The History of International Women’s Day.
It wasn’t always like this……..it was worse.
In 1908, against a backdrop of terrible working conditions and exploitation, 15,000 women took to the streets in New York protesting for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In 1909, the Socialist Party of America announced a National Women’s Day to honour the strikers, and in 1910 it went global – the Socialist International voted for the creation of a Women’s Day to advocate for suffrage. (the term “suffrage” became more commonly associated with the woman suffrage movement (ca. 1848–1920).
The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and more than a million people turned out to rallies in Europe.
For most of the 20th century International Women’s Day was acknowledged and celebrated by people at the grassroots level, a rallying point for social justice. It wasn’t until 1975 – International Women’s Year – that the United Nations adopted International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it is still held.
More than 100 years ago, that first march was about ending harmful workplace conditions, equal rights, equal pay, and an end to exploitation. Disappointingly, those aims are still relevant today.
Because women’s’ rights are still not secure.
Progress has been experienced and is met with natural resistance to change. A new social norm in equality was often accompanied by a push back. Sometimes, even once laws and rights are established, they are ignored anyway. For example:
- Despite domestic violence laws, public awareness and access to legal protections, Australian men are still killing women partners or exes at the rate of one a week.
- Reproductive rights are a political football. Here in Australia access varies by state, and in some parts of the United States laws have passed making terminations inaccessible, no matter the reason behind the woman’s decision.
- Climate change is increasing violence against women and girls, according to a major report in 2020. Case studies included domestic abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence against women environmental rights defenders.
IWD is a once-a-year chance to remind governments, businesses and everyone else watching that women aren’t going anywhere, and we’re prepared to take action to achieve our human rights.
Some women feel they have not encountered discrimination or harassment, or faced systemic barriers to their success, but that’s not the experience of all women. IWD is an opportunity to acknowledge the compounded challenges faced by women of colour, women with disabilities, and queer or trans women, and stand in partnership with them.
It’s also a show of solidarity with our sisters living in countries who may not be able to march out of fear for their safety.
On International Women’s Day we remember that as long as one woman faces discrimination, harassment, inequality or oppression, we all do.
Because sometimes we need to remember we’re not alone.