The History of International Women’s Day

Each year on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the role that women play in our everyday lives. The occasion may have begun as a political stance in a bid to secure women’s rights but it’s since evolved into something much more.

It’s now a true recognition of women’s struggles and a celebration of their battle to overcome those struggles, as well as a constant striving for liberalisation and independence. Each individual country adds its own cultural flavour to the occasion as an expression of their honour and affection for women everywhere.

Women’s Day dates back all the way to 1909 when the first celebration took place on the 28th of February in the United States. The special day was celebrated particularly by the Socialist Party of America to honour the 1908 New York garment workers’ strike. The strike saw women marching and picketing in a bid to secure equal rights and more suitable working conditions.

First International Women’s Day

A German socialist by the name of Luise Zietz was inspired by the American socialists and put forward the idea of International Women’s Day. An official proposal was made in a Socialist International general meeting in 1910 in Copenhagen. 100 women representing 17 countries were among the delegates. An agreement was reached on the proposal to promote suffrage and equal rights for women.

The very first International Women’s Day took place in Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, and Germany. More than one million individuals, both male and female, rallied to demand a right to vote to end job discrimination, a right to vocational training, a right to hold public office, and the right of women to work.

Russia joins the celebrations

As an important aspect of the peace movement, which occurred during the first world war, Russian women were able to celebrate their first International Women’s Day in February of 1913. In Europe, just one year later on the 8th of March, 1914, women protested to express solidarity and in opposition to the war.

Russian women again protested in 1917 when they called a “Bread and Peace” strike on the last Sunday in February. The Gregorian calendar dictated that that was on the 8th of March. Four days before that, Russian was shocked by its czar’s resignation. The interim government gave women the right to vote.

The UN’s official recognition

It wasn’t until the 8th of March, 1975, however, that the United Nations recognised International Women’s Day. The General Assembly passed a resolution two years later to observe United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace on any date in accordance with the historical and national traditions of its member states.

In 1955, 189 governments signed the The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It focused on 12 key areas and dreamed of a world in which all women had a choice whether or not to involve themselves in politics, work, education, and love in a violence – and discrimination – free society.