13 March 2011

La Festa delle Donne / Women's Day

Since my fascination for Italy began, I have heard about a day in Italy when women are celebrated.  I have been told the men give flowers to the women in their lives -- not only their wives, mothers, daughters, and lovers but also to their bankers, bariste (barmaids), bosses, shopkeepers, and even to women passing on the street in appreciation for all we represent, sometimes even laying a mimosa branch at her feet.  

My thought was Wow!  Italian men are known for their passion for women, and I couldn't wait to experience such an expression of exuberance.  

The day is March 8, just passed. I did receive a number of buona festa greetings and kisses.  No mimosa (sold at 8 Euro a branch) laid at my feet nor in my hand.  

The day of celebration actually began in America back in 1908 when some textile workers protested against their unfair treatment and went on strike.  The bosses locked the gates and trapped the women in the building.  A few days later, the building was lit on fire, and 129 workers died.  As women began demanding rights, politically and socially, the day caught on globally and has been known as International Women's Day.

Over the years much of the historical flavor has been forgotten, and though the day is still celebrated in much of the world, there is the tendency for it to be more commercial, like a Valentine's Day for women.

In Florence, the state museums offered free entrance to women.  A friend and I toured the Medici Chapel. At the canoe club, women-only teams were on the Arno in a dragon canoe.

Three male friends of varying ages told me this is the day to celebrate women, but that tonight all the men stay home with the telecomando (remote control) in hand while the women are out at the pizzeria with their women friends.

Thank you to the women before me that fought, suffered, and died fighting for fairness, equality, and women's rights, paving the way for a much better life for all of us women today.

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