This week's installment of #SolidarityStories, written by ISO Columbus organizer Pranav Jani, commemorates the history and enduring legacy of International Working Women's Day.
Today we are participating, alongside many thousands of others across the world, in the International Women’s Strike, which brings back not only the working class roots of International Women’s Day, but the tactic of the strike itself.
In fact, socialist and working women created International Women’s Day. In 1910, the German socialist Clara Zetkin passed a resolution at the International Conference of Working Women to celebrate the day every year, internationally. Zetkin was inspired by the strikes of mostly immigrant women in US textile mills in 1908 and 1909, who had gone on strike against low pay, poor working conditions, and repressive bosses.
Another famous strike of the time involving women textiles workers happened in 1912, in the town of Lawrence, MA. 10,000 workers, mostly immigrant and mostly women, went on strike against a law that stole their wages. To give you a sense of the solidarity it took to wage that battle: the workers represented 25 different nationalities and spoke 45 different languages, and still managed to come together.
The phrase coined by labor organizer Rose Schneiderman – “bread and roses” – get to the heart of what this day is all about. “What the woman who labors wants,” Schneiderman said, “is the right to live, not simply exist … the right to life, and the sun and music and art … The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”
“Bread and roses” – the right to a good living tied to the right to the beautiful things of the world. The bringing together of the public and the private, the body and the heart. Women’s struggles – in the workplaces, in the home, in the family, in challenging the restrictions of gender and sexuality, of who to love and how – these have taught the world about something essential to the entire working class. We don’t struggle just for job security or better conditions, but we struggle for those things because we want back our whole lives. Without alienation, without stress, without dividing ourselves into tiny little fragments of ourselves.
A feminism that draws from this way of thinking is a socialist feminism, a feminism of the 99%, a feminism that does not exclude trans women, women of color, women around the world. A feminism that combats imperialism and colonialism. That fights for the abolishment of prisons, and the end of apartheid in Palestine. Such a feminism does not stop at bread or at roses but brings them together, always.
One of the most powerful slogans of our organizing in the last few months has been, "Solidarity trumps hate!" What is solidarity exactly? In these stories from the history of the struggle for human liberation we share examples of the power of solidarity and the many creative forms it takes. We will share another #SolidarityStory each Wednesday. If you have a story of solidarity you'd like to share, please send them to us!