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Recently I've visited a Wikipedia article called "International Women's Day" in my native language (not the English page). Under the "History" section firstly it says that "according to written sources, this celebration reaches ancient times, when on a specific day in Greece women would demand their men for special attention and even wars would have to be stopped on this day, so that soldiers can be with their women" (rough translation).

Now, it literally states in the first words that it is "according to the written sources", yet there is no source for it or any kind of further information. I've noticed this information being used by a few news sites when this day comes and it has become a trend, since my country is ex-USSR and it is fashionable to distance from the so-called communist past.

Are there any actual sources for this or is it some kind of myth/legend, because even for the myth I couldn't find anything. I only found something called Matronalia celebrated by Romans but it doesn't exactly connect with the International Women's Day. However, it mentions this Roman celebration on the Polish Wikipedia page.

I tried removing that specific line but it was reverted shortly after. I don't mind it that much except that it just smells of historical revisionism, since this celebration couldn't possibly come to my country from anywhere like Greece.

  • It seems to be Wikipedia being Wikipedia. – Luís Henrique Apr 16 '17 at 21:39
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It is frequently claimed that International Women's Day is linked to one or another ancient festivals. None of these claims are supported by very firm evidence, but some are less dubious then others.

Greek

Adonia was the most important Greek festival celebrated specifically by women. The precise schedule of the festival is unclear, but it is believed to have been a bit later in the year. The idea of women using their influence to stop a war vaguely resembles the plot of Lysistrata, a comedy by Aristophanes. So the Wikipedia article mentioned in the question is almost certainly untrue.

Roman

An article in Russian, on an Orthodox Christian cite but claiming to cite NewsProm.Ru (no further details are provided, feel free to search if you can read Russian), states the following according to Google Translate:

In fact, on March 8, the ancient Romans started to worship women. On this day matrons - free-born women who are married - received gifts from their husbands and were surrounded by attention and care. In addition, on March 8, even slaves were released from all duties. Dressed in the finest clothes, with fragrant wreaths on their heads, the Romans came to the temple of the goddess Vesta, the keeper of the hearth.

This is very doubtful. There were other Roman festivals in which women did have a special role, such as Caprotinia in July and Bona Dea in December. Although there were other various Roman festivals in late February and early March, I can find no evidence of a link to International Women's Day.

Jewish

The Russian article quoted above further claims, in much more detail, that there was an association between the origins of International Women's Day and the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim does occasionally fall on March 8, and some modern Jews embrace the coincidence. But the Russian article explicitly (and falsely) states that socialist activist Clara Zetkin scheduled Women's Day to fall on Purim. A Jewish site attributes this claim to "Andrei Kurayev, an anti-Semitic archdeacon of the Russian Orthodox Church", but I'm unable to verify this.

Persian

Sepandārmazgān is an ancient holiday with relevant associations to women, although it is more generally thought of as a day of love. A modern calendar introduced in 1925 set the date at calendar February 24. Some early celebrations of International Women's Day were in late February. This might be worth some further investigation, but is probably coincidental.

  • Thank you! This is very insightful and informational. Maybe I will try to come to some understanding on our Wikipedia page and get it removed somehow. It's really annoying that it gets reverted any time I try to change it. – Dobrynya Apr 14 '17 at 20:39
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    @Dobrynya Don't give up! Read up on Wikipedia's edit policy and make your case on the talk page of the article. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Brian Z Apr 14 '17 at 20:57
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It is well known when and how this celebration was established: on February 28 1908 there was a demonstration of a women social democratic organization in New York. In 1909 Socialist party of America proposed to celebrate "women's day". In the beginning it was celebrated by social democrat women's organizations on different dates in different countries, the date floated because they wanted it to be a Sunday.

In 1914 the celebration in Petrograd (now St Peterburg) happened on March 8 (23 February Julian style), and this coincided with February revolution. (It was actually a part of this revolution:-)

In 1921 the date was officially set on March 8 by the Second International Communist women conference.

This history clearly shows that it is very unlikely that those involved in establishing this celebration had in mind any ancient pagan feast:-)

  • This is helpful information, but does the conclusion (that "it is very unlikely that those involved in establishing this celebration had in mind any ancient pagan feast") necessarily follow? – Brian Z Apr 17 '17 at 14:50

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