International Women’s Day takes place every year on the 8th of March to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide. The day is also used to recognize women who have made significant contributions to the advancement of their gender.
International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19th, 1911. A million women and men validated and supported women’s rights on that first International Women’s Day. Every year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements. International Women’s Day is an official holiday in more than 20 countries.
The United Nations officially supported International Women’s Day to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women’s rights. During International Women’s Year in 1975 the UN began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th.
Today, Women’s Day is celebrated in countries all over the world, and it has become a powerful platform to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle for gender equality. The day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and to highlight the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve a more equitable and just world for all women.
Whether it’s through events, protests, or simply spreading awareness on social media, Women’s Day is a powerful reminder of the importance of continuing to work toward a more equal and inclusive future for all women.
However, when did International Women’s Day start and who started it? Well, let’s find out.
Why Did Women’s Day Start?
International Women’s Day is all about acknowledging women’s economic, social and political achievements. In 1907 women held a Hunger March in New York to protest dangerous working conditions calling for a ten-hour working day and improved wages.
Police attacked the march, and the following year on March 8th, 1908 a commemorative march was held, which became a milestone in women’s history.
In 1909 with the help of the socialist party of America, the very first National Women’s Day was observed on February 28th on the last Sunday of the month. This was also the year that Russia observed its first International Women’s Day.
Two years later at the International Conference of working women in Copenhagen, Denmark a German politician Clara Zetkin brought up the idea of an international women’s day. She proposed that women could use it to press for change.
International Women’s Day was officially marked in 1911 in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland where over one million women and men attended rallies.
In many ways it was through a collaborative effort but to be specific the original idea to make the day international, came in 1910 from a woman named Clara Zetkin at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. A hundred women from 17 countries agreed with her suggestion to proclaim.
That year just under a week after the first ever International Women’s Day, the tragic triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire broke out in New York. It claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, 123 of whom were women and girls. The tragedy brought attention to labor conditions and working rights in the US. This led to many changes in working conditions and the memory of the women that died in the incident became hugely significant into the history of International Women’s Day.
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How did World War I impact the women’s movement?
Fast forward now to World War I where some substantial changes took place. In 1914, the start of the War led to the recruitment of many women into jobs at munition factories as railway guards, ticket collectors, tram conductors, police officers, and firefighters.
On March 8, 1917 over 50.000 women began a four-day strike over soldier deaths in WW1. It led to the czar stepping down and a provisional government granting women the right to vote. Since then, most countries have celebrated International Women’s day together on March 8th. Each year has revolved around the theme since 1996.
With so many men being away at War the need for women workers became urgent. In fact, munition factories became the largest single employer of women in 1918. It was during this time that attitudes towards women in the workforce began to actually change.
- In the same year in Britain some privileged women were allowed to start voting and by 1928 all women above 21 were entitled to vote. Milestones like this snowballed into more changes. Women soon became part of parliament, were able to join sports, and win gold and earn fairer pay and working rights.
- In 1973, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Rigg in the “Battle of the sexes” ending the exclusive media attention on male tennis players and the most obvious gender gap.
- In 1974, Isabel Martinez de Peron became the first female president in the world. She served as the president of Argentina from 1974 to 1976.
- In 1975, the United Nations recognized and celebrated International Women’s Day and in 1979 Britain had its first female prime minister.
- In 1979, women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to ever appear on a US coin in circulation.