March 8 is International Women’s Day, or simply Women’s Day – Festa della Donna. So how is it celebrated in Italy? Although Women’s Day started in the USA in 1909 when it was designated as a day to honour the garment workers’ strike in New York. It wasn’t until 1911. after a horrific fire in a garment factory killed 146 young women, mostly immigrant, that it became internationally recognized when demonstrations were held in a number of countries demanding the right to vote and to hold public office as well as protesting against employment sex discrimination. International Women’s Day is now broadly recognized as a day to celebrate the improvement of women’s social position and as a reminder of the discrimination suffered. Although Women’s Day is recognized in most countries around the world it is not a public holiday in Italy, or in the UK for that matter.
Women’s Day was first recognised in Italy in 1922 as a day to acknowledge women’s right to vote and have a political career for the first time in Italian history, however, it did not become a day of celebration until after the end of the World War. Teresa Mattei, one of the first women in Italian politics, adopted the mimosa flower as a symbol of Women’s Day. Mimosa is prolific throughout Italy and starts to bloom very early in March. On International Women’s Day, you will find sprigs of the bright yellow mimosa flower on sale in every shop, market and piazza in Italy, to be a given as a gift to every woman.
As well as celebrating Women’s Day the bright yellow blooming of the Mimosa trees is a sign that spring is in the air. It also reminds me of one of the best cakes I have ever eaten, you guessed it – the Mimosa cake, a sponge cake with “crema diplomatica”, a whipped cream and custard mix, and covered with look like mimosa flowers. So light, so delicious. If you haven’t tried it you really should. One of our Italian friends make the very best torta Mimosa and she often gifts one to us, a real treat.