Oppression and inequality of women’s rights versus men’s caused a suffragette up swell in the early 1900’s, with female activists becoming more vocal in their campaign for change. On the heels of the industrial revolution and a growing population, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding better pay, shorter hours, and equality in 1908.
In 1909 the first National Women’s Day was held in the United States, and in 1910 during the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, consisting of 100 women from 17 countries, a historical suggestion was made and voted for unanimously: an International Women’s Day.
In 1911 IWD was first celebrated in Austria, two years later is was celebrated in Russia as well, and in 1914, during the turbulent times of World War I, women across Europe held rallies to simultaneously oppose the war and express female solidarity.
Then in 1917, following the “Bread for Peace” strike, where Russian women went on strike for four days in response to the death of 2 million soldiers, the Czar was forced to abdicate, and the resulting provisional government granted women the right to vote. That day, on the Gregorian calendar recognized today, was March 8th.
Since then, every year on March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day; with Women’s organizations and governments around the world celebrate with events that showcase women’s advancements, but carefully recognizing that there is also still work to be done for women.
However, according to its official website, IWD has become an official holiday in the following countries: 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.
Over the years IWD has taken on traditions similar to Mother’s Day in some places, with men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and colleagues with small gifts.
Today marks the holiday’s 100 anniversary, a result of that long ago conference in Copenhagen, where the idea for and International Women’s Day was born, and this year over 200 events are scheduled to take place in the U.S. alone.
Most notably, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony, which recognizes women around the world that who have shown fortitude in advocating women’s rights, often at a risk to their own safety. This year recipients of the award will range from bloggers to heads of state.
The U.K. will host “The Better Half Marathon and Relay,” their first ever women’s only half marathon. Pakistan will host a one day seminar with female activists, held by the Balochistan Social Development Program, which among other things, fights gender based violence. And Morocco will hold a “Diva’s Dinner” to raise money for the Women’s Center in Batha; a refuge for violated women.
These are just a few of the world events taking place today, the full list can be found on the official IWD website , to recognize a global appreciation for women, and highlight the road yet still to be traveled.
As Clinton told Newsweek in a recent interview, “I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.”