International Women's Day: The Powerful Story Behind This 111-Year-Old Tradition
In 1908, 15,000 brave women marched through the streets of New York City asking for voting rights and equal pay for women. Little did they know that their fight for equality would later inspire a global holiday that is now celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world. This year, International Women’s Day is Tuesday, March 8, right at the beginning of Women’s History Month. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating the inspiring women in our own communities and around the world.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate this holiday: Take inspiration from some of history’s most powerful women and spend the day getting involved with a cause you care about or simply call your girlfriends to encourage them. And of course, learn about the history of the holiday and the women who helped create it.
The History of International Women’s Day
Two years after the women gathered to demand voting rights and equal pay in New York City, an International Conference of Working Women was held in Denmark, where more than 100 women from 17 countries gathered to discuss those rights. During that conference, German leader Clara Zetkin proposed that countries across the globe implement an international holiday to celebrate women and escalate their demands for equality. The proposal was passed unanimously and International Women’s Day was born.
The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. By 1975, all 134 countries that were part of the United Nations had recognized the holiday.
When the United States Congress passed an official Women’s History Month in 1987, they chose the month of March so the celebrations would overlap.
This Year’s Theme
In 1996, the United Nations decided to adopt a theme for each International Women’s Day that would highlight a cause impacting women across the world. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, which calls for a gender-equal world. According to the IWD organization, it’s every woman’s responsibility to get involved with this mission.
“Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions—all day, every day.” their website says. "We can break the bias in our communities. We can break the bias in our workplaces. We can break the bias in our schools, colleges, and universities. Together, we can all break the bias—on International Women's Day and beyond."
How to Celebrate
Whether you use it to participate in a local Women's Day celebration or organize a seminar to celebrate the work of strong women within your workplace, spend March 8 celebrating the influential ladies in your life.
If organizing a big event or participating in a march isn't your thing, you can still celebrate at home by spending quality time with your female family members or reading a book written by a female author.