International Women's Day has a proud history, tracing its origins back over 100 years.
In 1908 socialist women in the US held the first Women's Day on the last Sunday in February.
On the second Day in 1909, 2,000 people rallied in Manhattan. Later the same year women garment workers staged a general strike. Almost 30,000 shirtwaist-makers struck all through the bitterly cold winter for better pay and working conditions.
The US Women's Trade Union League stood bail for the numerous strikers arrested in clashes with the police. Building on this the first International Women's Day was proposed in 1910 at an international conference of working women in Copenhagen.
It was the great Clara Zetkin who first argued for this day to celebrate women and their struggle for equality.
Zetkin was a relentlessly pro-woman, anti-racist and later anti-nazi German revolutionary and a close friend of Rosa Luxemburg.
Delegates from 17 countries representing working women's clubs and trade unions as well as socialist parties voted unanimously in favour.
The first International Women's Day was held the next year, on March 19 1911.
March 19 was chosen because on that day during the 1848 revolution the Prussian king made various promises to the people, including women's suffrage. The promises were later reneged upon.
Plans for the first International Women's Day demonstrations were spread by word of mouth and through the press. New journals appeared hotly debating topics such as "what has the housewife to do with politics?" and emphasising the necessity of extending the franchise to women.
The success of the first Day was overwhelming.
Meetings were held in small towns as well as cities. Village halls were so packed that male workers had to give up their places to women.
Elsewhere fathers took over the childcare for a change while their wives attended meetings.
During the largest street demonstration, attended by around 30,000 women, police tried to seize demonstrators' banners. The women fought back and serious bloodshed was only narrowly averted.
In 1913 the date was moved to March 8, where it has remained ever since.
It gained official recognition from the United Nations in 1975, which was dubbed International Women's Year.
It has become a national holiday in many countries - though not, sadly, in Britain.
But if all that recognition and support paints a picture of harmony between male and female comrades, allow me to spoil that.
Rather like the poor, political divisions between men and women have always been with us.
Some socialists saw demanding votes for women as divisive for the working-class movement.
Zetkin herself had to face down Lenin on a different point when he accused her of political "sins."
Such an indictment from such a man would give most of us the collywobbles, but Zetkin stood her ground.
Lenin had professed disgust at hearing that women's meetings had included discussions of love and marriage, holding that this was altogether the wrong sort of congress.
"Don't twitter like a bunch of chatterboxes!" he exclaimed. "A congress is not a parlour where women display their charm, as we read in novels."
But Zetkin would not allow such important questions to be dismissed as girly gossip and argued: "The questions of sex and marriage in a bourgeois society of private property involve many problems, conflicts and much suffering for women of all social classes and ranks."
Meanwhile in England the women's and labour movements singularly failed to connect, leaving each to develop separately.
It's a legacy we still have to confront today.
The suffrage movement famously split along class and political lines, with Sylvia Pankhurst taking a brave and lonely stand against her own mother and sister.
Sylvia never wavered from her belief that engagement with the mass of women was vital and that the concerns of sorely exploited working-class women should be central.
She also argued that the suffragette movement should link itself with all other oppressed groups.
However, even after the founding of the Social-Democratic Federation and the Labour Party female equality remained largely an issue for women alone.
The SDF, being avowedly Marxist, might have been expected to make links with the suffrage movement.
But in fact Ernest Belfort Bax, the "philosopher of the movement," was an avowed misogynist and the author of a work with the self-explanatory title The Fraud of Feminism.
Today we face not only a pay gap, but an increasing equality gap as government cuts impact disproportionately on women, children and the poorest in society.
While lip-service is paid to the "work-life balance" and to helping women to enter the workforce, the reality is ever-longer working hours, frozen pay and prohibitively expensive childcare for those who manage to hold onto their jobs.
Dishearteningly Zetkin's clear-eyed assessment of the position of working-class women in capitalist society still rings true.
"The capitalist mode of production transformed (woman) into an unfair competitor," she wrote.
"She wanted to bring prosperity to her family, but instead misery descended on it.
"The proletarian woman obtained her own employment because she wanted to create a more sunny and pleasant life for her children, but instead she became almost entirely separated from them.
"Since women constitute a cheap labour force capitalists multiply the possibilities of women's work in industry. As a result of all this the proletarian woman has obtained her independence. But the price was high.
"If during the Age of the Family a man had the right to tame his wife occasionally with a whip, capitalism is now taming her with scorpions.
"For her task as a wife and a mother there remain only the breadcrumbs which capitalist production drops from the table."
Zetkin only saw one way forward - the joint and united struggle of working-class men and women. She was, however, never disheartened herself despite the odds.
The system might seem indestructible "like an Alpine landscape in which the gigantic masses of snow repose on the mountaintops for centuries, seemingly impervious to sun, rain or storm," but "despite appearances they are undermined, they have grown soft and are ripe to be hurled down.
"Perhaps the beating of a little bird's wings will be enough to move this avalanche which will bury the valleys under its weight."
This Women's Day let's raise a glass to Zetkin and her sisters and do all we can to ensure that she will soon be proved right.
Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light (Continuum) about the Bryant & May matchwomen's strike.
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