Happy International Women’s Day!
Despite its name and the fact that it has become a generic celebration of all women and their accomplishments, the history of this day is actually quite American, and originally about female workers. Celebrated every year on March 8, International Women’s Day was first observed in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America to commemorate a 1908 strike by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).
The ILGWU was one of the first unions in America to have a predominantly female membership. Founded in 1900 in New York, the union primarily represented immigrants (hence the “international” in its name) and women, two groups of people that other contemporary labor unions did not believe could be organized. These migrant women worked primarily in New York’s garment industry, in appalling conditions. The strike was a violent one, and lasted 14 weeks, involving at least 20,000 workers. However, it was not just poor, migrant women who were involved. Wealthy and prominent women in New York, including Frances Perkins, Anne Morgan and Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, among others also supported the cause to improve the garment workers’ working conditions (earning the derisive label “the mink brigade“).
Women have come a long way since those days. A combination of almost too many things to list, ranging from labor activism, the right to vote, legislation, and cultural norms to educational gains, marketplace and economic realities have evolved to improve the plight of working women. But there’s more room to go. The hardest things to change are the ones that cannot be seen. While there’s still much room to go in the American policy arena, private companies also have their role to play. We hope Fairygodboss brings transparency to the progress that’s still-in-the making on this International Women’s Day and for the many still to come.