Little Rock The limits of action without organization are hard to escape, and in the United States the call for a strike and actions by women to show America how badly the country would suffer without the contribution of women and their economic power was bound to suffer from the “revolution of rising expectations” set in motion by the mammoth women’s marches earlier in the year. There were some school closings in Washington. Some businesses were impacted, and of course the impact of reduced purchases or, alternatively, purchases in women-owned businesses are impossible to measure except anecdotally. Ironically, there were many women who said they in fact couldn’t strike either because their work was vital in terms of caring for other women’s health for example or they couldn’t afford to lose the income or the job by acting alone, much of which proves even more emphatically how important women are in the workplace.
I’m reminded of one of ACORN’s less successful tactical actions 45 years ago against Arkla Gas to protest rising gas rates when we called for a Shutoff Arkla Day. Organizationally, it is impossible to prove the negative. But, no matter, the important thing is that women were standing up either physically, symbolically or sympathetically as a reminder that there will be prices to pay for the continued governmental assaults. It was also nice that American women didn’t flinch at joining in solidarity with women around the world who for years have now made March 8th their day.
The history of the day is momentous. The first Women’s Day was originally organized at the end of February 1909 by the Socialist Party of New York. Although some of this story is surrounded in myths of historic protests and strikes, none of that has been confirmed. Driving from Greenville to Little Rock yesterday, I heard the claim that the first Women’s Day was in reaction to the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that killed 146 largely young immigrant women workers in New York City, but that tragedy was actually two years later in 1911. It was likely more a matter of the Socialist Party thinking it was the right thing to do, and though that doesn’t sound as epic, perhaps its very solemnity and morality, speak even more loudly. March 8th became important – and historic – when a century ago in commemoration of Women’s Day, women went on strike in St. Petersburg, Russia demanding an end to World War I, and end to food shortages, and an end to czarism, helping trigger the Russian Revolution. In 1965 the Russians made it an official holiday. China did so even earlier offering a half-day off for women in 1949.
Finally, the United Nations in 1975 adopted March 8th as International Women’s Day encouraging all countries to celebrate the date. What goes around, comes around, and now to their credit, March 8th became a day to remember in 2017 for women – and men – in the United States as well.
Now, if we could just make every day, women’s day in what still is too much of a man’s world.