Women’s day in Italy

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

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

women's day 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 women around them.

To many, International Women’s Day is remembered in honor of March 8, 1857, when a strike by garment workers in New York led to the formation of the first women’s union in the United States. Sixty years later, Russian women led a strike calling for “bread and peace” during the twin horrors of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1945 the Union of Italian Women declared that this special date, 8th of March, should be set aside to celebrate womanhood across the country.

International Women’s day in Italy

Italians are fond of this celebration. Although critics believe it’s an excuse men use to make up for a year-long of 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.

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

So, 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 has probably started in Rome after World War II.

Men started giving the 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. 

By Andrea Nicosia and Justin Demetri

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2 years ago
Reply to  BW

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


2 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
3 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.