International Women’s Day: How It All Started


While its origins may be shrouded in controversy, one thing remains clear: International Women’s Day has evolved into a global celebration of women’s achievements, activism, and progress toward gender equality.

The narrative often associated with International Women’s Day traces back to a supposed protest by New York City’s female garment and textile workers in 1857. However, research suggests this tale may have been fabricated during the Cold War era to detach the holiday from its socialist roots. Instead, the first official National Woman’s Day occurred in 1909 in New York City, organized by members of the Socialist Party of America to unite suffragist and socialist causes.

The concept of a “woman’s day” gained traction in Europe, culminating in the first International Woman’s Day in 1911. This event attracted over a million people to rallies worldwide. Even amidst the turmoil of World War I, women continued to march and demonstrate on International Woman’s Day, with significant events such as Alexandra Kollontai’s demonstration in Russia in 1917, which played a role in the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution.

Following Lenin’s declaration of Woman’s Day as an official Soviet holiday in 1917, other socialist and communist nations adopted the celebration. However, it wasn’t until 1975, recognized as International Women’s Year by the United Nations, that March 8 became officially designated as International Women’s Day.

Despite its political origins, International Women’s Day has taken on various forms of celebration worldwide. In some places, it has been commercialized or focused on superficial aspects like shopping and beauty events. In the United States, its association with socialism and communism initially hindered its popularity, but recent digital marketing campaigns and corporate support have propelled its recognition.

Nevertheless, there are ongoing efforts to reclaim the holiday’s activist spirit, emphasizing the continued struggle for women’s rights and recognition. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us remember its roots in activism and commit to furthering the cause of gender equality around the globe.

This year International Women’s Day, 8 March 2024, theme is Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.

The world is facing many crises, ranging from geopolitical conflicts to soaring poverty levels and the escalating impacts of climate change. These challenges can only be addressed by solutions that empower women. By investing in women, we can spark change and speed the transition towards a healthier, safer, and more equal world for all.

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