Organizations in many countries use posters as a way to communicate ideas and messages with their audience. They are posted on walls, fences, and poles all over a city. Unions sometimes hang posters in work places to warn of dangers, educate about benefits or inspire action. Posters often rely on creative art to communicate the idea. Posters are also an art form that is easily accessible to people.
International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8.
Each year, around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is now celebrated on March 8th. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout the month of March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.
1909: The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
1910: The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament.
1911: As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (March 19) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
1913-1914: International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around March 8th of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
1917: Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar. Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
1945: The Charter of the United Nations was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men.
Posters celebrating International Women’s Day are currently on display in the Falmouth Public Library through March 27th. This collection of posters are from a greater collection of more than 7,100 of Stephen Lewis. He is a long-time activist in the labor movement, and the former Treasurer of his union. Stephen has exhibited at a number of public libraries in Massachusetts, Boston City Hall, and two of the state Heritage parks. He has presented at the annual conference of the National Council on Public History, and on some cable television programs. The posters were contributed by friends, collected at conferences, through visits to some of the organizations, and from connections made through the internet.
This project is supported in part by grants from the Mashpee and Falmouth Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and by Laborer’s Local 1249.