March 8 – International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is now celebrated on March 8 every year.

In 1909 the Socialist Party of America organized a march in New York City on February 28, commemorating a garment workers’ strike the previous year. The party called it National Women’s Day, and marchers demonstrated for better pay and working conditions as well as the right to vote.

Workers of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (IWGLU) ride in horse-drawn carts during a Labor Day parade in New York City in 1909. Corbis

The following year, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. The conference agreed, and subsequently, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. Women in these countries demanded the right to vote, to hold public office and the right to work, according to the United Nations.

In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8 in Germany, possibly because that day was a Sunday. The day was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918. In London that year there was also a march on March 8 in support of women’s suffrage. Women’s rights activist Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.

“Heraus mit dem Frauenwahlrecht”, Motto des Frauentages am 08.03.1914
Das Plakat wurde polizeilich verboten.; Plakatentwurf von Karl Maria Stadler, 1914; Foto: Dietmar Katz; Das abgebildete Werk ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Rechteinhaber unbekannt. Der Nutzer hat vor Veröffentlichung die Genehmigung des Rechteinhabers einzuholen und abzugelten.
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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. The women went on strike for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

Female protesters in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) on 8 March 1917. Photograph: Fototeca Storica Nazionale/Getty Images

The day was thereafter predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

In 1975, the United Nations declared 1975 as International Women’s Year. In 1977 the U.N. officially marked International Women’s Day by inviting member countries to celebrate women’s rights and world peace on March 8.

Today, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. You can find a list of events taking place around the globe here.

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