Last Updated: 6th March, 2019

History of International Women's Day

History of Celebrations
  • The earliest Women's Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York, by the Socialist Party of America.
  • International Women's Day (IWD) was first formally celebrated by the United Nations on 8th March, 1975 for women's rights and world peace.
  • Today IWD has assumed a global dimension in developed as well as developing nations.
  • Four global United Nation's women's conference has been held which have helped in rallying for the rights of women and their participation in economic as well as political arenas.

How did the International Women's Day started?

  • The idea of observing International Women's Day was hatched about a century back amidst a period of growth and turbulence in the industrialized world.
  • On March 8 1857, women-workers and weavers toiling hard in different textile factories of the New York City in the United States took to the street to protest against poor working conditions and pay packages.
  • The police attacked and dispersed the protestors. 2 years later, again in March, these women-workers formed their first labour union to defend themselves against injustices in the workplace.
  • On 8th March 1908, thousands of women reunited and marched through the streets of New York to protest for equal rights, including suffrage, for women. Their slogan was bread and roses, where ‘bread' signified "economic security” and ‘rose' signified "better working condition".
  • In May, the Socialist Party of America declared to hold the last Sunday of February as the "National Women's Day". Thus, the first "National Women's Day" was celebrated on 28th February in 1909.
  • In 1910, at an international convection organized  in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, leader of Women's Office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, mooted the idea of celebrating "International Women's Day" on a particular day in every country of the world to promote various demands made by women.
  • The proposal was unanimously accepted by 100 women delegates representing 17 countries including the first three female parliamentarians of Finland. However, no date was finalized for the observance of "International Women's Day".
  • In 1911, women started protesting against injustice. They demanded the right to vote and also hold public offices. Another reason for the protest was against employment sex discrimination. In Vienna, women held a parade on the Ringstrasse. They carried banners for the martyrs of the Paris community.
  • On 19th March 1911, the first International Women's Day was observed in Denmark,Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Americans continued to celebrate the National Women's Day on the last Sunday in February every year. Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February in the year 1913.
  • Later, the United Nations, designated the year 1975 as International Women's Year and officially declared to endorse International Women's Day henceforth to commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory firing incident (held on 8th March 1911 in New York), where over 140 women protestants lost their lives fighting for justice.
  • In the years 1977, the UN's General Assembly declare March 8 as the United Nation's Day for "women's rights and world peace".
  • Over the years, the celebration of Women's Day has evolved. The UN and the technical agencies associated with it have promoted the development of women in all spheres. Women are now equal partners with men and they strive at achieving peace, harmony, security, and sustainable development. Women all over the globe have faced various challenges and are emerging as true leaders in today's time. The UN is making all efforts to address the economic, political and social challenges faced by women all over the world.