To celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8th, mimosas (whose scientific name is acacia dealbata), are always given away. It is a rather widespread tradition, and since the days before, dozens of mimosa decks are displayed in all florists or sold at intersections by street vendors. There are very romantic and imaginative versions of why the mimosa for women’s day is given as a gift, but many are inventions and have no basis for truth.
The gifting of the mimosa is an Italian born tradition. Until the seventies, March 8th has always been considered a left-wing occasion, closely linked to the socialist party. For this reason during the twenty years of fascist regime women’s day was never particularly considered or celebrated. In 1946, just after the war, it was celebrated on March 8th for the first time in a more or less “official” way, even if the Christian Democrats were rather hostile to the celebrations.
According to the stories of the time, they wanted to use violet as a flower, a flower with a long tradition in the European left: one of the supporters of this idea was the vice-secretary of the Communist Party Luigi Longo. Some leaders of the Communist Party, however, opposed: the violet was an expensive and difficult to find.
Italy had just come out of the war and many were in precarious economic conditions and would have had much difficulty obtaining violets. Among them was Teresa Mattei, a former partisan who in the following years would continue to fight for women’s rights. She became famous after the exchange that she had with a Liberal deputy about the equality between men and women within the judiciary: “Miss, but do you know that on certain days of the month women do not reason?”, asked the deputy. And she answered: “There are men who do not reason every day of the month.” Go girl! 🙂
Mattei, together with Rita Montagna and Teresa Noce, proposed to adopt a much cheaper flower, which would flower at the end of winter and which was easy to find in the fields. Hence the idea of mimosa was born. Years later, in an interview, Mattei said: “The mimosa was the flower that the partisans gave to the relays. It reminded me of the struggle on the mountains and could be collected in bunches and for free”. Although Women’s Day did not become a popular event until the seventies, the mimosa tradition was successful and is still maintained today. As Mattei said, who died in 2013 at the age of 92: “When I see girls with a bunch of mimosa on women’s day, I think that all our efforts have not been in vain”.