History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

1908: Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

1909: In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.

1910: In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.

1911: Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in Denmark in 1911, International Women’s Day was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on March 25, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. 1911 also saw women’s Bread and Roses campaign.

1913-1914: On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on February 23, the last Sunday in February. Following discussions, International Women’s Day was agreed to be marked annually on March 8 that translated in the widely adopted Gregorian calendar from February 23 – and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914, further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity. For example, in London in the United Kingdom there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.

1917: On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War 1. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday February 23 on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8.

1975: International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

1996: The UN announced their first annual theme “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future” which was followed in 1997 with “Women at the Peace table”, in 1998 with “Women and Human Rights”, in 1999 with “World Free of Violence Against Women”, and so on each year until the current.

2000: By the new millennium, there was little activity occurring for International Women’s Day in most countries. The world had moved on and, in many spheres, feminism wasn’t a popular topic. Something was needed to re-ignite International Women’s Day giving it the respect it deserves and to raise awareness amongst the masses. There was urgent work to do – battles had not been won and gender parity still had not been achieved.

2001: The internationalwomensday.com platform was launched with the specific purpose of re-energizing the day – a focus which continues to this day – celebrating and making visible the achievements of women while continuing the call for accelerating gender parity. The website, which provides useful guidance and resources, adopts an annual campaign theme that is globally relevant for groups and organizations. The campaign theme, one of many around the world, provides a framework and direction for annual IWD activity and takes into account the wider agenda of both celebration as well as the call to action for gender parity. Campaign themes over the years have included: #ChooseToChallenge, #EachforEqual, #BalanceforBetter, #PressforProgress, #BeBoldforChange, #PledgeforParity, #MakeItHappen, #TheGenderAgenda and more. Campaign themes for the global IWD website are collaboratively developed each year with a range of stakeholders and widely adopted worldwide. The IWD website also serves as a significant vehicle for charities and in 2020 a hefty six figure sum was fundraised with 100% of donations going to charity. The IWD website’s Charities of Choice are the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) since 2007, and Catalyst Inc., the global working women’s organization, since 2017. 2021 sees IWD’s charitable fundraising opened up more widely to further registered charities around the world.

2011: 2011 saw the 100 year centenary of International Women’s Day – with the first IWD event held exactly 100 years ago in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be “Women’s History Month”, calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on “the extraordinary accomplishments of women” in shaping the country’s history. The then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”. In the United Kingdom, celebrity activist Annie Lennox lead a march across one of London’s iconic bridges raising awareness in support for global charity Women for Women International. Further charities such as Oxfam have run extensive IWD activity. Many celebrities and business leaders actively support the day.

2021 and beyond: The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements. IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

the voilance at home | SIGNAL FOR HELP

International Women’s Day, commonly abbreviated to IWD, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all around the world. IWD is celebrated every year on March 8 and marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

This year, the campaign theme for IWD is #BreakTheBias. Whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, biases, stereotypes and discrimination make it difficult for women to move ahead and be seen as equal.

While there have been significant improvements in the fight for equality since early history, International Women’s Day is still a reminder of the progress needed so women can have equal opportunity.

101 Women’s Day Quotes

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Unknown

“I’m grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.” – Maya Angelou, Poet

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa, Activist

“Women’s value has been under-recognized for far too long.” – Sidney Sheldon, Writer

“You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones you see building one another up instead of tearing each other down.” –Unknown

“She wasn’t looking for a knight. She was looking for a sword.” – Atticus, Poet

“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.” – Unknown

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, Former First Lady of the United States

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Hillary Clinton, American politician

“Women are made to be loved, not understood.” – Oscar Wilde, Poet

“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D. Anderson, Feminist

“Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it.” – R.H. Sin, Author

“I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.” – Mary Shelley, Novelist

“You don’t have to play masculine to be a strong woman.” – Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Actress

“Well-behaved women rarely make history.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, Former First Lady of the United States

“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” Melinda Gates, American philanthropist

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks, Civil rights activist

“You cannot be broken because you are a diamond, tougher than nails and a jewel in the rough.” – Unknown

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. A woman must do what he can’t.” – Rhonda Hansome, Comedian

“Like anything learned, bravery needs to be practiced.” Caroline Paul, Author

“She’s everything; even when she’s treated like nothing.” –R.H. Sin, Author

“The strongest actions for a woman is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could.” – Unknown

“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.” – Unknown

“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” Serena Williams, Athlete

“A strong woman builds her own world. She is one who is wise enough to know that it will attract the man she will gladly share it with.”– Ellen J. Barrier, Singer/Songwriter

“A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.” – Gina Carey, Filmmaker

A charming woman doesn’t follow the crowd; she is herself.” – Loretta Young, Actress

“Your life isn’t yours if you constantly care what others think.” – Unknown

“Real queens fix each other’s crowns.” – Unknown

“I am a woman, what’s your superpower?” – Unknown

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” Roseanne Barr, Actress

“The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence.” – Beyonce, Singer

“When women support each other, incredible things happen.” – Unknown

“Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you.” Viola Davis, Actress

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Katherine Hepburn, Actress

“She believed she could, so she did.” – Unknown

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” Judy Garland, Actress

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” – Margaret Fuller, American journalist

“I don’t know a woman alive who isn’t courageous.” – Reese Witherspoon, Actress

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” –Melinda Gates, American philanthropist

“Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” – Gloria Steinem, Journalist

“Her soul is fierce, her heart is brave, her mind is strong.” – Unknown

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.” – Unknown

“She promised better things for herself, so she sought out those things and never looked back.” – Unknown

“Some days, she has no idea how she’ll do it. But every single day, it still gets done.” – Unknown

“The most beautiful thing a woman can wear is confidence.” –Blake Lively, Actress

“Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart. Just be you.” –Brene Brown, Professor

“Be the woman you needed as a girl.” –Unknown

“You have just one life to live. It is yours. Own it, claim it, live it, do the best you can with it.” Hillary Clinton, American politician

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” – Maya Angelou, Poet

“Females are strong as hell.” – Unknown

“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everyone else.” –Unknown

“Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.” Audrey Hepburn, Actress

“A woman is like a tea bag: You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, Former First Lady of the United States

“You are a woman; that is your superpower.” – Unknown

“Find out who you are and be that person.” Ellen Degeneres, Comedian

“The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud.” Coco Chanel, Fashion Designer

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” – Hillary Clinton, America politician

“Success if only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own.” – Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey, Executive

“There’s nothing a man can do that I can’t do better and in heels.” – Ginger Rogers, Actress

“Behind every successful woman, is herself”. – Unknown

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Amelia Earhart, Aviator

“Women are the real architects of society.” – Cher, Singer

“If you have a dream, make it a goal.” – Unknown

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” –Margaret Thatcher, Former British Prime Minister

“I can and I will. Watch me.” – Carrie Green, Entrepreneur

“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.” – W.E.B. Dubois, Sociologist

“To tell a woman everything she cannot do is to tell her what she can.” – Spanish Proverb

“Above all, be the heroine of your life. Not the victim.” – Nora Ephron, Journalist

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.” – Stephanie Bennett-Henry, Poet

“We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.” – Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist

“Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman.” – Unknown

“We all have a ‘Wonder Woman’ inside of us.” – Unknown

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand, Writer

“You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar

“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” – Unknown

“Don’t stop until you’re proud.” – Unknown

“In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Governor of California

“Stop waiting to find the light at the end of the tunnel and be the light for yourself.” – Unknown

“Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard.” Serena Williams, Athlete

“The best protection any woman can have is courage.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Social Activist

“Beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.” Ellen Degeneres, Comedian

“One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” – Simone De Beauvoir, Writer

“As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am.” Janet Mock, Writer

“Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside” Coco Chanel, Fashion Designer

“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book.” Malala Tousafzai, Pakistani activist

“Begin each day as if it were on purpose.” Mary Anne Radmacher, Author

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” J.K. Rowling, Author

“We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.” – Beyonce

“Little girls with dreams become women with vision.” – Unknown

“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” – Unknown

“Where there is a woman, there is magic.” – Ntozake Shange, Playwright

“A girl should be two things: Who and what she wants.” – Coco Chanel, Designer

“Girls should never be afraid to be smart.” – Emma Watson, Actress

“Sometimes it’s the princess who kills the dragon and saves the prince.” – Samuel Lowe, Finding Samuel Lowe

“I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world.” –Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Toni Morrison, Author

“She’s a mess of gorgeous chaos, and you can see it in her eyes.” – Unknown

“Know what your worth is and then add tax to that amount.” – Unknown