Herstory of Strikes

The origin of women striking for their human rights can be traced back to early 1900s when progressive women’s groups, class-conscious political organisations and trade unions in the United States and Europe gathered to discuss the women’s issues around economic inequality and voting rights for women.

On 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

During the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910, the idea of International Women’s Day was proposed to be a day for the celebration of women and for them to demand their rights to work, vote, hold public offices, and end discrimination.   

During World War I and the people’s campaign for peace, Russian women celebrated their first International Women’s Day in February 1913. Later that year, following discussions, it was transferred to 8 March. It has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. On 8 March 1917, thousands of Russian women began a strike for ‘bread and peace’ in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I.

United Nations celebrated the International Women’s Day for the first time in 1975. In December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of working women seeking to participate equally in society on an equal footing with men.  

On every 8 March the day marks a call for action and we can’t think of a more appropriate day than International Women’s Day to call for a strike as a tribute to our sisters who came before us and claimed their rights through protests and strikes.

In an effort to learn from the past, we have compiled 40 examples of politically significant strikes in various parts of the world in the following publication ‘A Dangerous Unselfishness - Learning from Strike Actions’, and reflected on what lessons the peoples’ movements can take forward for future political actions.