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Int'l Women's Day 2024

March 8, 2024, is International Women’s Day (IWD) when the globe celebrates women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. This year’s theme is #InspireInclusion, something we can commit to doing not just today but throughout the year and the rest of our lives.

My work as a lawyer, a writer, and now a performer has always been about creating a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. I want to live in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world where we value and celebrate differences and appreciate individuals regardless of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, socio-economic situation, or gender identity. Knowing that girls and women face additional barriers to equal treatment, I work hard to treat our daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, and grandmothers with dignity and respect. And it starts with us. Speaking to my Latina sisters here, do you confer equal respect to Afro-Latinas, Indigenous women, trans sisters, immigrants (regardless of legal status), and women with low income or limited formal education? It is always important to check ourselves first and come to terms with all those messages we got growing up about who is more valued and respected.

The Push for Women’s Equality

The first National Women’s Day was observed in the United States in 1908 in support of the striking women garment workers in New York who were fighting for better working conditions. Three years later, in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, one of the most infamous incidents in our nation’s industrial history, claimed the lives of 149 people. Most of the victims were young immigrant women who toiled in cramped, overcrowded sweatshops, putting in 12+ hour days.

The subsequent investigation and pressure from labor led to the enactment of numerous labor laws. Frances Perkins, a former teacher who became involved with the social reform movement advocating for workers and consumers, served on the Commission investigating the Shirtwaist Factory fire. She later became the woman to serve as a U.S. Cabinet Member appointed by President Roosevelt in 1933 as Secretary of Labor. Perkins championed many policies that became part of the New Deal and established the Social Security and Fair Labor Standards Acts.

Women’s organizing for equality has much earlier roots than 1908. In 1848, the first women’s convention in support of women’s equality was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized it, demanding women's civil, social, political, and religious rights. One spark for this gathering was women’s indignation that they were barred from speaking at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, mainly because women had been active in the Anti-Slavery movement since the 1830s.  The Seneca Falls Convention led to the issuance of the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, modeled after the Declaration of Independence.  It was the first women’s rights convention demanding equality for women, and since then, similar conventions have been held for years to support women’s equality.

Similar efforts pushing for women’s equality were also happening elsewhere. In March 1911, over a million women marched in several European countries demanding the right to vote, to hold public office, and to end sex discrimination in the workplace. Two years later, Russia claimed March 8, 1913, as its official International Women’s Day, and other countries soon followed. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975 and declared International Women’s Year. In 1977, the United Nations designated March 8th as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

We are all beneficiaries of the gains women have championed. Today, we encounter enormous, well-organized campaigns to turn back the clock by a century. Every day, we see laws being passed to suppress the teaching of American history and the evils of slavery, book bans to silence the stories of diverse communities, and the spewing of hate against the LGBTQ+ community, especially our trans children. Countless laws have been passed to limit women’s bodily integrity and to strip us of the right to decide if, when, and how we bear children. Fight for our rights here and abroad. On the international front, demand just treatment of migrants and refugees. Demand a cease-fire and an exchange of hostages and prisoners in the Israel-Hamas war.

Inspire Inclusion today and every day, and thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

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