What is International Women’s Day?

(Last Updated On: March 4, 2021)

International Women's Day
March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global event which celebrates the achievements of women all over the world.

Emerging from the labor movements of the early 20th century, International Women’s Day brings women together across borders. It is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender equality, with no one government, political party, or group solely responsible for organizing it. The day is marked around the world with rallies, talks, events, marches, and more.

Curious to learn more about International Women’s Day? Here is a quick rundown of the history of this worldwide event, and some ways that you can participate.

Origins of International Women’s Day

Before going international, the first Women’s Day was a national affair, observed for the first time on February 28th, 1909, in the United States. The event was organized by the Socialist Party of America. They had picked the date in honor of a 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where some 15,000 women had marched through the streets protesting against working conditions.

It wasn’t long before Women’s Day events began to crop up elsewhere. In 1910, at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed a Women’s Day to be celebrated around the world. The conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion, and International Women’s Day was formed.

In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, women demanded the right to work and fought to end job discrimination. International Women’s Day was moved to March 8th in 1913, and it has remained on that day ever since.

In 1975, the United Nations began to officially celebrate International Women’s Day. A couple years later, they invited all member states to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. International Women’s Day continues to be recognized around the world today.

Why is International Women’s Day Important?

The world has changed a lot since those initial International Women’s Day celebrations over a century ago. Progress has been made, attitudes have shifted. Women have led countries, been to space, and fought in wars. To some, it may feel like the battle has already been won for women. However, for many, that is simply not the case.

On average, women around the globe are still not paid equally, and there remain unequal numbers of men and women in certain industries like business and politics. While things might seem good for women in the country you live in, globally, women’s education, health, and violence against them remains worse than that of men.

And let’s not forget that women still are subjected to misconduct and harassment in the workplace. The recent #MeToo movement empowered many women, and helped to illustrate how far we still have to go as a society with regards to equality for all.

Want to take part in International Women’s Day? Here are some ideas:

  1. Spread awareness about the holiday by posting on social media. Maybe share a story or empowering quote.
  2. Show support by wearing Purple. It’s the official color of International Women’s Day.
  3. Read articles and stories about prominent women from the past.
  4. Familiarize yourself with issues women are facing today.
  5. Take part in a Women’s Day event. Click here to find an event near you.
  6. Earn the International Women’s Day Badge, and learn some cool history in the process.

“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” ―Malala Yousafzai

About the Author:

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.