These Women's Strikes From History Show That "A Day Without A Woman" Is In Powerful Company
It's official: The "A Day Without A Woman" strike will be occurring on March 8. And while we've heard a lot about marches recently, strikes can also be a powerful from of protest; indeed, strikes have made dissenting voices heard throughout pretty much all of human history. There have even been a number of women's strikes in history, demanding equal pay, fighting for reproductive rights, and advocating for a number of other important issues that affect every individual on a daily basis — showing that A Day Without A Woman is in excellent company.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a strike is a "collective refusal by employees to work under the conditions required by employers"; they can happen for a number of reasons, like money and labor practices. Then there are strikes that happen "for purely political reasons," general strikes, like A Day Without A Woman. Although they have a slightly different goal than a work-based strike, strikes like A Day Without A Woman still aim to send a message to a particular person, group of people, or society as a whole.
And if the Women's March is any indication for the turnout of A Day Without A Woman, we can expect people of all genders to flock to it in the millions.
They won't be the first to strike, and they certainly won't be the last. Here are some other women's strikes from days past.
1One Of The Earliest Modern Strikes
One of the earliest modern strikes that women held took place in Dover, New Hampshire, on Dec. 30, 1828. Women working in cotton factories were outraged by the new owner's actions, which included banning talking during working hours, imposing a fine for lateness, and cutting wages from $0.58 to $0.53 a day. Around 400 girls held a strike that day, but unfortunately returned a few days later no better off than they were, because the factories simply advertised to find workers to replace them.
2The Women's Strike For Equality March
On Aug. 26, 1960, 50,000 feminists marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City during rush hour for the Women's Strike for Equality March. It was sponsored by NOW (the National Organization of Women) and came from the mind of Betty Friedan. The original idea was a national work stoppage, where women — still largely restricted to the home — would stop cooking and cleaning to bring awareness to inequality in the distribution of domestic labor. Similar to the Women's March, this strike and rally brought people together in unbelievable numbers, and the effects rippled throughout the country. They rallied with the goals of demanding free abortion rights, equality in employment and education, and 24/7 childcare centers.
Needless to say, this was a game-changer for the feminist movement.
3The Icelandic Women's Strike
Woman's Day Off sounds like a vacation but was actually a strike. It happened in Iceland on Oct. 24, 1975. Women were underpaid and underrepresented in the government, so around 25,000 gathered on the streets of Reykjavik; most of the female population (roughly 90 percent) didn't work, cook, clean, or take care of the kids that day.
Here's one from very recent history: Inspired by Woman's Day Off, Black Monday happened in response to a proposal to totally ban abortion in Poland. Tens of thousands of women went on strike Oct. 3, 2016, boycotting the schools, work, and their chores. They wore black, waved black flags, and marched in 60 cities across the country. What were they mourning, with all that black? The death of their reproductive rights. The rest of the world felt for them, and protestors joined in from Germany to France to Kenya. Just a couple days after Black Monday, the abortion ban had nearly collapsed.
5Protesting The Pay Gap
The women of Iceland don't quit. Although the country is now one of the world leaders in gender equality, they still have a pay gap. On Oct. 24 (sound familiar?) of 2016, women were sick of making 14 to 18 percent less than men; so one day, they decided to leave work 14 percent early, at 2:38. It only made sense, really, since after that, they were technically working for free.
Back in 2006 in Periera (a town in Colombia), partners of gang members refused to have sex with them to protest violence. They worked with the local government and asked the members to turn in their guns and attend a program, to help them better understand that violence is never the answer. This is perhaps the best part: Later that same year, the women released a rap song. It went, "All together we will win, against the violent ones, with our legs crossed." Yes.
7The First Factory Strike
Rewind to May of 1824. 102 women in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, walked out and away from their looms after the mill's owner said there'd be a 25 percent wage cut — and they'd have to work one extra hour. They refused to return until wages went back to what they previously were. Workers from other mills joined in on the strike, blocking doors so no one could enter. In just over a week, wages went back to (almost) normal.