event happened well after the movement towards having a day dedicated to women had been started.
Sometime around the middle of the last century, historians have told us since some 30 years ago, another legend got started.
As told by Claire G. Moses, whose credentials can be read here:

“Each March 8, I relate to my women's studies classes the story of International Women's Day. lt's a story I have had recounted to me numerous times and therefore know well. A spontaneous demonstration staged by New York City women garment and textile workers in 1857, protesting low wages, the twelve-hour workday, and increasing work loads, was dispersed by the police, rather brutally. Many women were arrested; some were trampled by the crowds. Fifty years later, on the anniversary of that demonstration, International Women's Day was established in their memory. My students respond to this story with an emotion best described as gratitude. March 8 usually coincides with that moment in the semester when they feel most the weight of women's oppression: they are hungry for knowledge of women's resistance. The women garment workers of New York City fill their needs for heroic foremothers.”

Guess what, again. Didn’t happen.
The quoted text is the introduction by Moses to this research whose author, Temma Kaplan, “demolishes a myth” —as Moses notes further down in her brief remarks. [Kaplan’s work was initiated at the request of Feminist Studies following the publication of this article.]
Which is not to say, of course, that violence, repression, abuses [and whatever you may want to add to the list] against women didn’t happen in the past or are not still happening in our days.
Whatever your reasons for celebrating — or rejecting — International Women’s Day, those alleged bloody origins of the occasion should have no bearing on why you do so. You can go here for more on IWD.

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