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Story Behind International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights. International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. 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.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909 in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas. It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8. Is is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women’s organisations, corporations and charities.

International Women’s Day timeline journey

1. 1907 The Early Beginnings

A common version of the beginning of International Women’s Day starts in 1907, with a march of textile women workers in New York. Amidst public discussion about the conditions of textile workers and women’s campaign for suffrage, about 15,000 women working in needle and textile industries marched through New York City. However, in her book On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day, Temma Kaplan (1985) argues that these demonstrations might not have actually taken place and that their myth was created during the Cold War to displace the socialist roots of International Women’s Day.

2. 1909 The First National Woman’s Day in the US

The first national Woman’s Day note the singular “woman” was held across the United States on February 28, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood but home should mean the whole country and not be confined to three or four rooms of a city or a state.

3. 1910 The Second International Conference of Women

The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Preceding the general meeting of the Second International, the Second International Conference of Women was held in Copenhagen and attended by about 100 women from 17 countries, who represented unions, socialist parties, and working women’s clubs. It also included the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament. A woman named Clara Zetkin tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day.

4. 1911 Early International Woman’s Day in the US and Europe

International Woman’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. 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. In the United States, the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911 took the lives of more than 140 workers, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrant women.

5. 1912 Bread and roses

Continuing the call for better and safer working conditions and higher wages was the Lawrence Textile strike, which was the immediate response to the lowering of workers’ wages and largely led by immigrant women workers.

6. 1914-1916 War-Time Campaigning

During this period, women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity. On the eve of World War I, while campainging for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day.

7. 1917 Massive Demonstrations in Russia

On the eve of the Russian Revolution, a massive demonstration took place. It was a protest against deteriorating living conditions, lack of basic food supplies and the shortage of goods. 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 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. In commemoration of this demonstration, the Soviet Union has celebrated Woman’s Day on February 23 (March 8) since 1922 when Lenin made the celebration official.

8. 1975-1977 International Women’s Year in 1975 and the first UN International Women’s Day

During International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. 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.

9. 2014 IWD is now celebrated more than a 100 countries

The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights focused on Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals. The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is Equality for Women is Progress for All.

10. 2017 and beyond

The world 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 may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. The tradition sees men honouring 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. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

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