This Day in World History
International Women’s Day Celebrated Around the World
Each year, women and men around the world honor the achievements of women and seek to promote women’s rights by celebrating International Women’s Day.
The day’s origin can be traced to the National Woman’s Day staged by the Socialist Party of America from 1909 to 1913. Its goal was to advance the cause of women’s suffrage. Inspired by the example, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed in 1910 an international women’s day at the Second International Conference on Working Women, a meeting of leftist and feminist activists from 17 countries. The hundred or more attendees approved the idea unanimously.
The following year, a million women and men from Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland took part in the first International Women’s Day. The first two years, the day was celebrated on March 19. Zetkin chose that day to commemorate the day in the 1848 Revolution when Prussian King Frederick William IV championed the revolutionary cause, leading to promises — never fulfilled by the king — of granting women the right to vote. In 1913, the day was shifted to March 8, where it has remained ever since.
In 1975, the United Nations began to sponsor International Women’s Day, and it gained in popularity. The day is now a national holiday in twenty-seven nations ranging in size from Armenia and Azerbaijan to China and Russia. In some nations, it is a holiday for women only. In some years, the United Nations recommends that celebrations worldwide focus on a similar, global theme. In other years, it allows nations and local groups to set their own theme. For the centenary of the day in 2011, the global theme was “Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”