International Women’s Day 2018

Written by Michaela Harrington

Around the world, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. However, despite the fact that it’s celebrated worldwide, the roots of this holiday can be traced to American socialist activists of the early 20th century. Originally organized as a demonstration for suffrage and equal rights, the first Women’s Day was celebrated in the U.S. on Feb. 28, 1909. The movement for an International Women’s Day quickly spread among socialist circles in Europe, and on March 19, 1911, under the organization of German activist Klara Zetkin, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. As the commemorations gained popularity and momentum, March 8 was eventually set as the official date for women’s celebrations in 1921. In spite of its growing international recognition, the holiday was outlawed in German-speaking areas under the Nazi regime, and it also fell by the wayside in the U.S. and Western Europe, though it continued to be celebrated in the Soviet Union. In 1975, International Women’s Day began to regain its global recognition when it was first celebrated by the United Nations. In 1996, the U.N. introduced yearly themes for International Women’s Day around which organizers could focus their attention and events. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress.

International Women’s Day celebrations have grown in size and number since 1975, and today the day is recognized with events from the Vatican to Vietnam. Celebrations can vary from place to place, with some cities using International Women’s Day as an opportunity for demonstrations or workshops, while other celebrations bear a similarity to Mother’s Day in the U.S.  In the German-speaking world, cities such as Berlin and Vienna are holding their own celebrations for International Women’s Day, with Vienna opening its City Hall to all women and girls for the afternoon.

International Women’s Day in bullet points

  • First celebration was on February 28, 1909 in US

  • The holiday has its roots in socialist organizing, though the original celebration in the U.S. also centered on women’s suffrage

  • 1911 International Women’s Day was celebrated in Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on March 18

  • IWD celebrations continued to be held through WWI and the 1920s

  • However, after WWII the holiday began to fall by the wayside, though it remained a celebrated holiday in the USSR

  • The UN celebrated the first UN celebrated its first IWD in 1975, and in 1996 began to celebrate around a given theme

    • This year’s theme is #PressforProgress

  • 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of IWD with large celebrations

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