More than ten years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet its lies live on. One of its most egregious anti-American inventions is celebrated throughout the world every March 8th, Women’s Day. Many Europeans and Americans firmly believe that March 8th was chosen to commemorate an act of vicious repression of female workers by the hobnailed forces of American capitalism.
French Communists maintain that a strike by female textile workers in New York was repressed on March 8th, 1857, thereby inspiring the creation of International Women’s Day in 1907. British feminists put the strike in the 1880’s, and the commemoration in 1913. The American feminist press has referred the date variously to 1857, to yet another women’s strike in 1908, and to a bloody police repression in 1909. 1857 is the most common date, but it is pure fiction. March 8th, 1857 was a Sunday — a most unlikely day for a strike — and no American newspaper records a women’s event of any sort on that date.
The Italian Communists invented the most colorful rationale of all in the 1950’s, claiming that a hundred striking women factory workers in New York City had been murdered in 1910, and that the holiday was proclaimed at a women’s conference in Copenhagen later that year as a result of a proposal by the German Communist Clara Zetkin. No such massacre took place, although there was a March horror in New York City the following year, on March 24th, when 134 workers of both sexes were burned to death when emergency doors failed to open and an emergency staircase collapsed during an accidental fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Nor did the Copenhagen conference proclaim Women’s Day. In fact, it was the American delegation to the Copenhagen women’s conference — not the German Communist icon — that proposed the establishment of an International Women’s Day, but the conference declined to act on the proposal.
But the historical facts were beside the point. At a 1952 rally in the Italian Communist stronghold of Bologna, party loyalists handed out a hundred thousand tiny booklets to pin on their lapels. The booklets related the imaginary story of the New York slaughter in microscopic type face, and the Communist press produced (falsified) photomontages, sensational drawings of events that never took place, and the names of the non-existent protagonists.
The real origin of International Women’s Day is not nearly so ideologically inspiring as these stories. The first commemoration in Europe took place on March 19th, 1911, celebrating the day, 63 years before, when the King of Prussia promised to grant women the right to vote. In America, Women’s Day celebrations started with a meeting of Socialist Party women in Chicago’s Garrick Theater on May 3rd, 1908, and two years later the date was moved to the last Sunday in February, to mark the end of a month-long textile workers’ strike.
So how did March 8th get the honor of Women’s Day? The Soviets did it. At a 1921 meeting of the International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow, March 8th was proclaimed “International Women’s Workers’ Day.” The date had nothing to do with America; it was to honor the first female workers’ demonstration against the Czar, in St. Petersburg on March 8th, 1917, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. Clara Zetkin, so widely credited with the creation of Women’s Day more than a decade earlier, was the head of the women’s secretariat.
In its relentless campaign against the evils of capitalism, it clearly suited the Soviets to give Women’s Day an anti-American spin. They invented acts of American repression, and then invented an anti-capitalist rationale for the holiday. Soviet propagandists found it desirable to let the true origin of the March 8th celebrations vanish from public memory, and place Women’s Day firmly in the realm of the class struggle against American oppression.
The facts are easy enough to come by, but they have little force against the melodramatic disinformation of the radical leftists and feminists. This March 8th, as throughout much of the last century, women throughout the world will bemoan events that never happened, celebrate heroic acts that were never performed, and ignore the cynical manipulation to which they remain victims.
Alessandra Nucci is a writer in Bologna, Italy.