On a visit to Riga and the Hotel Latvia in March 2008 in addition to enjoying the Skyline cocktail bar we decided to eat there as well. The food was excellent and there was a reasonably priced self-service buffet but what was especially good about his meal was that it happened to coincide with ‘International Woman’s Day’ and there were free cocktails for all of us and flowers for the girls.
To be honest I had never heard of International Woman’s day before, it certainly isn’t that big in the United Kingdom, and to be honest I have to say that I thought it was a bit odd to have it on a Saturday, which is a day really reserved for sport, but it turns out that this was just an unhappy coincidence because IWD is held every year on March 8th and is a day of day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world.
It all started in New York when in 1908 fifteen thousand women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1917, with two million soldiers dead in the war, Russian women chose the last Sunday in February to strike for ‘bread and peace’. This turned out to be hugely significant and a contribution to the overthrow of the Romanovs and four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23rd February on the Julian calendar, then in use in Russia, but on 8th March on the Gregorian calendar that was in use elsewhere. It has since become very important in Eastern Europe after a 1965 decree of the USSR Presidium that International Women’s Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR “in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and struggle for the peace.” Good for them, but I still think it would be more appropriate to have IWD on a Monday!
Another interesting thing is that although Latvia doesn’t care to remember or celebrate much about the Russian occupation they seem happy enough to continue with this day off from work arrangement.
In these days of equality it is important to be fair of course and I am pleased to say that International Men’s Day is an international holiday, celebrated on the first Saturday of November. It was first suggested by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1999 and was supported fully by the United Nations.