8th March – International Women’s Day Then and Now

International Women’s Day, which is marked on March 8th, was established to commemorate women’s struggle for their rights, that is, rather the struggled for the economic, political and social equality of women and men.

The first Women’s Day was marked in 1909 in the USA by a declaration made by the Socialist Party of America.

Historical overview

The idea of celebrating International Women’s Day appeared for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century in an era of rapid industrialization and economic expansion that often led to protests over poor working conditions. Women employed in the clothing and textile industry publicly demonstrated on March 8, 1857 in New York.

Textile workers demonstrated because of poor working conditions and low wages. Demonstrations were dispersed by the police. Those same women formed a union two months later.

Protests took place in the following years, the most famous of which was in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York demanding shorter working hours, better wages and democratic suffrage for women as well.

Many women, such as the suffragettes, championed the idea of greater women’s rights. However, the first national Women’s Day was celebrated on February 28, 1909 in the USA following a declaration issued by the Socialist Party of America.

In 1910, the first International Women’s Conference was organized in Copenhagen by the Socialist International. Inspired by the American action on this issue, a German leftist, Louise Zitz, proposed establishing an International Women’s Day.

The initiative to implement the idea of the holiday was taken by the famous German feminist and leftist, Klara Zetkin, and the proposal was accepted and ‘International Women’s Day’ was established, with a strategy to promote equal rights, including the democratic right to vote for women.

Next, in 1911, International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, with many demonstrations and feminists across Europe. There were 300 demonstrations in Austria-Hungary alone. In Vienna, women paraded and carried banners. They demanded the right to vote and the right to hold public office. They also protested gender discrimination in employment.

At the beginning of the First World War, women across Europe held anti-war demonstrations for peace.

The commemoration of International Women’s Day in 1914 in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which they did not win until 1918. On March 8, 1914, a march was held in London in support of women’s right to vote.

Women’s day today

In the West, International Women’s Day largely ceased to be celebrated in the first half of the 20th century, partly because it was associated with the one-party system and Bolshevik communism.

However, the new affirmation of International Women’s Day, as a day of struggle for equality and women’s rights, was made possible by the social and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1975, which was declared International Women’s Year, the United Nations officially began celebrating International Women’s Day. In the meantime, rights such as maternity leave, limitation of women’s work in night shifts, equal pay for equal work, democratic suffrage and many others were introduced.

Switzerland was the last country in Europe to grant the right to vote for women, it happened in 1972.

Today, many organizations in the world mark International Women’s Day with demonstrations, lectures and actions aimed at promoting equality and further improving women’s and human rights.

Women’s Day is a national holiday in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other countries.

(N1, 08.03.2024)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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