For 90 years, an embodiment of peace and solidarity, International Women’s Day, has united millions of women all over the world while educating students at the University of La Verne about the struggle for gender equality.
Circulating more awareness around campus, ULV’s International Study Abroad Center celebrated IWD by giving carnations as a symbol of strength and independence,to the first 50 women who visited the office. In addition the office was adorned with empowering quotes from famous women like Anne Frank, Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey.
Fifty plus students and visitors stopped by the ISAC office, including Trudi Ferguson, assistant professor of management.
Ferguson invited her culture and gender issues in management class to the office acknowledge IWD and women’s place in business.
IWD stems from a protest held on March 8, 1857. Women working in the garment district in New York City were fed up with long hours, poor working conditions and unequal pay.
The protest was a failure but a second attempt was made in 1908. Once again women in the sweatshop conditions took to the streets demanding improvements in the work place and the right to vote. Still no changes were made.
Inspired by their efforts, Clara Zetkin, a German feminist, was determined to make a difference. She worked tirelessly and rallied women from all over to organize the International Women’s Conference in 1907 that proved to be a success. In 1910 as delegate at the Copenhagen Conference, Zetkin proposed the establishment of IWD. In commemoration of the New York City garment workers, March 8 was chosen as the official date for IWD.
Although not recognized as a major holiday in the United States, today IWD is celebrated in other countries including Russia, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. In many of these countries posters are put up, cards, gifts and flowers are exchanged and, depending on the location, festivities can last a few weeks.
“I am very surprised at conversations with students outside the United States where IWD is acknowledged more,” said Debbie Yang, ISAC advisor at the University of La Verne. “I think if you asked students on campus, half of them wouldn’t know what holiday it was.”
Among students there are mixed opinions about whether IWD is important to celebrate.
“I heard of celebrating women’s history month but not International Women’s Day,” senior biology major Marpessa Assemian said. “I believe we should celebrate women more because I think we forget about respecting each other. I definitely think it should be celebrated more in the U.S.”
However, Steve Almaraz a junior business major said, “Sure I guess it’s okay, but I don’t think it’s something that we have to know about.”
Yang believes that it is important for college students to learn about and acknowledge the accomplishments of women. ULV’s student body is predominately women and they will enter the work force soon; the decisions they make can help strengthen equality for women in the future, Yang said.
Jessica Warden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.