International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. However, what is really International Women’s day? What is the history behind it?
The earliest Women’s Day observance was originally called “National Woman’s Day,” and it was held on February 28, 1909 (my birthday) in New York. This day was organized by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel.
In August 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was to proposed the establishment of an annual Women’s day inspired by the U.S. 100 women from 17 different countries agreed with the idea to have a Women’s Day to promote equal rights including suffrage for Women. At that time, Americans still celebrated National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
So why March 8th? 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. Another thing to note is that the 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.
Other countries made the day a holiday as well. The State Council in China proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off. 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.
Back in the states, in 2011 when Obama was still president marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, 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.
Since then, there has been a theme every year. The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. The focus of the theme is on innovative ways in which to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.