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International Women's Day

March 8: Women’s day in Italy

March 8 – International Women’s Day in Italy, a day to celebrate and think

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. How do Italian men celebrate women’s day in Italy? They do this with the traditional gift of women’s day yellow flower, the mimosas. This is the traditional women’s day flower in Italy.

Mimosa - international women's day in italy
Mimosa, the traditional women’s day flower in Italy. Ph. flickr/hexion

The historical context of women’s day

This civil holiday of March 8th was born as a political event. Over the course of years, it blended into the culture of many countries. So much so that the day lost its political flavor. Instead, it became simply an occasion for men to express their love to the surrounding women.

To many, International Women’s Day was established to commemorate the social, economic, and political achievements of women, as well as the discriminations that have occurred and continue to exist in the world. The first National Women’s Day was observed on February 28, 1909, in the United States, as part of the initiative of the American Socialist Party, which chose this date to commemorate the suffrage of millions of New Yorkers who had been relegated to better working conditions the previous year.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world…

On March 8, 1917, women demonstrated in Saint Petersburg to demand the end of the war. To commemorate this event, the Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow in 1921 declared March 8 to be International Workers’ Day.
The first Women’s Day was observed in Italy in 1922, but on March 12 rather than March 8.

The global movement for women’s rights grew in the decades that followed.
The UDI, Unione Donne Italiane, was founded in September 1944 in Rome, and it was decided to celebrate Women’s Day on March 8, 1945, in the liberated areas of Italy.

UDI in Italy - 1945
Poster from the UDI’s beginning in 1945 | Credit: https://archiviodigitale.udinazionale.org/1-congresso-nazionale-udi/

International Women’s Day in Italy

Italians are fond of this celebration. Although critics believe it’s an excuse, men used it to make up for year-long neglect. Furthermore, Women’s Day has become more and more of a commercial and marketing initiative. In fact, its civil and political meaning has been pushed in the background.

international women's day in italy
International Women’s Day in Italy: leaflets to remind of Women’s status in the World Ph. flickr/Abolire la Miseria della Calabria

Obviously, Women’s Day is a particularly emotional occasion in Italy. Both men and women are aware of the challenges women have faced in gaining independence. It’s a slow process, but it’s bearing fruit.
Women’s Day is a symbolic day that represents all the injustices that have occurred. One day a year cannot rebalance history or erase the past, but it is a small event with great significance.

You learn from history, and this day is closely related to very important historical events that have enabled women’s ever-increasing emancipation.

Some of the most important dates in this regard are listed below:
  • 1893: New Zealand grants women the right to vote. It is the world’s first state.
  • 1910: At the International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen, the delegates decided to establish a day dedicated to the defense of women’s rights.
  • 1914: Germany celebrates the “Frauentag“, a day when women demand the right to vote (March 8)
  • 1917: Women take to the streets in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) to demand an end to the war. The protest, in fact, marks the start of the so-called “February revolution” (8 March)
  • 1921:Moscow establishes “International Workers’ Day“. (March 8)
  • 1922: On the initiative of the newly formed Italian Communist Party, “International Women’s Day” is observed for the first time in Italy. (March 12)
  • 1946: Women in Italy exercise their right to vote for the first time (granted the previous year), voting in local elections (March 10) and then, more importantly, in the institutional referendum and elections to the Constituent Assembly. (June 2)
  • 1972: 20,000 women demonstrate in “Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori”, kicking off the hot years of Italian feminism (March 8)
  • 1976: Tina Anselmi is appointed Minister of Labour and Social Security. She is the country’s first female minister. (29 July)
  • 1977:The United Nations declares “International Women’s Day” (8 March)
  • 2022: September 26 Georgia Meloni is elected as the first Italian female prime minister
  • 2023: Elly Shlein gets elected as secretary of the PD political party

What happens during Women’s Day in Italy?

The symbolic women’s day flower in Italy is the yellow mimosa, which expresses female solidarity. The origin of the custom is lost, but it probably started in Rome after World War II.

Men started giving mimosa to their partners, friends, co-workers, and family, as well as to their significant others. They gave these yellow flowers to colleagues, mothers, and sisters. Indeed, the scent of mimosas fills the air. Nowadays, the celebration has evolved and now women also give mimosas to each other. Mimosas became the traditional women’s day flower in Italy.

women's day italy
Surprise Darling! The Mimosas are for you. Once you’ve cleaned the table and swept the floor, you can put them in a vase. You can do the washing up later, I don’t want the sign of my love for you to wither for lack of nourishment. I love you.

While men show all their love for women, society as a whole remembers the importance of women. It remembers women’s important contribution to the betterment of our society. And their sacrifices and achievements.

Still, the road to equality is long and winding. There’s a long way to go for Italian women, who are often victims of abuse, femicide, and inequality. Every day should be Women’s Day in Italy. Until equality is achieved. 

All women have a wonderful Women’s Day!

Protesters carrying a banner on Women’s Day in the early 2000s

By Andrea Nicosia and Justin Demetri

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4 years ago
Reply to  BW

Hi BW, thanks for the info! I am going to check out the article in the next few days!


4 years ago

I love all the history behind this but I believe your date of the garment strike in NY is incorrect. Historical records show the New York strike to be 1908. And the first union of women’s workers was actually started in Lowell, Mass around 1834.

Irene bage
5 years ago

I was in Rome on International Women’s Day approximately 1975 and it was very scary around The Spanish Steps. I was unaware of the significance of the day until women started gathering carrying banners and wearing mimosa behind their ears. I was told it was the one day in the year women were free to do as they wished. The Mimosa was given by their menfolk to signify their permission. I found it strange that women with freedom would waste it on a public demonstration instead of doing something pleasant. I was in my early thirties at the time and I suppose quite liberated. A few Italians commented on the fact I was there with my Mother and not my Husband . He obviously was a very weak man to allow such a thing. The situation soon became very tense with Politzia parked up on motorbikes. All armed of course. The shocking thing was an armed tank parked up a side street pointing to the square. There wasn’t any sign of trouble but the air was very tense. As the crowds increased and got noisier we left. We went into a jewellers to get off the streets where an English lady worked. She explained that the military and police presence were there to intimidate and had opened fire the year before. It was a very frightening experience and made me very glad to be returning to good olde England.