International Working Woman's Day (IWD) is marked on March 8 every year. It is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Started as a political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries (primarily Russia
and the countries of former Soviet bloc). In some celebrations, the day
lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to
express their love to the women around them in a way somewhat similar
to Mother's DaySt Valentine's Day mixed together. In others, however, the political and human rights theme as designated by the United Nations
runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of
women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. and
The IWD is also celebrated as the first spring holiday, as in the
listed countries the first day of March is considered the first day of
the spring season.
March 8 rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Female members of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation march on International Women's Day 1975 in Sydney
The first IWD was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. Among other relevant historic events, it came to commemorate the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. By urban legend, women from clothing and textile factories staged one such protest on 8 March 1857 in New York City.
The garment workers were protesting against very poor working
conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by
police. These women established their first labor union in the same month two years later.
More protests followed on 8 March in subsequent years, most notably
in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding
shorter hours, better pay and voting rightsCopenhagen (in the labour-movement building located at Jagtvej 69, which until recently housed Ungdomshuset) by the Second International and an 'International Women's Day' was established, which was submitted by the important German Socialist Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified. The following year, 1911, IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, on March 19.
However, soon thereafter, on March 25, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
fire in New York City killed over 140 garment workers. A lack of safety
measures was blamed for the high death toll. Furthermore, on the eve of
World War I, women across Europe held peace rallies on 8 March 1913.
In the West, International Women's Day was commemorated during the
1910s and 1920s, but dwindled. It was revived by the rise of feminism in the 1960s.. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in
Demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Russia proved to be the first stage of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, and it was established, but was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women's Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR
"in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in
communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the
Great Patriotic War,
their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also
marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship
between peoples and struggle for the peace."
2009 International Women's Day
On occasion of 2009 International Women's Day the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that the specific
health-care needs of women are often ignored or insufficiently taken
into account in war situations.
In the world’s least developed countries, many of which are at war,
women are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from
pregnancy-related complications than in developed countries, according
to UNICEF. While armed conflicts and other violence affect entire
communities, women are particularly at risk of rape and other forms of
sexual violence. Because of poor security conditions or because they
have no means of transportation, it is often impossible for women to
reach a health-care facility so as to give birth safely.
Women's Day in modern culture
The 1932 Soviet poster dedicated to the 8th of March holiday. The text
reads: "8th of March is the day of the rebellion of the working women
against the kitchen slavery" and "Down with the oppression and
narrow-mindedness of the household work!". Originally in the USSR the
holiday had a clear political character, emphasizing the role of the
Soviet state in liberation of women from the second-class citizens' position.
However, with time the meaning of the Holiday evolved to an apolitical
celebration of women with an emphasis on their beauty and motherhood.
Most late Soviet 8th of March postcards carried no political meaning.
The day is an official holiday in Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Georgia, Italy, Israel, Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia,
and is observed by men giving the women in their lives - mothers,
wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc., flowers and small
gifts. In some countries (such as Romania) it is also observed as an
equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to
their mothers and grandmothers.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned in Armenia. Instead April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood.’ The new holiday immediately got popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of Armenian Church, Annunciation.
However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public
discussion held on the topic of two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia resulted
in the recognition of the so called ‘Women’s Month’ which is the period
between March 8 and April 7.
In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8 presents in Russia.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia
and Serbia the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women
sometimes get gifts from their employers too. School children often
bring gifts for their teachers as well.
In countries like Portugal and Romania, it is usual, at the night of 8 March, groups of women celebrate in "women-only" dinners and parties.
IWD holds a lot of significance. Many celebrations are held during the
day. This portrays the power of women in the modern era and how vital
their role is in the society.
working women in formal and informal sectors celebrate International
Women's Day every year to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due
rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions. Some
women working for change in society use IWM to help the movement for
which had been designated as International Women’s Year, the United
Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International
The 2005 Congress (conference) of the British Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for IWD to be designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom.
International Women's Day encountered violence in Tehran, Iran
on March 4, 2007, when police beat hundreds of men and women who were
planning a rally. Police arrested dozens of women and some were
released after several days of solitary confinement and interrogation. Shadi Sadr
and Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh, and several more community activists,
were released on March 19th 2007, ending a fifteen day hunger strike.
Today many events are held by women's groups around the world. The global women's organization Aurora hosts a free worldwide register of IWD local events (www.internationalwomensday.com)
so that women and the media can locate local activity. Many governments
and organizations around the world support IWD. For example, HSBC
hosts a range of IWD activity including co-hosting of the United
Kingdom's flagship IWD event with women's group Aurora. Global interest
in IWD shows a steady increase.
In some isolated cases International Women's Day has been used as an excuse to practice discrimination against men. For example Tower Hamlets Council
closed off one of it's libraries to all males to "celebrate" the
occasion forcing them to travel elsewhere, going as far as even banning
male staff from the premises.
In the Czech Republic the long history of this holiday is ignored by
some politicians and it is presented as a holiday created in the former
totalitarian socialist era. These politicians strive to remove
International Women´s Day from the list of public holidays and support
the Mothers´ day instead. Czech women´s organizations and feminists try
to restore the original meaning of the holiday and brighten its
discredited reputation in public opinion.