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 organised 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.
International Women’s Day History
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 America 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.
Women’s Day Quotes
- A woman performs all the duties of a man but a man cannot do all that a woman can do.
- “Women, from time immemorial have fought for the right of others, now it’s her time to get her rights realized and get equal participation in the society.”
- “A woman, she is born with the power to save and love, her existence is based on the truthfulness in her eyes.”
- “A woman should be taught to believe in protecting herself on her own and not to depend on a man for her protection. She has the power to protect the world and not just herself.”
- “A woman in any form shall be celebrated and honored, be it, a sister or a wife or a mother or any other form.”
- “Women are the mammoth reservoir of power and talent which has yet not been tapped.”
- “If you want to get a plan, go to a man but if you want it to be done, go to a woman.”
- “Empower woman, empower the human community. The base on which the world stands is a women.”
- “A strong woman is the one who can dare to raise her voice for the cause she believes in, and this strength lives in a corner in every women’s heart, it just needs to be searched.”
- ”A woman is one who walks on her own footsteps rather than following the direction shown by the crowd.”
- ”There is only one thing in the Universe which a woman still needs to learn and that one thing is that, ‘she has the power to turn the direction of the wind on her own’.”
- “The best way to change the society and the underlying issues is to channelize the power of woman in every walk of life.”
- “Our mother is one person who makes us realize our dreams. They are the people in our life who work all day and night and that too without getting paid for it.”
Cheers to the existence of this great creature of the Universe!
- “The guess, a woman makes is much accurate than the certainty a man asserts.”
- “One powerful being of the society is a woman who is educated and has the power to spread awareness in the society.”
An educated woman is the one who frightens the advocators of taboos and stereotypes that exist in the society.”
- ”Had the woman community had not been there, money would have been meaningless.”
- “A man’s manhood is reflected in the way, he treats all the women in his life!”
- “Be a queen when you think, be a queen when you decide, no one has the power to defeat the tremendous power inside a woman! Her strength can cross any hurdle in her life!!”
- ”No matter where you go, you can encounter the power of a woman, she runs a company in the most efficient way, and she raises her children in a way that nobody ever can think of doing!”
- “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world” – Hillary Rodham Clinton
- “Extremists have shown what frighten them most: a girl with a book” – MalalaYousafzai
- “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman” – Margaret Thatcher
- “Whether women are better than men I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse” – Golda Meir
- “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry” – Gloria Steinem
- “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world” – Lucille Ball
- “A woman is like a tea bag – you never how strong she is until she gets in hot water” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- “God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I’ve ever met” – Farrah Fawcett
- “Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “Women are leaders everywhere you look — from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes” – Nancy Pelosi
- “The history of all times and of today especially, teaches that women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves” – Louise Otto
- “Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race” – Mary McLeod Bethune
- “I love women. They’re the best thing ever created. If they want to be like men and come down to our level, that’s fine” – Mel Gibson
- “Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us” – Christabel Pankhurst
- “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- “They may talk of a comet, or a burning mountain, or some such bagatelle; but to me a modest woman, dressed out in all her finery, is the most tremendous object of the whole creation” – Oliver Goldsmith
- “I think the key is for women not to set any limits” – Martina Navratilova
- “As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world” – Virginia Woolf
- “Find something you’re passionate about and stay tremendously interested in it” – Julia Child
- “Women are the real architects of society” – Cher
Women’s Day Special Wishes