The Red Origins of Women’s Day

By: Manimugdha Sharma

Women’s Day was a socialist concept. And the genesis of it was the Second International Conference of Socialist Women held at Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910.  

An appeal was sent out to all socialist women of the world before the conference: “We urgently call on all the socialist parties and organisations of socialist women as well as on all the working women’s organisations standing on the foundation of the class struggle to send their delegates to this conference.” 

Women from 17 countries endorsed the resolution at the conference that read: “In agreement with the class-conscious political & trade union organisations of the proletariat of their respective countries, socialist women of all nationalities have to organise a special Women’s Day, which must, above all, promote the propaganda of female suffrage. This demand must be discussed in connection with the whole woman’s question, according to the socialist conception.” 

In 1914, Women’s Day was observed on March 8 in many countries. The Red banner came to be associated with it as well. This poster was banned in Germany but became a symbol of socialist resistance towards imperialist wars later. ‘Frauen Tag’ means Women’s Day. 

On March 8, 1917, women textile workers in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), the then capital of the Russian Empire, demonstrated on Women’s Day. Soon, other women joined in and the demonstration was turned into a mass strike. The protesters marched for “bread and peace”. This started the Russian Revolution. The Petrograd Soviet was in place by March 12. 

Aleksandra Mikhailovna Kollontai was one of the original leaders of the October Revolution. She was the Soviet Union’s first ambassador to Norway—one of the first women in the world in such a role. She and Lenin made Women’s Day big in the USSR.  

Until 1975, Women’s Day was observed as a holiday in communist and socialist countries. After the UN started observing it, it started to spread to other countries too. Today, it is a global phenomenon, and rightly so.  

RED FM stands in solidarity with all women on International Women’s Day.