International Women’s Day has been observed since in 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 was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality spurred 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 the 28th of February.
In 1910, a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
Following a decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was honored the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. 1911 also saw the famous ‘Bread and Roses’ campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to March 8 and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914 women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I. 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.
1918 – 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration worldwide. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. Women’s organizations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honor women’s advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
2009 and beyond
IWD is now an official holiday in many countries around the world. The tradition sees men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that all the battles have been won for women while many feminists from the 1970s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is much worse than that of men. And the majority of worldwide religions are still based on patriarchal Gods, provoking their followers to go into senseless wars to defend them.
Annually on March 8th, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. The United States designates the month of March as ‘Women’s History Month’.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Honor the women in your Life.