A JOURNEY FOR CELEBRATION
"A woman with a voice is, by definition, a
strong woman. But, the search to find that
voice can be remarkably difficult."
American businesswoman, philanthropist,
and the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The International Women’s Day we recognize
was born of struggle and unrest. Innumerable events
have shaped and inspired the essence of International
Women’s Day. We can look at some significant ones,
though, that were pivotal.
1857 – On March 8, garment workers in New York
City picketed and staged a protest to improve working conditions, reduce the work day to 10 hours, and
implement equal rights for women. Just 51 years later,
on March 8, 1908, women working in the needle
trades in New York again protested to honor the
1857 strike, demand the right to vote, and end sweatshops and child labor practices.
1909 – The early 1900's – a time of turbulence the
industrialized world and a global population explosion – fostered a rising popularity of radical ideologies.
Labor movements at the turn of the century spawned
gender-based initiatives across North America and
Europe. The first National Women’s Day observed in
the United States occurred on February 28, 1909.
1910 - In Copenhagen, Denmark, the Second International, a worldwide socialist party, established a
Women’s Day to recognize the women’s rights movement and build support for suffrage. At the meeting,
German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March
8th be proclaimed International Women's Day to
commemorate the U.S. demonstrations and honor
working women the world over.
1911 – Based on the Copenhagen events, March 19,
1911 was marked for the first time as International
Women’s Day by rallies attended by more than one
million women and men in Austria, Denmark, Germany,
and Switzerland. During World War I (1913-1914)
International Women’s Day became a channel for
anti-war protests. Across Europe, women held rallies to
express solidarity with other activists or to protest the
war. The last Sunday in February on the Julian calendar
was established as International Women’s Day in Russia.
1917 – Russian women initiated a protest strike for
'Bread and Peace' on the last Sunday in February
(which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar),
and, four days later, the Russian Czar abdicated as
the ruling class of Russia. The provisional government
following the Czar’s rule granted Russian women the
right to vote.
1975 – The 1960’s and 1970’s saw upheavals in traditional roles for women globally, and the period ushered
numerous human rights and civil rights initiatives. International Women’s Day was celebrated by the UN for
the first time, and, in December 1977, the UN General
Assembly proclaimed “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.”
1996 – The UN adopted the first annual theme for
the day, "Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future."
In following years, themes have included "Women at
the Peace Table," "Women and Human Rights," "World
Free of Violence Against Women," "Empower Rural
Women, End Poverty & Hunger," and "A Promise is
a Promise - Time for Action to End Violence Against
2000 - 2001 – With the new millennium, the world
moved on to new ideas. Feminism was no longer
widely discussed as a pressing social issue, and International Women’s Day (IWD) activities slowed or
stopped in many countries. To re-energize the movement, bring attention to the day as a celebration of
women’s achievements, and accelerate women’s parity,
the global digital hub internationalwomensday.com
was launched. The hub and its continuing efforts for
gender parity are supported by corporations committed to that mission. The IWD website is the home
to ‘all things International Women’s Day’, and it estab-lishes the annual theme for the celebration.
2011 - The centenary of International Women's Day
was celebrated exactly 100 years after the first rallies
in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.