Op-Ed – U.S. Socialist Roots of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017


The US Socialist Roots of International Women’s Day

Ryan Brister


On Wednesday, March 8th, millions in the United States and the world will take part in an international women’s strike, a day of action against the marginalization, disempowerment, and silencing of women.


The timing is symbolic. March 8 is International Women’s Day, a holiday that traces its roots to a 1908 strike held by garment workers in New York City. The Socialist Party of America held the first Working Women’s day in 1909, demanding better pay, improved working conditions, and the right to vote. Later commemorations took the form of protests against World War I and continued calls for Women’s suffrage.


We, the Rochester Area Democratic Socialists, are committed to carrying on that tradition of collectively supporting women’s equity. We encourage our members and our community to take action.


Here in Rochester, we know that the fight for women’s equality has always been a radical struggle. Change has been hard won from the grassroots up rather than imposed from the top down. When Susan B. Anthony and other women voted in this city in 1872, they were breaking the law. Anthony was arrested, and eventually fined. She never paid the $100.


The efforts of Anthony and other strong women produced real results, and the world is generally a better place for women now. So why a strike in 2017?


Because Donald Trump is president, despite being publicly disrespectful of women and accused multiple times of sexual assault. Because congressional Republicans remain intent on restricting reproductive rights. But the problems at hand did not start in November, and our struggle is much broader still.


In most of the world, including the United States, the work traditionally done by women goes unpaid or underpaid. The labor of bearing and raising children is the most vital in any society, but the U.S. still does not guarantee paid parental leave. And after decades of stagnant wages and defeats for organized labor, many women will understandably find it hard to speak out in the form of a strike. But those who can, should.


The conditions that have produced our current crisis must be challenged head-on. Without resistance these trends will continue, and women (especially women of color) will take the brunt of it. We must think outside the ballot box to bring about the changes needed to produce better lives for women.


ROCDSA proudly joins this day of action to end gender violence, and fight for the reproductive justice, labor rights, and the crucial social provisions that all women deserve.