March 8th is International
Women's Day, a day commemorated at and appointed by the United Nations and
recognized internationally for the purpose of taking time to remember and celebrate
the many milestones marked by women's achievements around the world, especially
in the advancement of equality, justice and peace. This day is basically a celebration
of womanhood- the privilege of being a woman.
When women on all continents,
divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and
political differences, assemble to celebrate their Day, they can look back to
a tradition that represents decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and
Day is the story of ordinary women as the makers of history; it is rooted in the
centuries-old struggle of women to participate in
society on an equal footing
with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men
in order to end war; during the French
Revolution, Parisian women calling
for liberty, equality, fraternity marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century,
which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and
booming population growth and radical ideologies. What follows next is a brief
chronology of the most important events:
According to a declaration by the
Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day was observed across
the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate it on the last
Sunday of that month through 1913.
The Socialist International, meeting
in Copenhagen, established a Women's Day, international in character, to honor
the movement for women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage
for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference
of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected
to the Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
As a result of the decision taken
at Copenhagen , International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March)
in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women
and men attended rallies. Apart from the right to vote and to hold public office,
they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination
on the job.
Less than a week later,
on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more
than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event
had a significant impact on labour legislation in the United States, and the working
conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances
of International Women's Day.
As part of the peace movement brewing
on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's
Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March
of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express
solidarity with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead
in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for
"bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike,
but the women went on anyway. The rest is history: Four days later the Czar was
forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in
Russia, but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere.
those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension
for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international
women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's
conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point for coordinated
efforts to demand women's rights and participation in the political and economic
Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate
acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary
role in the history of women's rights.