The history of celebrating women.

Michelle Jenkins

March 8, 2019

A day that celebrates women.

International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, highlight the remaining gender inequalities and introduce new calls to action for equality.
Many different charities, schools, companies, governments and countries celebrate IWD in diverse ways, all emphasizing the days important reflective ability.

A long standing tradition.

International women’s day began in the early 1900’s and though it’s goals have shifted based on the year, the overall message of striving for equality and celebrating strong women has remained. In 1908, women focused on campaigning for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, specifically by marching in New York City. The very first National Woman’s Day was celebrated in the United States on February, 28th, 1909. This tradition continued annually until 1913.

Women’s Day became international in 1910. At a second International Conference of working Women in Copenhagen, which was made up of over 100 women from 17 different countries, Clara Zetkin, a leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ in Germany, introduced the idea of an annually recurring International Women’s Day. This idea was unanimously supported and the annual International Women’s Day was born.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the United Nations first celebrated International Women’s Day. Later, in 1996, the UN began creating an annual theme to represent the current significance for women’s rights and accomplishments at that time. This included some of the following: “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future”,”Women at the Peace table” ,”Women and Human Rights”, “World Free of Violence Against Women” – all the way to more recent themes of “Empower Rural Women, End Poverty & Hunger” and “A Promise is a Promise – Time for Action to End Violence Against Women”.

Since 2001, the themes have shifted to reflect a more modern world and have been represented through hashtags to further the spread of their message. These include #PressforProgress, #BeBoldForChange, #PledgeforParity, #MakeItHappen, and #TheGenderAgenda.

These themes are developed by the global IWD website. This year, the theme is #BalanceforBetter, helping create a gender-balanced world.

No one way to celebrate.

The way people celebrate international women’s day varies from flowers to days off to purposeful support of women. In Italy, “La festa della donna” is celebrated by gifting flowers called “mimosas” to women. These yellow flowers symbolize women’s strength and demonstrate appreciation for them. In China, many women are given half a day off. This holiday has also become more commercial in China and, as a result, men often give women presents as a way of celebrating them. Berlin has gone above this and declared this day a holiday, giving everyone a day off. The UK and Spain focus on pushing political and social campaigns throughout this holiday.

The US honors the history of women.

The celebration of women within the US has expanded beyond a single day. In February of 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8th as “National Women’s History Month.” This proclamation was supported by schools, city councils and governors alike who channeled their efforts into events and special programs that celebrate female empowerment.
Many states began to push this celebration to expand across the whole month of March and in 2001, which marked 100 years from the first IWD, President Obama declared March to be “National Women’s History Month.” This month was meant to be a time for people to reflect and appreciate the actions of women throughout our national history and recognize that they too have had a part in shaping the nation.
Currently, there is an annual tradition that the President issue an official statement of recognition that honors the achievement of American Women.

Make your own plan to celebrate.

The long standing tradition of celebrating women on March 8th continues through the actions of individuals around the globe. However, there is no rules about how to celebrate this day. Consider one of the following small steps to support women on March 8th:

  • Do something nice for the women in your life.
  • Share your appreciation with a female role-model.Reflect on your life and the impact different women may have had on it, whether it be professors or a mentor.
    • Consider reaching out to them and thanking them for the opportunities they provided.
  • Give back to women.
    • Support women who are in need by donating your time or money to shelters for women.
  • Visit a local women’s day event.
    • Want to revel in the passion of the day? Look through this list of events that celebrate women’s day and show your support by attending.
  • Take a moment to learn more about impactful women.
  • Support women.
    • This can involve anything from reading books by women, visit galleries by women, supporting businesses run by women or watching movies that are directed or star women. Whichever past time you prefer, try to intentionally select something that supports women.

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