The History of International Women’s Day
Have you ever wondered why do we celebrate national women’s day? As a matter of fact, this day is celebrated internationally, but the celebrations do tend to differ nationally. The day is more than just a random day on which we decided to celebrate women; there is a rich history behind how it all came to be. If you want to learn more women’s day facts, read on.
International Women’s Day History
It all started in 1908 in the United States of America. The first women marched through the streets of New York City, making history. There were fifteen thousand women who were all marching for rights such as better pay for work reasonable working hours, and of course the right to vote. This might sound strange now, but in those days it was unheard of. They received a lot of backlash from men and women alike who still believed in the patriarchal traditions that were predominant.
The following year, 1909, the Socialist Party of America created the very first National Women’s Day to commemorate the 1908 march through New York. The 1909 celebrations included a rally in New York which drew about 2000 people.
At the same time, women in Europe were also agitating for change and in 1910 International Women’s Day was officially established at a conference of working women in Copenhagen. The date for the first observance was March 19th of the following year and was celebrated in many countries including Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Over a million people rallied on that day calling for women’s suffrage and the right to work.
In 1914, the date was moved to March 8th which has remained a part of women’s day traditions to this day. World War I was ongoing in 1914 adding further tension to the political climate, and the March 8th rallies across Europe combined anti-war protests with demands for women’s rights.
Three years later, in 1917, Russian women made history by gaining the right to vote. They did this by striking as a protest against all the death that the war caused. This strike went on for four days until the Government, though they were opposed to it, eventually relented and gave the right to vote to the Russian women.
The first time the United Nations celebrated International Women’s Day was in 1975. From 1996 and onwards, the UN has had a yearly theme around women’s rights. These themes have included:
Women at the peace table
Celebrating the past, planning for the future
Women and human rights
A promise is a promise – time for action to end violence against women
Empower rural women, end poverty and hunger
When 2000 neared however, interest in women’s day and feminism as a whole had declined. Many people considered it old news, despite the fact that there were still many gender inequalities that needed to be addressed. In 2001, the International Women’s Day website was created to breathe new life into the cause. The site serves as a central information source to support the global advancement of women’s rights. It’s supported by a variety of corporations that recognize the economic and societal value of gender equality. Fundraising through the site is mainly directed to its long time charity of choice, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
Similar to the United Nations, the IWD website also has a yearly theme to raise awareness. Some of the themes that they have used include:
The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum
Make it happen
Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures
Pledge for Parity
In 2011, the world celebrated the 100 year milestone of the first International Women’s Day. This celebration was very successful worldwide with Barack Obama, then the President of the US, encouraging citizens to learn more about the history and celebrate all the achievements of women throughout history. President Obama also proclaimed that month to be Women’s History month. Making an impact as well was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State, launched a 100 Women Initiative right before the 2011 IWD. Many celebrities also made their own statements, such as Annie Lennox, who led a march in London.
Today, women’s rights are moving forward steadily in most countries. Feminist ideologies have become mainstream and acceptable and many initiatives are in place to help correct the inequalities of the past. There is certainly still progress to be made, but we have come a long way.
Are you considering participating in this year’s IWD? Get inspired! Read the stories of some incredible pioneering women in ‘Revolutionary Women’ by Queen of the Neighbourhood on Geeker.