The History of International Women’s Day

The idea of establishing International Women’s Day first emerged in the early 20th century,

when Western countries were in the stage of rapid industrialization and economic expansion.

Poor working conditions and low wages have led to protests and strikes. In 1908, nearly 15,000 women took to the streets of New York, USA,

demanding shorter working hours, increased wages, and the right to vote. They shouted the slogan “Bread and Roses” symbolizing economic security and quality of life.

Women’s Day was first celebrated on February 28, 1909, when the American Socialist Party issued a manifesto calling for observances to be held on the last Sunday of February each

year. This annual celebration continued until 1913.

Some claim that Women’s Day commemorates the March 8, 1857, protest of female garment workers in New York, but researchers claim this is a legend meant to separate

International Women’s Day from its socialist origins.

In 1910, the Second International held the first International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the meeting, German women’s movement leader and communist

Clara Zetkin proposed setting a day as International Women’s Day, which received a positive response from the representatives present. On March 19 of the following year, more than

one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and other countries held various activities to celebrate International Women’s Day. Six days later, on March 25, the

famous Triangle Factory fire broke out in New York, devouring the lives of more than 140 female garment workers, most of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrants. Poor working

conditions are believed to be the main reason for such heavy casualties. The fire later had an important impact on American labor legislation. From 1912 to 1915, European women also

took to the streets on March 19 as International Women’s Day to oppose the war by holding peace rallies and other forms. This date was chosen to commemorate the armed uprising

held by the women and workers of the Paris Commune on March 18, 1871, against Thiers’ army’s surprise attack on the National Guard artillery position on the Montmartre Heights.

The observance of International Women’s Day also turned out to be a prelude to the Russian Revolution. On March 8, 1917 (February 23 in the Russian calendar), female workers in

Petrograd (St. Petersburg) went on strike, demanding “bread, peace and freedom”; all workers in Petrograd held a political general strike, and the February Revolution began.

outbreak. Four days later, Russian Emperor Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, and the newly established Russian Provisional Government announced that women would be granted

the right to vote. From 1919 to 1921, International Communist Women’s Day was always held on March 5. This is to commemorate the birthday of Rosa Luxemburg, the leader of the

German Communist Party who was murdered in 1918.

From September 9 to 15, 1921, the Second International Communist Women’s Conference was held in Moscow, Soviet Union. The Bulgarian representative proposed that in order to

commemorate the heroic struggle of Russian female workers in the February Revolution, March 8 should be designated as the International Working Women’s Day. Festival (Russian:

Международный День работниц). Since 1922, March 8th has become an international working women’s day. During the Soviet period, “heroic women workers” were

commemorated every year on this day. However, among the people, the political color of the festival gradually weakened and evolved into an opportunity to express respect and love

for women, similar to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day in the West. To this day, this day is still a legal holiday in Russia, and men give gifts to women to celebrate their holiday.

In Western countries, the commemoration of International Women’s Day was held normally during the 1920s and 1930s, but was later discontinued. It was not until the 1960s that it

gradually recovered with the rise of the feminist movement. Since the International Women’s Year in 1975, the United Nations has held activities to celebrate International Women’s

Day on March 8 every year. 



Post time: Mar-08-2024
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