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The History of International Women's Day

Updated on March 4, 2010
International Women's Day
International Women's Day

International Women’s Day

Every year on March 8 countries around the world celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women of the past, present and the future.  This day is known as International Women’s Day.  The purpose of International Women’s Day is not only to celebrate the achievements of women around the world, but also bring light to the plight of underprivileged or wronged women around the world as well. 

The Purpose of IWD is to celebrate past achievements and bring awareness to current issues
The Purpose of IWD is to celebrate past achievements and bring awareness to current issues
140 Women Died In The Triangle Fire In New York City
140 Women Died In The Triangle Fire In New York City

Early History

A day celebrating the achievements of women and raising awareness about the problems facing women grew out the expansion of the industrial workforce in the early 1900s.  In 1908, 15,000 women marched in protest in New York City demanding better pay and shorter hours in factories.  This march is generally considered the start of the movement in the United States and around the world.

In 1909, in accordance with a Declaration issued by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Women’s Day was observed across America.  The day selected was February 28.  Then in 1910, a second international conference of Working Women was held in Denmark. Clara Zerkin proposed that on the same day every year there should be a day to celebrate the achievements of women and to make formal demands for better working conditions for women around the world.  The women at the conference who represented 17 countries unanimously agreed.

After the conference in Denmark, the first International Women’s Day was officially observed on March 19 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  More than a million men and women attended rallies in these countries demanded better working conditions, the right to vote and to hold public office. 

A week after the first official International Women’s Day, the tragic “Triangle Fire” took the lives of 140 women in a New York City factory.  This event grew attention to the very problems being promoted by women across the world and in the United States. 

In 1913, International Women’s Day was moved to March 8 where it has remained ever since.   

Today IWD Is Celebrated With Ralllies Bringing Awareness To Women's Issues
Today IWD Is Celebrated With Ralllies Bringing Awareness To Women's Issues

International Women’s Day Today

Since it inception out of the Socialist movement in the early part of the twentieth century, International Women’s Day has grown to a global holiday that spreads the political and ideological spectrum. International Women’s Day is an official national holiday in many countries, including China and Russia.

On March 8 today, thousands of rallies are held around the world to celebrate the achievements of women. But the original focus remains to bring light to the plight of women around the world. In 2010, the United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.”


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    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Agreed, there are so many "days" for different groups. But I found this one interesting.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      There are more special days than I can keep up with, which kind of makes them unspecial. I had never heard of "internationa Womens Day" I hope there is one for men.


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