8    Mar 20131 comment

International Women’s Day: Your stories

International Women’s Day has its roots in the North American and European Labor movements.

It was first observed in the US on February 28, 1909, in honor of the 1908 worker’s strike when women protested against poor working conditions. A year later, The Socialist International met in Copenhagen and established a Women’s Day to honor the women’s rights movement.

The first International Women’s Day, in 1911, took place in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women rallied for worker’s rights, the right to vote and to hold public office, among other issues.

Today, International Women’s Day is observed worldwide:

  • It's an official holiday in countries including: Afghanistan, Belarus, China (for women only), Cuba, Nepal, Russia and Vietnam.
  • Customs include men giving women flowers and small gifts. In Italy, men give yellow mimosas to women.
  • In Pakistan and Poland, women continue to use International Women’s Day to bring awareness to the women’s rights movement.
  • The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women’s Year. Since 1977, the UN has celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8.

In honor of International Women’s Day, readers were asked to submit stories of inspirational women from their family trees.

We received some great stories of heroine ancestors, innovative contributors to society and culture, and pioneering women with great tales. Here are two of our favorites:

Sylvia:

My mother was on the First Mass Jewish Transport to Auschwitz - March 26, 1942. What most people don't know is that the transport was 999 young women!

My Aunt Dina arrived 2 days later and together they faced over 3 years in Auschwitz. When we honor women's history we have to remember the women who no one remembers. The women who disappeared or the women like my mother, who simply wanted to raise a family after her ordeal. She did not want to become an icon or a leader--she wanted to become a mother.

She was in her 70s when she finally wrote her memoir, which has been a best seller for 17 years. Rena's Promise is a real promise to all women--not just her sister. It is the promise to never forget that women are backbone of our heritage, our culture, and our families. Women are also the ones who can forgive and create a better future. My mother once said "I do not hate. To hate is to let Hitler win." What better legacy is there?

Joan:

My father delivered some news to me over the phone when I was a senior in college. Mom was diagnosed with ALS.

I headed over to the university’s library to research the disease on microfiche and micro film. I can still remember the shock of reading, “Decline in the motor neurons…weakening of extremities … eventually the diaphragm stops…mind stays aware… death occurs in most patients from 18 months to 3 years.”

My mother was 59. I was 22. I started crying in the library. Life had changed.

[After my father died], she lived by herself in a handicapped accessible home that Dad had built for her before his death. She wanted to maintain her independence in her own home for as long as possible.

Mom demonstrated that handicaps, terminal illness, being a widow, and senior citizen status are not barriers to having fun and enjoying life.

Mom took several trips with my family. One time, in Plymouth, we stayed in a home right on the beach, but it had a steep ramp, so we had to go slowly to get her in and out of the home. Just to say we did it, Mom and I took over an hour, one afternoon, navigating and struggling over a short, rocky path to the shore. We eased her into a kayak. After 11 years with ALS, she was afloat in a bay!

Don’t let a task that seems too overwhelming or burdensome keep you at home on the couch. If my Mom could do it, you can do it!

Many relatives and friends never suspected that this frail, little lady would actually outlive them- my Dad, the next door neighbors on one side, the next door neighbors on the other side, members of the church who prayed for her, all of her siblings, several nephews, friends of mine, her high school classmates, friends from the retirement center, and even Peter, who passed suddenly from a heart attack. She outlived them all!

Read more of this inspiring story here

Have more inspiring stories to share? Email us at stories@myheritage.com or write in the comments below.

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  1. Today, on International Women's Day, Norway is celebrating that the law granting women the right to vote was passed 100 years ago (acutally passed on June 11 1913).

    Our thoughts today reaches out to women around the world who are still struggeling for their human right.

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