March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day for women to be celebrated and respected for achievements in the world’s economy, politics, and society. Formerly known as International Working Women’s Day, the origins of this holiday are found mostly in Russia and the former Soviet Union, although it has become a blend of several different cultures.
In certain regions, the political and social struggles of women are highlighted, strengthened by support from the United Nations, in hopes of bringing heightened awareness to the issues.
In the beginning, celebrations similar to Women’s Day occurred on a variety of dates, the earliest being May 3, 1908 in Chicago, and in New York the following two years. In August of 1910, during an International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen that featured seventeen countries, a proposal was made to promote equal rights of women by instituting an “International Woman’s Day”.
Delegates of 100 women agreed to the proposal, although no specific date was declared. A little over six months later, IWD became a reality when, on March 19, 1911, over three hundred demonstrations demanding women the right to vote and hold public office, occurred in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Most countries observed the holiday on the last Sunday in February, although the specific date of March 8th is related to the Gregorian calendar. The last Sunday in February in 1917, (or March 8th on the Gregorian calendar) marked an official start to IWD as Saint Petersburg erupted in women’s revolutions.
Several women went on strike from textile factories and took to the streets, demanding an end to World War I and Russian food shortages. In 1965, International Women’s Day was declared an official non-working holiday in the USSR, in remembrance of the Saint Petersburg revolution.
The holiday was primarily observed in communist and socialist countries, due to its Russian roots, and found its way to communist China in 1922 and communist Spain in 1936. When the People’s Republic of China was formed, International Women’s Day was adopted as an official holiday in 1949, and declared to be celebrated on March 8th.
Women in China were granted a half-day off from work. International Women’s Day got a foothold in the West in 1977, after the United Nations pushed for March 8th to be a day for women’s rights and peace. But IWD didn’t achieve official recognition in the United States until 1994. Thanks to a bill from Congress and diligent efforts from the mayor of Los Angeles, the governor of California and human right’s activist Beata Pozniak, IWD is now observed on March 8th in America.
Since 1996, The United Nations has declared a theme for each International Women’s Day, ranging from ending violence against women and equality, to empowering women and planning for the future. This year’s theme is “Equality for Women is Progress for All.” On March 8th, take a moment to recognize some of the strong women around you, and consider their role in making the world a better place for everyone.
Rumor Has It …
… that Oprah Winfrey and BFF Queen Latifah founded IWD after WMD’s were not found in Eye Rack. Rumor also has it that she is not really a queen – Oprah, that is.