La Festa della Donna

imagesCA1GXWDNOn March 8th, Italian women celebrate The International Women’s Day – “La Festa della Donna”!

The first National Women’s Day was organised by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 to draw attention to the poor working conditions endured by many women. In 1911 Europe staged a similar event for the first time in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark.
Barely a week after this first International Women’s Day, a tragedy took place in America which graphically illustrated the appalling working conditions in many textile factories. On 25th March 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Company’s ten-storey factory in New York City, killing 146 of its 500 workers, many of whom were Italian immigrant women. As a result, new safety laws were drafted. Since 1914 International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8th and the victims resulting from poor working conditions, such as that in NYC are remembered.
In Italy, the first Festa della Donna was held in 1946, three months before the birth of the Republic. During the Second World War women had played an instrumental role in the country’s industrial and agricultural life and had finally been granted the vote in 1945. Despite the difficulties the whole country faced in the early years of peace, women were determined to hold on to these freedoms as their husbands returned from the war.
Over the years, the Festa has broadened its scope, and nowadays women’s groups and charities mark 8th March with demonstrations, conferences and marches to draw attention to a diverse range of women’s issues.
A ubiquitous part of the celebrations in Italy is the mimosa, the strongly-perfumed spring-blooming flower that Italian men traditionally give to their girlfriends on this day. The custom dates back to 1946 when the Unione Donne Italiane chose it as a symbol of the Festa because it is an easy-to-find, inexpensive flower. Nowadays, thousands of bouquets are sold in the run-up to the big day, and their bright yellow colour signifies vitality, strength and joy.
It was not until I was in Tuscany many years ago on this commemorative day, that I fully understood “International Women’s Day” – “La Festa della Donna”.

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