International Women’s Day in 2017 is the most politicized in years, with marches and strikes organized around the world. Haymarket’s Dana Blanchard looks back to when, a century ago today, such action set off a chain of events that would culminate in the world’s first proletarian revolution.
One of the greatest lessons the Russian state learned on March 8, 1917 was never to underestimate the women of Petrograd. On that fateful morning, International Women’s Day, women workers threw down their tools and walked out of the factories and into the streets. They were met by thousands more women, many of them soldiers’ wives tired of watching their children slowly starve, who were protesting the endless war and the long bread lines that had been a feature of the city since the war began in 1914. This was a powerful economic and political statement—women workers were 47 percent of the workforce in Petrograd at the time—and inspired male workers to walk off the job too, effectively shutting down the city’s economy and putting the government of Tsar Nicholas II on notice that the women and the workers wanted fundamental change.
Writing in the Guardian, pioneering British feminist Sheila Rowbotham named The Women Incendiaries by Edith Thomas as one of her top 10 radical history books.
To preface her list, she writes:
"When the women’s liberation movement started in the late 1960s, I began looking for the women, as well as men, who had been hidden from history. Fifty years on, I am still at it. The following books are drawn from a great host of books I admire."