On January 21, 2017, women all around the world organized and marched to advocate for legislation and policies regarding human rights, women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, environmental protection, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers' rights. The event drew more than 500,000 marchers to Washington D.C., the site of the first planned protest, and worldwide participation was estimated at over five million marchers. The march drew the largest crowd of political protestors since anti-Vietnam protests held during the 1960s and 1970s. However, the 2017 Women’s March is far from the first instance of women organizing to advocate for equal rights and political reform. The history of women’s political activism in the modern era dates back more than 100 years to the creation of International Women’s Day, an event that we will celebrate worldwide this Wednesday, March 8th.
International Women’s day first started in New York City on February 28, 1909, when the Socialist Party of America organized an event in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The first official International Women’s Day was organized one year later, in August of 1910, during the International Women’s Conference, an event organized by international socialists that preceded the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Socialist leaders attending the conference proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage for women. A delegation of 100 women from 17 different countries agreed with the proposal, and the following year on March 19, 1911, Women’s Day was observed internationally for the first time. In 1917, International Women’s Day demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia initiated what became known as the February Revolution and after the Bolsheviks seized power during the October Revolution, Vladimir Lenin established International Women’s Day as an official holiday in the Soviet Union. Since its’ official establishment in the Soviet Union in 1917, International Women’s Day was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. The day began gaining popularity in the West in 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Since 1996 the UN has promoted International Women’s Day with the adoption of an annual theme. Past themes have included “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future” in 1996, “World Free of Violence Against Women” in 1999, and “Equality for Women is Progress for All” in 2014. This year’s theme is “Be Bold for Change,” a call to action for supporters of women’s rights across the world to strike against gender disparity through meaningful celebration and targeted, bold action.
Check out the International Women's Day website for ideas on how you can participate in the "Be Bold for Change" campaign and make a difference in your community and the world. Happy International Women's Day!