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Int'l Women's Day

This Day in History: First International Women’s Day is Celebrated

Gettyimages | Nikaya Lewis / EyeEm
By Sharon Oliver

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) gathering began in 1911. However, IWD was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations on March 8, 1975. In 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.

World-renowned feminist, activist and journalist, Gloria Steinem once pointed out, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”


Giphy | Libby VanderPloeg

As unrest grew among women because of oppression and inequality, they became vocal and active in campaigning for change. In 1908, 15,000 brave women marched through the streets of New York City demanding better pay, shorter hours and voting rights.

The following year, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed in the U.S. on February 28. In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at the International Conference of Working Women which was held in Copenhagen.



In 1911, over one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, hold public office and end discrimination. Less than one week later, on March 25, the devastating “Triangle Fire” occurred in New York City, taking the lives of more than 140 working women, most of whom were Jewish and Italian immigrants. The tragedy drew significant attention working conditions in the United States.

Russian women observed their first IWD on the eve of World War I in 1913.



By 1996, the UN commenced the adoption of using annual themes beginning with “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future." The theme was followed the next year with “Women at the Peace Table,” in 1998 it was “Women and Human Rights" and in 1999 with “World Free of Violence Against Women.”

More recent themes have included, “Empower Rural Women," "End Poverty & Hunger,” and “A Promise is a Promise.” With the creation of hashtags, campaign themes generated included: #PressforProgress, #MakeItHappen, #BalanceforBetter, and #BeBoldforChange.

100 Years Later

Giphy | Laura Salaberry

This year’s theme for IWD is #EachforEqual – an equal world is an enabled world. While some progress has been made over the past century, more needs to be done but women are a hardy bunch. More demands and celebrations are inevitable.

The international color for IWD is purple – for symbolizing women. Historically, the combination of purple, green and white originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K. in 1908 to symbolize women’s equality. Purple is worn to signify justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope and white represents purity, but that color is no longer used.

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