The first mass demonstration for women’s activism was held by the suffragette movement, at the beginning of the 20th century. Their leader, Alice Paul, was an American women’s rights activist and strategized two major events: Woman Suffrage Procession and the Silent Sentients.
The former, held in 1913 in Washington DC, was to protest against the political organization of the country, from which women were excluded. The latter claimed women’s suffrage and took place in front of the White House, where more than 2000 women gathered. They used silence as a form of protest, reminding the United States’ president of the time, Woodrow Wilson, of his lack of support towards the given cause. The immediate response to this demonstration was an abuse of power by the authorities, who publicly harassed and arrested the protesters, many of whom ended up in jail.
(From the Archives of US Library of Congress, 1917)
A subsequent wave of protests took place in the second part of the century, as the Vietnam era student marches approached. Many women took part in these marches and taking advantage of their popularity, found in them a means of communication towards a huge number of people.
In 1967, a first important march for Equal Employment rights took place sparked by The New York Times’ outdated policies, that regulated who was employed as workers at the newspaper. The year 1970 denoted the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage and in 1973, a tradition began of marching against assaults on women, a tradition that continues today under the denomination of “Take Back the Night”.
The 8th of March, known as International Women’s Day, is the most popular protest that calls out the issue of violence against women. In Italy it is traditional to give women the Mimosa flower as a gift and is an occasion to reflect on the Gender partition topic. Every year the main squares of the most important Italian cities are filled with colors, banners, and activists who day after day wonder if the ambitious goal of gender parity will ever be achieved.
There is a reason why the Mimosa flower was chosen as a symbol to represent women’s rights. It all came from two activists: Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei. Their aim was to approach this festivity as a gesture of mutual respect between women, represented by a gift of a Mimosa flower from one woman to another. The flower itself has a history of growing spontaneously, the Italian climate allows it to prosper without having to fight, which is not always assured to women. Furthermore, even if the plant looks fragile and weak, its most interesting feature is its resistance and its ability to be strong when put in unwelcoming conditions.
Is it all worth it? Will parity ever be achieved? Is there ever going to be an era when women won’t have to feel the need to fight for equal opportunities? Progress has been made since the early stages, when even the right to vote was seen as an ambitious possibility. However, there is still a step to be made to reach a society where rights and responsibilities will be equally enjoyed by all genders. A step that requires support among all those who live in countries affected by this type of discrimination, and are therefore willing to fight for a peaceful and more secure future.
by Zoe di Lieto