International Women’s Day History | Speech | Events | Quotes
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.
After the Socialist Party of America organized a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.
Today, International Women’s Day is a public holiday in some countries and largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood.
History of International Woman’s Day
The earliest Women’s Day observance, called “National Woman’s Day,”was held on February 28, 1909 in New York, organized by the Socialist Party of America6 at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel. Though there have been claims that the day was commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, researchers have described this as a myth.
In August 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual Women’s Day and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, supported by Käte Duncker, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.The Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
Female members of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation march on International Women’s Day 1975 in Sydney In 1913 Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Saturday in February (by the Julian calendar then used in Russia).
In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8 in Germany, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries.The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.
In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
On March 8, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, women textile workers began a demonstration, covering the whole city. This marked the beginning of the February Revolution, which alongside the October Revolution made up the Russian Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.” Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, but it was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”
From its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917, the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off. Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri led a women’s march in Madrid in 1936 on the eve of the Spanish Civil War.
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. 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.
International Woman’s Day 2016
The International Women’s Day theme for 2016 was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.
The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, in his message issued on the eve of International Women’s Day said: “On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation.” The ministry of women and child development announced the setting up of four more one-stop crisis centers on March 8, in addition to the eight already functioning across the country. Ahead of Women’s Day, the national carrier Air India operated what it claimed to be the world’s longest non-stop flight where the entire flight operations were handled by women, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations. The flight, from Delhi to San Francisco, covered a distance of around 14,500 kilometers in around 17 hours.
International Woman’s Day 2017
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”.
In a message in support of International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women’s rights were being “reduced, restricted and reversed”. With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change “by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world”.
International Woman’s Day 2018
The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 was ‘Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives’.
International Woman’s Day 2019 Theme?
The Theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is “Balance for Better” – Better the Balance Better the World.