If you’re reading this in the US right now, you might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about.
All over the world, March 8th is a day to appreciate, recognize and show respect for the contributions of women not only throughout history, but in our daily lives. In the US, though a bill was proposed in the 1990′s to join the international community in officially recognizing the holiday (which the UN did in 1975), it was never voted on and Women’s Day remains an unknown celebration.
Ironically, it was a strike of the “International” Ladies’ Garment Workers Union in New York City in 1908 that was the first inspiration for the holiday. The following year, the Socialist Party of America organized the first Women’s Day in remembrance of the protest. In 1910, a group of women from 17 nations met in Copenhagen and agreed to encourage their governments to make it an official holiday. Several were successful: Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland celebrated the first Women’s Day on March 19th, 1911. More countries continued to be added to the list of those celebrating women on random days in early Spring.
On March 8, 1917, Russian women chose to strike for “Bread and Peace” amidst the Russian Revolution. Possibly for this reason, in 1945 the Italian Women’s Union chose March 8th as the day for all of the regions of Italy (who had been celebrating it on various days) to honor women, and in 1975 the UN recognized this date internationally.
I was a bit confused when I walked about of my apartment in Milan this morning and saw bundles and bundles of little, bright yellow flowers everywhere. Not until I was speaking to a random guy in Piazza Duomo and he asked me what I was doing for “La Festa delle Donne” did it click, and I remembered one of my Italian teachers wishing the class a “Happy Women’s Day” the year before. One way that Italian men show their love and appreciation for women – and that women show their love and appreciation for each other – is to give them these tiny, suhshine-y “mimosa” flowers. They’re absolutely everywhere! In the windows of restaurants, on the bar at your favorite espresso shop, near the cash register at the pharmacy… You can’t escape them today. And it was because of their ubiquity and inexpensive availability that three members of the Italian Women’s Union, Teresa Noce, Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei, had made mimosas the official flower of the celebration in 1945.
Happy Women’s Day!