International (Working) Women’s Day

A statement by the IWW Gender Equity Committee about International Women's Day

Submitted by Juan Conatz on March 1, 2014

The Gender Equity Committee (GEC) is both honored and excited to reflect on the impact working women have had on the labor movement and working-class struggle, contributing to the creation of International Women’s Day (IWD).

IWD, for more than a century, has been and continues to be a day of workingclass women’s resistance and organizing, bridging the women’s movement and the working-class labor movement.

IWD dates back to the garment workers’ picket in New York City on March 8, 1857, when women workers demanded a 10-hour workday, better working conditions, and equal rights for women. Fiftyone years later, on March 8, 1908, a group of New York needle trades women workers went on strike in honor of their sisters from the garment workers’ strike of 1857, in which they demanded an end to sweatshop and child labor, and the right to vote.

In 1910, at a meeting of The Second International, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8 be celebrated as International Women’s Day to commemorate both previously mentioned strikes and lay a fertile ground for working women’s resistance and organizing across the globe.

Two years later, in 1912, Wobblies went on strike at a textile mill in Lawrence, Mass., commonly referred to as the “Bread and Roses” strike. The strike was led by a contingent of mostly women and immigrants in response to the bosses cutting their wages following the passage of a new state law reducing the maximum hours in a work week. While this strike did not occur on March 8, it did occur in the spring and its message has since sparked many other direct actions in which working-class people have demanded the need for both the necessities in life as well as some of “the good things of life.” “Bread and Roses” has continued to be a common theme for the working class on IWD.

On IWD in 1917, a group of striking women textile workers in Petrograd, Russia sparked the Russian Revolution and urged their husbands and brothers to join them. They mobilized 90,000 workers to demand bread and an end to war and Tsarist repression.

Since the early 1900s, workers have, first and foremost, used IWD as a day to resist and organize together, and second to celebrate the hard-fought struggles of working people all across the world. Many countries—including Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, and Russia—celebrate March 8 as an official holiday.

The GEC believes this kind of struggle is important, and the true working-class roots of IWD must not be forgotten. We must not allow its history to be diluted by a bourgeois agenda, much the way Labor Day has replaced May Day as the widely celebrated working-class holiday in the United States. It is crucial that we continue forward, in similar spirit of our sisters who went on strike in 1857 and 1908, fighting to abolish patriarchy and sexism alongside capitalism, as both systems of oppression and exploitation are deeply intertwined.

Therefore, the GEC supports the struggle for gender equity in our union, workplaces, and the world at large. The five voting members of the GEC—elected at the IWW General Convention each year— communicate with each other as well as other members through the GEC listserv, offering their experiences, resources, and solidarity. Any member is welcome to join. If you are interested please visit http://

Because we recognize that our own union is sometimes the source of genderbased violence and inequity, we are here to seek out and/or offer resources for peer mediation, conflict resolution, anti-sexism training, literature, consent training and direct actions. Our aim is to foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness in the labor movement and the IWW in particular.

The GEC is also responsible for administering the IWW Sato Fund in memory of Charlene “Charlie” Sato. The Sato Fund was started to aid IWW members who are women, genderqueer or trans* to attend important meetings, trainings, classes and workshops, therefore elevating the participation, ability, and presence of noncissexual (“cis”) male membership. If you qualify and this resource would be of help to you, please contact us at [email protected] to get started on the application process.