By Richard Provost
On February 23, 2016 during the State of the City address, Mayor John Curtis announced that Provo City will be celebrating International Women’s Day for the first time ever. “This is part of my initiative as mayor to help increase leadership opportunities for the women of Provo in 2016,” he said.  The Provo City celebration of International Women’s Day will take place on Tuesday, March 8th. Sponsors include Beehive Startups, Writ and Vision, Provo Film Society, The Alison Show, V School, Big Door, Coca Cola, and most importantly – as far as our role as a music publication is concerned – Velour Live Music Gallery.
This is an interesting development, considering the socialist origins of International Women’s Day and the seemingly conflicting political ideologies of the largely hyper-capitalist Republican population of Provo. International Women’s Day was first celebrated by the Socialist Party of America in 1909, and The Socialist International pushed for its establishment as a worldwide movement. In 1911, more than one million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland to secure for women the rights to vote, work, and hold public office. In 1945 the United Nations charter included an agreement to affirm the principle of gender equality. Since that time, the UN has promoted International Women’s Day. 
Though it may appear strange to those unfamiliar with Provo, the move to embrace and celebrate International Women’s Day is right in line with the culture of openness and progress that Provo City has been trying to develop – one that is not far from the political climate of the state as a whole.
In 2012, The New York Times noted that while largely Republican, the state of Utah was much more liberal in its social philosophies than one would initially suspect. Utah was the first state to establish its own guest worker program, allowing illegal immigrants to legally drive vehicles and immigrants without a criminal record to obtain work permits. Jon Huntsman, Jr. was re-elected as governor in 2008 after a campaign that put great emphasis on renewable energy and stricter environmental protection regulations. The New York Times further noted that Mormon voters vote Republican primarily for their religious beliefs concerning abortion and same-sex marriage, and that those beliefs are what obscure the state’s more moderate social leanings.  Given Provo’s moderate bent, this tradition is a very good fit for Provo and will accomplish wonderful things for women currently living here.
Velour has been laying the cultural groundwork for something like this for a very long time. The venue has done much over the last five years to inspire women in our community to participate in the Provo music scene. For the last five years, Velour has hosted Les Femmes De Velour, an annual concert series that exclusively showcases female fronted bands. Tonight, Les Femmes De Velour 5 begins with Mia Grace, Goldmyth, Emily Brown, and Faith Marie Johnson. The series will continue over the course of the next two days, featuring Haley Hendrickson, DRAPE, New Shack, and The Blue Aces on Friday; and Kathleen Frewin, Kitfox, Barsie, and Luna Lune on Saturday.
On March 8th, Velour Live Music Gallery will participate directly in the International Women’s Day festivities. The venue will open its doors for a free reception and live music from some of Provo’s most talented musicians. All money donated during the event will be given to United Way, who will use it to fund their women’s programs. Open Mic Night will be held afterwards, and Provo’s musically inclined women are invited to participate and discover what the local music scene has to offer.
For more information on the non-musical festivities taking place on March 8th, visit provowomensday.com. Les Femmes De Velour is taking place February 25 through February 27th. Doors open at 8PM each night, and tickets to all three concerts are $7 at the door.
“This event started as a city initiative to enhance the visibility of the women of Provo, promote leadership opportunities for women in our community, and provide opportunities for women to help one another,” says Mayor Curtis. “Our hope is that it will grow into a Provo tradition and become a part of our culture for years to come.”