Women's Day 2014: How communist holiday came to embrace capitalism

Google celebrates International Women's Day 2014, which traces its roots to early-20th-century socialism.

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
Members of the Presidential Security Groups use shields and batons to push back student activists who protested ahead of International Women's Day at the Malacanang presidential palace grounds in Manila March 6.

If you click on the International Women's Day 2014 website, you can't help but notice the logos of multinational companies, including Scotiabank, Accenture, and BP.

Explore the Internet or other social media platforms for a tad bit longer, and you will see discount prices and sales on offers that claim to celebrate the spirit of womanhood.

From the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival in Canada to Malaysian Papa John's offer of  "3 FREE Tropical Sundae when you bring anything purple to their outlet and purchase a Set Meal C!" to cheaper domestic flight tickets in India, Women's Day has come a long way from its socialist roots. 

Born out of the women's rights movements in the early 1900s across North America and Europe, the first National Woman's Day was observed on February 28, 1909, and organized by the Socialist Party of America, who sought to honor the 1908 garment workers' strike in New York, which saw women workers demanding better working conditions. 

A year later, socialist groups met in Copenhagen, Denmark, and established a Women's Day to honor women's rights and work toward achieving universal suffrage for women all around the world. The first International Women's Day was observed for the first time on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, where millions of men and women participated in rallies. During the next few years, women around the world took part in peace rallies to protest World War I.

As working women's movements gained momentum in Europe, it was the former USSR that was the first one to declare the day as an official holiday.

Over time, the day came to be recognized globally. In 1975, the United Nations officially marked March 8 as International Women's Day.

This year's official UN theme for International Women's Day is "Equality for women is progress for all."

But at least some celebrations seem to be exclusively for the bourgeoisie: Attending the International Women's Day Breakfast in Melbourne, Australia, organized by the Australian-British Chamber of Commerce, for instance, costs about $110 per person for nonmembers.


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