International Women's Day is a kickass celebration where we remember what women all over the world have done in pursuit of equal rights, and honor those who have broken the glass ceiling. It's a day full of events for and by women, which makes it extra special, whether you're celebrating in the U.S. or abroad.
It's also a reminder that, while we have made incredible progress, we've still got a long way to go on issues like the gender pay gap, access to reproductive healthcare, and mandatory paid family leave.
This year, the official theme of the day is #PressforProgress, "a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive."
But have you ever wondered how this day was born and what it really means?
Well, you're in luck. Ahead, we've rounded up everything you need to know about the IWD. Share the information with your friends and family, and on March 8, get ready to celebrate the women in your life.
What exactly is International Women's Day?
International Women's Day is defined as a day "celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women" and a "call to action for accelerating gender parity." It's celebrated all throughout the world, and it's not a centralized effort. Countries and organizations celebrate it as they see fit.
How did IWD get its start?
According to UN Women, International Women’s Day originated in the dawn of the 20th century thanks to diverse labor movements across North America and Europe.
Historian Temma Kaplan says the concept of a “woman’s day” can be traced to the first National Woman’s Day, which took place in February 23, 1909 in the U.S.
The origins of this day were inherently political: The organizers were members of the Socialist Party of America, and the concerns driving their protests were mainly women’s rights and suffrage.
A second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. During the meeting, a woman named Clara Zetkin, who led the Women's Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that countries celebrate an International Woman's Day. The idea was that every year, in every nation, a woman's day should be celebrated as a way to apply political pressure for expanded women's rights. The conference, which hosted more than 100 women hailing from 17 different countries, approved the suggestion unanimously.
That's why the event spread from the U.S. to the rest of the world. On March 19, 1911, an International Woman’s Day was held in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than a million people took part in the rallies and protests on that day.
In 1913, it was decided that the official day for IWD should be March 8, and so it has been ever since. Eventually, the event extended to become virtually global, and at some point in the mid-1940s, the terminology was changed from "woman's" to "women's."
In 1975, the United Nations declared it International Women’s Year, and began officially celebrating IWD.
How do we celebrate it now?
IWD is currently celebrated in over 100 countries throughout the world. And right now, it's an official holiday in more than two dozen nations including Afghanistan, Cuba, Georgia, Laos, Russia, Uganda, and Vietnam. (In places like China, Madagascar, and Nepal, it is also a holiday, but only for women.)
Today, there will be plenty of events open to the public across the United States and around the world. Whether by participating in any of these, or finding your own way of commemorating this day, find some way to be a part of it. After all, International Women's Day is for amazing women like you.
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