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Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

When is International Women’s Day and why do we celebrate it? Here we take a look at the history behind International Women’s Day – a day when we both demand change and at the same time look back at the progress made in the fight for equal rights.

Photo: Unsplash

International Women’s Day has been celebrated for many years on March 8. Today, Women’s Day fulfills several functions: it is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made, to celebrate the women who have contributed to this progress – and of course, a day to protest against injustice and demand change.

Here is a brief overview of the history of International Women’s Day.

1909

The first National Women’s Day is celebrated in the United States according to a declaration by the American Socialist Party.

1910

A women’s day is instituted in Copenhagen to honor the women’s movement and promote the fight for women’s suffrage. The decision is taken during a meeting arranged by Socialist International where women from over seventeen countries participate.

1911

On the nineteenth of March this year, International Women’s Day is celebrated for the first time, this in Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Over a million people attend meetings in these countries, demanding the following:

  • Suffrage for women
  • Women’s right to public office
  • Women’s right to work
  • Women’s right to trade union education
  • End of discrimination against women in the workplace

Shortly thereafter, on March 25, over 146 girls – mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants – perish in the Triangle fire in New York.

The incident exposed the dangerous working conditions of the factories and gave rise to a series of laws and regulations with the aim of protecting the safety of the workers. The working conditions that caused the tragedy are discussed on the subsequent women’s days.

1913-1914

In 1913, Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Russia as part of the peace movement at the end of the First World War. The following year, 1914, women’s meetings are held in Europe on or around the eighth of March to protest the war or as an expression of solidarity with their fellow sisters.

1917

Despite the disapproval of political leaders, Russian women strike for “bread and peace” on March 8 (according to the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Tsar is forced to abdicate and the Provisional Government gives women the right to vote.

Today

Although International Women’s Day has its origins in the early labor movement and the women’s movement, today it is not linked to any stated political ideology. Instead, the day is considered a general day for women’s issues.

Sources: United Nations, History, The Nordic Museum

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