International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout the world. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equivalence. It has been observed since in the early 1900’s- a time of expansion and turmoil in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.
Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength.
I lead. I make it happen. I am a Goddess Warrior.
I influence decisions, I make decisions.
I impact future generations.
I lead. I inspire. I make it happen.
I am able to respond. I am love.
I am a Goddess Warrior.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. There was no specific strike happening on March 8, despite later claims.
In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honoring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
In 1913 Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Saturday in February (by Julian calendar then used in Russia).
Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8. In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.
In the West, International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. But women of Eastern European origins in North America were celebrating International Women’s Day decades earlier than that. During World War II, some Western countries marked the date with an emphasis on women’s contributions to the war effort and to the defeat of Fascism. Eleanor Roosevelt praised such celebrations of women’s worldwide unity in her “My Day” column in 1944.
In some regions, the day lost its political flavor and became simply an occasion for people to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In other regions however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. Some people celebrate the day by wearing purple ribbons.