International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights.
The earliest Women’s Day observance, called “National Woman’s Day,” was held on February 28, 1909 in New York, organized by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel. Though there have been claims that the day was commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, researchers have described this as a myth.
In August 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual Women’s Day and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, supported by Käte Duncker, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. The Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
What Do People Do?
International Women’s Day events are held worldwide on March 8. Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at various events on the day. Such events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or breakfasts. The messages given at these events often focus on various themes such as innovation, the portrayal of women in the media, or the importance of education and career opportunities.
Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them. In some countries school children bring gifts to their female teachers and women receive small presents from friends or family members. Many workplaces make a special mention about International Women’s Day through internal newsletters or notices, or by handing out promotional material focusing on the day.
Who is the Key Person behind The International Women’s Day?
Theresa Serber Malkiel (1874-1949) was an American labor activist, suffragist, and educator. She was the first woman to rise from factory work to leadership in the Socialist party. Her 1910 novel, The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker, is credited with helping to reform New York state labor laws. As head of the Woman’s National Committee of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), she established an annual Woman’s Day which was the precursor to International Women’s Day. In 1911, while on a speaking tour of the American South, she called attention to the problem of white supremacism within the party. She spent her later years promoting adult education for women workers.