History of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate were occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality were spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working for women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed upon at Copenhagen in Denmark in 1911, International Women’s Day was honored for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office, and end discrimination. However less than a week later on March 25, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labor legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. 1911 also saw the women’s Bread and Roses campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on February 23, the last Sunday in February. Following discussions, International Women’s Day was agreed to be marked annually on March 8 which translated in the widely adopted Gregorian calendar from February 23 – and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914, further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity. For example, in London in the United Kingdom, there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “Bread and Peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War 1. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday, February 23 on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8.
International Women’s Day was marked for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
The UN announced its first annual theme “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future” which was followed in 1997 with “Women at the Peace table”, in 1998 with “Women and Human Rights”, in 1999 with “World Free of Violence Against Women”, and so on each year until the current.
By the new millennium, there was little mainstream activity occurring for International Women’s Day in most countries. The world had moved on and, in many spheres, feminism wasn’t a popular topic. Something was needed to re-ignite International Women’s Day giving it the respect it deserves and raising awareness among the masses. There was urgent work to do – battles had not been won, and gender parity still had not been achieved. There was a strong need to engage the mainstream masses and encourage and support collective action.
Following a year of planning and collaborative conversations, the internationalwomensday.com platform was launched with the specific purpose of re-energizing the day and inviting mass participation – a focus that continues to this day – by celebrating and making visible the achievements of women, while continuing the call for accelerating gender parity. The IWD website, which provides useful guidance and resources, adopts an annual campaign theme that is globally relevant for groups and organizations. The campaign theme, one of many around the world, provides a framework and direction for annual IWD activity and takes into account the wider agenda of both celebrations as well as the call to action for gender parity. Campaign themes over the years have included: #EmbraceEquity, #BreakTheBias, #ChooseToChallenge, #EachforEqual, #BalanceforBetter, #PressforProgress, #BeBoldforChange, #PledgeforParity, #MakeItHappen, #TheGenderAgenda, and more. Campaign themes for the global IWD website are collaboratively developed each year with a range of stakeholders and widely adopted worldwide across the mainstream. The IWD website also serves as a significant vehicle for charities, fundraising hefty six-figure sums with 100% of donations going directly to the charity. The IWD website’s Charities of Choice are the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) since 2007, and Catalyst Inc, the global working women’s organization, since 2017. Today, an IWD Charity Alliance is open to female-focused registered charities from around the world.
2011 saw the 100-year centenary of International Women’s Day – with the first IWD event held exactly 100 years ago in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be “Women’s History Month”, calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on “the extraordinary accomplishments of women” in shaping the country’s history. The then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”. In the United Kingdom, celebrity activist Annie Lennox lead a march across one of London’s iconic bridges raising awareness in support of the global charity Women for Women International. Further charities such as Oxfam have run extensive IWD activity. Many celebrities and business leaders actively support the day. IWD was finally starting to become more mainstream and inclusive, with groups everywhere participating.
This year International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, celebrates under the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
HAPPY 2023 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!-TIMRAN
Source: www.internationalwomensday.com and www.unwomen.org