International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Although this day tends to be celebrated more officially in socialist or ex-socialist countries around the world, such as Russia, Cuba and China, its origins lie surprisingly in the US.
The earliest observance of a specific Women’s Day was known as National Woman’s Day and was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America, run by Russian-born activist Theresa Malkiel.
Inspired by this initial event, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was organized the following year in Copenhagen, Denmark. During this conference, German socialist Luise Zietz, communist leader Clara Zetkin and socialist activist Kate Duncker suggested establishing an international Women’s Day (IWD) to promote equal rights and suffrage. This idea was backed by 100 conference delegates from 17 countries.
Shortly after on March 19, 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Germany, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland. In the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, there were 300 demonstrations.
Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Saturday in February of 1913.
In 1914 IWD was held on March 8 in Germany and was dedicated to the promotion of women’s right to vote. German women were not afforded this right until 1918. March 8 was most likely chosen because it was a Sunday and a non-working day.
Simultaneously on March 8, 1914 in London, the famous British suffragette, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested on her way to speak at a rally.
In the former capital of Russia, Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) on March 8, 1917 (according to Gregorian Calendar, the calendar which is used now in most countries), women textile workers began a city-wide demonstration. This marked the beginning of the February Revolution, so-called because it was in February according to the old Julian calendar, which was used in Russia at the time. The February Revolution in combination with the October Revolution make up the Russian Revolution, a period of political and social unrest across the territory. The women of Saint Petersburg went on strike on March 8, 1917, for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end to food shortages, the First World War I, and the monarchy. Revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky wrote at the time that he could never had imagined that this Women’s Day would be a precursor to the Russian Revolution.
Following the Revolution in 1917, March 8 was officially adopted as “International Women’s Day.”
International Women’s Day Around the Word.
Even in countries where the day is not a public holiday or socialism is no longer the political philosophy, IWD is still widely observed. It is customary for men to give the women in their lives – friends, mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, co-workers, etc. — flowers and small gifts.
The day is also widely celebrated in France, as Journée Internationale des Femmes.
To celebrate the day in Italy, men give yellow mimosa flowers to women.
As of 2019, International Women’s Day is also celebrated as a public holiday in the federal state of Berlin in Germany.
In the US, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be Women’s History Month, calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on “the extraordinary accomplishments of women” in shaping the country’s history.
Australia issued an IWD 100th anniversary commemorative 20-cent coin in 2017.
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975, which was designated as International Women’s Year. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual: An equal world is an enabled world. Their message for women around the world is: “Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.”
Learn more about this international holiday here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/