Monday, March 10, 2008

Festa della Donna

Lugano was full of pretty yellow mimosa flowers this weekend for Festa della Donna.  Everyone on the street seemed to buying some for someone. This holiday turns out to correspond with International Women's Day which, though inspired by oppression occurring in the US, is an oddly low-profile holiday there, in my experience. Not a flower holiday, in any case.

This day came at an appropriate point during my plod through A People's History of the United States so I am fresh on the details of oppressive early 20th century working conditions.  Eighty hour work weeks, dangerous and dirty buildings, incessant factory fires, child labor, repressive rules, and paltry salaries – the individual stories are too much to bear. The numbers are likewise disturbing. In 1914 alone, 35,000 workers were killed in accidents and 700,000 were injured. The income of 44 rich families equalled the total income of 100,000 families. Locked doors during a factory fire at the Triangle Company killed 146 workers, most of whom were women. 

In commemoration of tragedies such as these, and to honor the women's rights movement, groups in the US began observing National Women's Day and, later, groups in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland adopted International Women's Day. (The progressiveness of Switzerland is apparently patchy, since the last canton held out on giving women the right to vote until they were forced to do so in the 1990s!) After 1917, it was celebrated on March 8 in honor of a successful strike by women in Russia for peace and voting rights. Italy adopted the holiday during the 40s and added the mimosa flowers. (Here's a nice timeline of events.)

I often wish we had a better sense of history in the US. I love that we are an optimistic people but we miss much in glossing over the transgressions in our narrative. Not recognizing just how often we've failed, how human we are, how wrong we've been, is tragic.  But, if you'll permit me a moment of drama, I believe not appreciating how far we have managed to straggle along may be an even bigger tragedy. 

(Worse even than not buying mimosa flowers for the woman in your life on Festa della Donna, by the way.)

7 comments:

fi said...

Well, Happy Women's Day to you! We of course, being African, celebrate International Women's Day on the 9th of August...Huh? Maybe they should change the name if it is not really that international...
Hmmm, I love the smell of Mimosa.

Julie & Captain said...

Happy Women's Day!

Yes, I do think history is being neglected too much by the USA. I once taught a college-level government class, and one student asked me what the civil war was...

And it's almost as bad when a boy doesn't buy a girl flowers.

-sidenote, Mimosa sounds so much better than Wattle (what they call it in Australia according to wikipedia)-

Swiss Ms. said...

But I see on my apparently international calendar, Fi, that you've got Family Day coming up soon... that's something to look forward to!

Julie-uli-uli, how could that be true? I am so disturbed by that. But it does somehow make me feel less embarrassed that I didn't know about the Korean War until college.

fi said...

I stand corrected; we have NATIONAL Women's Day... Family day is known everywhere else as Easter Monday, no idea why they changed the name. For the same reason boxing Day became Day of Goodwill, I suppose.
Black wattle is a swear word in SA! It is an alien (Austr -alien!) invasive species that they are desperately trying to control and eliminate. It grows too fast, uses up too much water and prevents indigenous species from growing. Mimosa flowers are from the silver wattle. We also have an African wattle which is used for furniture and traditional medicine as well as feeding wild buck and birds. You guys are going to be so educated about SA by the time I am finished!!! Just say if you want me to shut up alrady...

mr. oijoy said...

swiss ms. - you and i have bumped heads many a time over political persuasions - but i whole-heartedly agree with you about the sad state of affairs in the US concerning our knowledge of history. but, if i may, the US - with its own ugly blemishes - remains the best hope for freedom and liberty in this world (even if we decide to still water-board...). we have accomplished more in a mere 250 yrs. than the thousands of yrs. of what european culture has offered.

there's a rebuttal to be had for that one... we'll hash it out in may.

Swiss Ms. said...

I'm preparing my talking points now, Mr. Oijoy. Just wait...

Swiss Ms. said...

PS - Fi, I shall never grow sick of hearing about SA. Continue on!

If you start a blog, I will be your most loyal reader, I promise. Struesbob.