Africa, Asia, Australia, Austria, better pay, Canada, Chicago, China, Clara Zetkin, Copenhagen, demonstrations, Denmark, Europe, February revolution, female reform societies, Finnish parliament, Germany, International Conference of Working Women, International Women’s Day, International Women’s Year, labor, Luise Zietz, Manchester, meetings, National Woman’s Day, New York, October Revolution, official holiday, Peterloo Massacre, Pledge for parity, Russia, Social Democratic Party’, St Petersburg, Switzerland, theme, UK, United Nations, US, USSR, voting rights, women
(updated from the original published to Bubblews writing site, now gone)
Today, 8 March 2016, is International Women’s Day. The day features various events around the world to celebrate the achievements of and respect for women. It is especially important here in Australia as we have a right-wing Coalition government (of the Liberal and National parties) that arguably hasn’t been particularly into women although it is improving. In a 19-person Cabinet under previous PM Tony Abbott, there was originally one woman. Not surprisingly, Australia has more International Women’s Day events per head of population than most countries.
The history of International Women’s Day is the story of the struggle of women to get a better deal in life. I think the theme for this day in 2016, “Pledge for parity”, is spot on. If we give women and other people who are potentially disadvantaged by various political, social and economic systems the same opportunity as those traditionally favored by these systems, then society and the economy will be much better off for it.
Women had long played a role in meetings and demonstrations aimed at improving their lot. Female reform societies were established in northern England in mid 1819 and many members wore white and carried their society flags at a huge meeting for parliamentary reform, which would become known as the Peterloo Massacre, in Manchester, UK in August of that year.
International Women’s Day came out of labor movements in the US and Europe in the first decade of the 20th century. The first women’s day was held in Chicago on 3 May 1908. National Woman’s Day was first celebrated in New York on 28 February 1909 when about 15,000 women, including many from the garment industry, marched for better pay and conditions and voting rights. The day was observed each year until 1913.
The first International Conference of Working Women was held in March 1910 in Copenhagen. At the second one, also held in Copenhagen, in August of that year, socialist Luise Zietz proposed an International Women’s Day. It received unanimous approval from the over 100 women, including the three female members of the Finnish parliament as well as women from socialist parties, unions, and working women’s clubs from 17 countries who had gathered for the conference.
Clara Zetkin of Germany’s Social Democratic Party’s Women’s Office organised the first International Women’s Day on 19 March 1911, attended by over one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. They campaigned for the right of women to work, vote, hold public office, and not be discriminated against.
Russian women took part in International Women’s Day in 1913, campaigning for peace. It was celebrated on the last Sunday of February, under the Julian calendar still used at that time in Russia. From 1914, International Women’s Day was moved to 8 March and has been held on that day ever since. Peace remained a theme of the day.
In 1917, Russian women in St Petersburg marked the day (23 February under their Julian calendar; 8 March under the Gregorian calendar) by going on strike for “bread and peace”, protesting about food shortages and the war. Four days later, the women were still on strike and this initiated the February revolution (it was still February in Russia), forcing the tsar to abdicate. The new provisional government gave women the vote.
After the October Revolution, International Women’s Day was held each year in the USSR and it became a holiday from 1965. The day was mainly celebrated in communist countries, including China from 1922 and Spain from 1936. In China from 1949, women were given a half-day holiday to celebrate women’s day.
International Women’s Day celebrations were revitalised in the west in the 1970s. The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women’s Year, and International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8 of that year and every year since. From 1996, the UN has given International Women’s Day a different theme each year and these have included themes around peace, rights, equality and so on.
The prominence of International Women’s Day has grown steadily since the 1970s. Large celebrations and demonstrations are held in the US, Canada, Europe, UK and Australia. It is an official holiday in many Asian and African countries.
Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Benjamin Franklin, Britain, Canada, China, daylight saving, ebook, Europe, George Hudson, Germany, London, New South Wales, New York, New Zealand, Paris, Portugal, South America, South Australia, Tasmania, The Waste of Daylight, Uniform Time Act, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Victoria, William Willett
Several Australian states, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian Capital Territory, start daylight saving tomorrow, 4 October.
I’m writing a book on the history of daylight saving time around the world. It will be published as an ebook next year, 2016, the 100th anniversary of the first use of daylight saving on a national basis in European countries.
Meanwhile, here’s an article explaining daylight saving and its pros and cons that I wrote for the Helium writing site, now gone …
Daylight saving time is where clocks are turned forward, usually by one hour, in the spring and turned back again in autumn or fall. This gives an extra hour of daylight in the evening and less daylight in the early morning during the warmer months. Daylight isn’t actually saved but transferred from one end of the day to the other. Thus “daylight shifting” would be a more accurate term than daylight saving.
Why do we go through this process? The main reason is to save fuel, although studies vary as to how much is saved. Later sunrise and sunset times usually save electricity as artificial light is needed for an hour less in the evening. It also means a reduction in road accidents and assaults as fewer people are traveling home after dark. There is time after dinner to mow the lawn, go for a walk or bike ride, play sport, or shop before nightfall. Daylight saving time is favored by retail, tourist and other businesses as it usually means an increase in sales. These are some of the reasons about 70 countries around the world use daylight saving time in the summer months.
Not everyone likes daylight saving time. It is favored by most people living in large cities. However, those in regional and rural areas are generally against it, especially in farming communities. Farm work starts at dawn regardless of what the clock says, and to have schools, shops, factories and markets start an hour earlier in real time gives farmers an hour less to do their morning tasks. Also, in tropical areas, the benefits of daylight saving time are few, as day and night do not vary much in length, and fuel savings are minimal or non-existent.
The concept of daylight saving time initially came from America’s Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. He was out for an early morning walk in London in the summer of 1770 when he saw no shops open and few people around despite the sun being up several hours. He felt it odd that people complained of the cost of candles, yet went to bed late and got up late. In Paris in 1784, he got home one night at 3am and didn’t realize his shutters hadn’t been closed. He woke at 6am to the sun pouring in through the window. He wrote a letter, “An economical project for diminishing the cost of light”, to the Journal of Paris, calculating that the city could save millions each year by people going to bed much earlier. It was largely a whimsical article and the idea didn’t go any further at that time. He never suggested altering the clocks and didn’t use the term “daylight saving time” or similar.
New Zealander George Hudson presented two papers, in 1895 and 1898, proposing that clocks be put forward two hours in the summer months. He mentioned cricket, gardening, cycling and other outdoor activities as the main benefits. There was a fair amount of interest, especially in Christchurch. It is quite likely that other people proposed the idea of daylight saving time in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The champion of daylight saving time was English builder William Willett. He was out riding his horse in Petts Wood, Kent early one summer’s morning in 1905 when he noticed most houses still had their blinds shut despite broad daylight. It was much the same scenario as Franklin’s morning stroll 135 years earlier. The difference was that Willett decided to do something serious about it to try and rectify the problem. He published a booklet, “The Waste of Daylight”, in July 1907. He wrote of the advantages of extra recreation and exercise and estimated the annual savings to Great Britain and Ireland to be £2.5 million a year.
His idea was controversial from the start. It had a great deal of support but a lot of opposition too. Businesses and banks favored it, some giving as a reason that clerks could play cricket after work. It would reduce the need for artificial light, saving businesses and households considerable sums. The medical fraternity supported him, saying the plan would be good for people’s eyesight, rickets, anemia and general health, and would lessen the use of licensed houses.
Resistance was just as widespread. Farmers were among the most vocal. They worked from dawn to dusk and couldn’t adjust their hours simply because the clock showed a different time. The cows were ready at dawn and grass couldn’t be harvested with dew on it as the machinery wouldn’t work. International traders complained their trading times would be out of kilter, especially with American companies. Operating times of stock exchanges in London and New York overlapped by one hour, but with daylight saving time in Britain it would be zero. Scientists and astronomers were against the scheme, claiming it was difficult to compile data from continuously recording meteorological instruments. Parliament and the railways were divided on the issue.
Willett spent seven years and thousands of dollars trying to build up support. While the British kept heatedly debating daylight saving time in parliament, Germany quietly introduced it on 30 April 1916 to conserve energy for the war effort. Several other European countries started it on the same day. The United Kingdom finally brought it in on 21 May. By mid year most of Europe had daylight saving.
The situation in America was different as it still wasn’t directly involved in the war. However, there was plenty of campaigning and support for daylight saving time. Retailers and industrialists liked the idea. The burgeoning leisure and retail industries saw the value of an extra hour of daylight for baseball games, amusement parks and department stores. Car manufacturers supported it too, as it would give people an extra hour for motoring before nightfall. Fierce opposition came from farmers and the railways. The United States joined the war on April 6, 1917 after its merchant ships came under heavy attack from the Germans. A daylight saving bill became law on March 31, 1918.
World War I finished later that year and most places abandoned daylight saving time after 1919 or 1920. A few countries kept it for the entire interwar period, including the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of Canada and the United States. Keen to save fuel, many countries adopted it again during World War II. Some didn’t turn back their clocks at all for several years in the 1940s. Two hours of daylight saving in summer, called double daylight saving time, and one hour in winter was popular. Daylight saving time was often called War Time during this period.
After the war, nearly everyone soon abandoned daylight saving time. Parts of America and Canada are the only areas to have had daylight saving time in the entire postwar period. The United Kingdom has had it in all years except 1968-1971 when it switched to Central European Time (GMT+1) and consequently didn’t have separate daylight saving time.
In the United States, daylight saving time was a state and local issue. Some areas had it and other didn’t. On a train or road trip of a few hours, a person could pass through several time zones. People could live in one zone and work or go to school in another. On one occasion, workers belonging to different companies in a single building were on two separate times. Daylight saving time became a federal issue in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act. Since then, the whole country has had daylight saving time except Arizona (apart from the Navajo Nation) and Hawaii, with Indiana making the move in 2005.
Most of Europe resumed daylight saving time in the 1970s and early 1980s, especially at the time of the energy crises. Many countries in Central and South America, the Middle East and Asia have or have had it, including China who used it from 1986 to 1991. Only a handful of African countries have daylight saving time. The 70 or so countries that currently use daylight saving time are mainly the advanced economies in the northern hemisphere, although there are plenty of others.
Daylight saving time remains as controversial as it was when first practised early last century. People either seem to like it or hate it. Some countries have opted in and out of daylight saving time on a number of occasions. Uruguay leads the way, having had eleven episodes, closely followed by Portugal with ten.